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Exclusive: We spoke to the Marine who shielded a girl he just met from bullets during Vegas massacre

Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly (Facebook)
October 04, 2017 and

A gunman went on a shooting spree on Sunday during a country music festival in Las Vegas. While the entire event is horrifying and saddening, there have been many uplifting stories drawn from the pain following the loss of 58 lives and more than 500 others who were injured.

One young woman, Renee Cesario, posted to Facebook this week that she had met a Marine “only 2 hours before the Jason Aldean show,” and that he ended up protecting her and covering her from bullets when the shooting started. Her story was shared on the “Love What Matters” Facebook page, and quickly went viral.

That Marine – Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly, who is 21 years old – told American Military News on Wednesday that it was his military training and protective instincts that kicked in when concert-goers realized there was gunfire raining down, and not fireworks overhead.

“When America needs us, we’re there. Even if that means on our own soil,” Kelly said Wednesday.

When asked if his training helped him stay calm under pressure, Kelly said: “Absolutely. We’re trained to protect others.”

Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly (Facebook)

Kelly said when what concert-goers thought were firecrackers became “rapid and consistent,” he realized it was bullets. He told American Military News it was then that he grabbed the young woman he was with, threw her on the ground and shielded her body with his.

He looked up and saw a woman who had been killed about 10 feet to his right, Kelly said, and that’s when adrenaline kicked in and he knew he had to get them out of the “kill zone.”

Kelly also thanked everyone for their support, giving credit to all the first responders and others who were helping – including several other Marines and veterans who were at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival who helped move casualties and provide first aid, he said. They included Joshua Gresh, former Navy Sea Bee; and Sgt. Chintan Patel, USMCR.

Kelly says his faith is another reason he and the young woman, as well as many others, are still alive today, and that he could “just as easy have been a casualty” otherwise.

Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly (Facebook)

2nd Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon of the Marine Forces Reserve Public Affairs told American Military News:

“The Marine Corps is aware of the reported account of the actions taken by Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly following the tragic incident October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Lance Cpl. Kelly’s selfless actions bring credit upon himself and the Marine Corps. We will continue to keep those affected by this tragedy in our thoughts and prayers.”

Lance Cpl. Brendan Kelly (Facebook)

Cesario wrote on Facebook that she had met Kelly just two hours before the concert.

She wrote about how she left her friends to get closer to the stage, and that Kelly was with her – he immediately pushed her to the ground and shielded her from gunfire when it erupted, and then led the two to safety.

“The whole night he didn’t leave my side,” she wrote, adding that he also let her use his cell phone to get in touch with her family.

Cesario described the event on Facebook:

We were just dancing and having fun and then all of the sudden there were loud noises that sounded like fireworks, but no lights were going off. It stopped, and Jason Aldean kept playing but then the shots fired again and he ran off the stage. Before I knew what was going on, Brendan tackled me down to the ground and covered me from the fire.

It stopped again and he looked around to see what was happening and then it just kept going. He looked at me and said ‘We have to get out of here. We can’t stay here. It’s not safe.’ Then he pulled my arm up to get me out of the piles of people. We had no idea who was dead or who was alive. We just started to run.

He kept telling me it was going to be okay and to keep running until we were safe. He even let me use his phone to stay in touch with my sister so she knew I was safe, which is the text you’ll see. The whole night he didn’t leave my side.

Ultimately, the gunman killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others before he allegedly shot himself in the head when discovered by police.

This is the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Related: Footage released from Las Vegas police body cam during Mandalay Bay massacre

Photos were leaked Tuesday of the shooter’s alleged hotel room, and one photo shows what some say is a suicide note.

The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, went on a shooting spree Sunday night on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where he shot at a crowd of thousands of people at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival across the street.

He killed 58 people and wounded at least 500 others, and Las Vegas hospitals were flooded with injured persons following the massacre.

Paddock reportedly shot himself in the head when he was discovered by police, which has led some reports to say the Las Vegas shooting was responsible for 59 deaths.

Paddock was a millionaire who gambled, but he did not have a criminal record. He reportedly owned 47 guns, all of which he purchased legally over the course of two decades.

Police found more guns – rifles, shotguns and handguns included – in Paddock’s houses outside Reno, Nevada, and in Mesquite, Nevada.

It has been reported that Paddock wired $100,000 to the Philippines a few weeks before the shooting, which is where his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, is from. She is now a person of interest.

Police are still searching for a motive.

ISIS initially claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying the shooter had converted to Islam several months weeks ago. But the FBI said it did not believe there was a connection to international terrorism. ISIS also did not offer up any proof or evidence.