HONOLULU, HI, UNITED STATES --
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Amed Issa, a rifleman with 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, was at the back of the bar when loud popping sounds sent the room into chaos, Jan. 6, 2023.
At first, Issa didn’t understand what was happening, but when the yells began and the mob frantically herded toward the back exit, he understood.
He did not intend to be in the bar. An hour earlier, he left a local restaurant and decided to walk down the lively, Friday-night Waikiki strip. He only entered the bar to use the restroom.
“I was there for maybe three minutes when the shots began,” said Issa. “I don’t know how to explain it; I just acted.”
As the sea of people pushed toward the back, Issa moved against the crowd.
“I ran toward the shots, pushing people down to cover. It was hard to tell what was going on. I thought someone was trying to come into the bar with a gun. I ran out of the bar as the first gunman shot a man on the sidewalk at close range.”
The man fell to the ground as the first of the two shooters sprinted to a waiting vehicle. The wounded man was lying on the sidewalk to Issa’s left as the second shooter, located to Issa’s right, began firing frantically at the downed man.
“He was shooting sporadically, toward me, but at the man – most of them (the rounds) missing the guy. He wasn’t aiming; he was moving quickly back toward the car while shooting,” said Issa. “It seemed to happen slow, but the whole thing happened in seconds. I immediately turned my attention to the victim on the ground.”
Issa began searching the man for injuries. “He was littered with gunshot wounds,” said Issa. “I removed his shirt so I could better assess the wounds on his chest.”
Issa noticed multiple chest injuries, one of them causing a sucking-chest wound and numerous shots to the torso area. He began to apply pressure to a wound that had started to pool blood.
“I applied pressure to the torso until a man came over to help. I instructed him to take my place applying pressure so I could continue assessing the man.”
The man’s legs had multiple gunshot wounds. While both were wounded, Issa noticed the right leg was a more urgent threat to the man’s life.
“I took off my shirt and did my best to makeshift a tourniquet. I was yelling for a pen or fork, anything really, so I could sinch it down even tighter.”
Issa used a fork to cinch down the makeshift tourniquet and held it shut with his hands. He used his knees for applied pressure while verbally assuring the man everything would be okay. He kept talking to the victim, asking him questions to ensure he did not close his eyes.
“Two police officers arrived on the scene. They were asking me where the shooter was. I told them they’d left. I asked them for their tourniquets; I told them I was a Marine.”
Issa applied the real tourniquets to both legs. “My friend had come out and helped apply a chest seal. Then a nurse came over and helped us apply pressure to the wounds. I was able to get gauze and was able to fill most of the wounds,” said Issa. “A police medic arrived shortly later and checked that we’d applied everything correctly.”
After a few more minutes, an ambulance arrived, and Issa immediately identified the locations of the gunshot wounds and aid applied to enable the emergency medical professionals to rapidly evacuate the victim to a higher level of care.
“At the beginning, when I saw everyone get down and I heard the shots, I didn’t think, ‘I should get up and help.’ I just started running that way. It just felt like training,” said Issa. “I tuned out the fact that there were two shooters, and they were shooting while I was outside.”
“It takes tremendous courage to do what Sgt. Issa did,” said Lt. Col. Felix Guerra III, Issa’s former battalion commander. “Despite being off duty and on liberty, he still acted like a Marine. While most ran for safety, Sgt. Issa ran toward the fight; he ran into the chaos. He risked his life and took action for a complete stranger. He embodied what it means to be a Marine.”
Issa graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in August 2022 as part of the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. MECEP is an enlisted-to-officer commissioning program designed to provide outstanding enlisted Marines the opportunity to serve as Marine Corps officers. Issa is currently applying to universities and will begin his college education this fall.