While shielding his wife from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Billy King took a bullet in his back that ripped straight through his body and exited out his chest.
“I always wondered what it would feel like to get shot. Once it hit me, my body didn’t really let me feel anything,” the father of four from Las Vegas told the Daily News, speaking from his bed at Sunrise Hospital Tuesday.
King, 38, said a basic survival instinct and his decades-old training in the U.S. National Guard kicked in. He grabbed his wife Kimberly, who was paralyzed with fear, and knew they had to run.
“I just covered up the bullet hole and pulled Kimberly out of there the best I could,” the Mandalay Bay hotel employee said. “At one point, I wondered if there was going to be a light that I would see. So much was going through my head. I’m just blessed and grateful I survived.”
Kimberly, 26, said her husband saved her life.
“Billy was holding his wound with one hand and never let me go. If I had been there by myself, I would have died,” she told The News.
Remembering the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting
Kimberly said the couple arrived at the concert late that night, around 9 p.m., and made their way to middle of the outdoor festival by the time the gunfire erupted.
“He got on top of me,” she said of her husband. “He put my head on the floor and his upper body was on top of my head. I whispered to him, ‘I’m scared.’ He was like okay, we’re going to get up. He started to get up, push-up style, and that’s right when he got shot.”
She said Billy was shot in his back, near one of his armpits.
“I saw the bullet go in,” she said. “His blood splattered all over me. I was in shock and disbelief. He just grabbed me. I couldn’t move. Everything was in slow motion for me.”
Kimberly said as they ran, she watched in horror as a woman next to her was cut down.
“She got shot in the face. Her lifeless body fell to floor. I had to close my eyes,” she said.
Once outside the venue, Kimberly started calling out for help, but it was total chaos. She recalled seeing a police officer standing next to a car saying a prayer as people clung to his legs.
The couple dashed into the Tropicana hotel, but their phones weren’t working inside. A good Samaritan who identified himself as a surgeon helped Billy keep pressure on the wound and followed them outside. Eventually, they found a Lyft driver willing to take all three of them to Sunrise Hospital.
“They started treating him right away. I lost it. That’s when we finally let go of our hands. That was the first time our hands separated,” Kimberly recalled.
Miraculously, the bullet that tore through Billy’s upper body missed his heart and lungs by centimeters, Kimberly told The News.
Mass shooting at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
“It’s crazy. The doctor took me out to the hallway and said, ‘I’ve seen so many people die today. Your husband is alive because of a miracle,” she said.
Kimberly said she hopes Billy will be strong enough to go home to their four children soon.
It wasn’t immediately clear what long-term effects he might suffer.
To help with medical and other expenses, the family set up a GoFundMe account through a friend.
For his part, Billy broke down while describing the carnage he witnessed in his hometown.
“I’m mad someone was allowed to get this crap up into a hotel and plug people off in the city I grew up in. When I start to think about it, I start to cry. Man, this is my town, my city,” he said.
He said if shooter Stephen Paddock hadn’t killed himself, he’d want to confront him with a long list of questions.
“Why did you choose to get all this ammunition and artillery together to do what you did? What kind of statement were you trying to make? What did all those people do to you? Who made you feel like it was okay to go and murder people? For what reason?” Billy said he would ask.
“I’m furious. I want to know why. There just aren’t any answers. There’s no reason why,” he said. “It’s crazy.”