WACO, Texas (KWTX) An Army veteran whose wife of 32 years was killed in the Las Vegas shooting rampage heads home Friday, but not before he talked to the stranger who shielded him and his dying wife as shots rang out.
Sam Porter shielded the Army veteran and his dying wife during the shooting rampage. (Courtesy photo)
“It was a selfless act of kindness,” Tony Burditus said Thursday.
His wife Denise was among the 58 who died when Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip.
Burditus will fly back to West Virginia Friday after the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office released his wife’s body.
But before he left Las Vegas he had an emotional phone conversation with the stranger who threw himself on top of the couple as bullets flew.
Sam Porter, a CPA from California, was attending the three-day music festival outside the Mandalay Bay hotel with 15 friends, mostly Los Angeles firefighters, when bullets began to rain down around them.
As news organizations began to identify the shooting victims and showed photographs, Porter immediately recognized Denise.
He tracked Tony down on social media and Wednesday made one of the most emotional phone calls of his life.
“I just kept telling him how sorry I was for him and his wife and his family and how I cared about them. And that I would never forget them. We cried a lot together."
“He thanked me and he just kept repeating how he loved his wife and how she was a fighter.”
Another couple was in front of Porter Sunday night as the shooting began.
“A girl in front of me took a round and she dropped and she was dead instantly,” Porter said Thursday in a telephone interview.
“And I said to her husband or her boyfriend, ‘she's dead leave her’ and he said ‘no I can't.’ And I said ‘here we go,’ I grabbed one arm, he grabbed the other and we pulled her out.”
After helping the pair out , Porter decided to head back to the epicenter of the gunfire to see who else he could help and that’s where he found Tony and Denise, country music lovers who had traveled from West Virginia to Las Vegas just to enjoy the show.
“I turned around and ran back into the crowd and I came across what's to be known as Tony and Denise,” Porter said. “And Tony was talking to me and I said ‘is she OK’ and he said ‘no’. And I said ‘let's get her out of here.”
“And right then another volley came down on us and I pushed them both to the ground and covered them up and Tony said ‘get out of here man, save yourself, and I said I'm not leaving you brother.”
And he didn’t.
Porter ended up shielding the couple through multiple rounds of gunfire as Tony worked to try to help his wife, who was unconscious from the moment she was struck.
He was a witness to Denise’s final moments.
“She was a fighter. I can't believe how much she loved life,” Sam said.
“With the wound that she had and she kept breathing. She was there. She had to have heard him. Because every time he kept saying ‘keep breathing baby’ she would take another breath. I had to believe she was hearing him.”
Two more people, a husband and a wife who were both nurses Porter thinks, stopped to help and they took over caring for Denise.
The woman accompanied Tony and he placed his wife in the back of a pickup truck driven by another stranger, a Las Vegas woman who drove them to a hospital.
Denise, however, died en route.
Porter says it’s hard for him to accept that he couldn’t help save Denise and that he’s waking up with nightmares of what happened.
He helped two more gunshot victims as he left the venue on Sunday night and says his only regret is not staying even longer.
But, don’t call Sam Porter a hero. He said that label should be reserved for the first responders.
“I don't know how to take care of people with those types of wounds,” Sam said. “They were there doing their jobs. Those were the real heroes.”
Porter plans to try to travel to West Virginia for Denise’s funeral.
He says despite the evil act that caused her death, he saw the very best in Americans emerge in a scene he will never forget.
“It shows what Americans are. We are not the politicians. We are Americans first. And we care about each other.”
“It was the right thing to do. They needed help and it's what you do.”