'He died as a hero': Families begin opening up about Maine massacre victims, including those who went down fighting

A gunman opened fire in a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine, Wednesday evening, slaughtering 18 people and grievously wounding 13 others. While authorities have waited to identify the victims, some family members have already begun to do so.

In addition to the names of the victims, stories of their heroism and defiance in the face of evil have begun to emerge.

Eight people were killed at Schemengees Bar and Grille, according to the Maine State Police. Among them was bar manager Joseph Walker.

Walker's dad, Leroy Walker, an Auburn city councilor, shared with NBC Nightly News what state police told his daughter-in-law, Tracey Walker, about the shooting.

The visibly devastated father indicated that after MSP told Joseph Walker's widow that he had been slain, they "went into telling her that he died as a hero because he picked up a butcher knife from somewhere — he has all that stuff near the bar anyways. And he tried to go at the gunman to stop him from shooting anybody else. The gunman shot him twice through the stomach."

NBC News' Lester Holt pressed the councilor on whether the knowledge that his son went down fighting changed his pain at all.

Leroy Walker answered, "Oh. ... It made it worse. Yeah, it made it worse."

The Station Grill Restaurant, where Joseph Walker was also a manager, noted in a Meta post, "For those of you that don't know Joe. Let me tell you, this man would give the shirt off his back to help a total stranger. But last night he gave up more than that, he gave up his life."

"Somehow Joe made it to the kitchen. Most of you might not realize this but there is a door that he could have exited and saved his own life but not Joe. He grabbed a knife and went back out into danger to try and stop the shooter," said the Station Grill. "When I heard this, I was so upset but not surprised. I can ask myself 100 times. Why not leave Joe. Please take the door and you would be here. Joe would tell me that he would have to stop the shooter. That's Joseph Walker, the man that I know. Putting everyone first. He will alway be our hero."

Leroy Walker told MSNBC that it was not until 14 hours after the shooting that his family discovered his son's fate.

"None of us slept. We were up all night," said Walker. "We didn't know where to go, who to run to. They didn't notify any of us."

Finally, Walker's youngest son called him with the news.

"I almost fell to my knees," said the councilor. "I said, 'Don't tell me that.'"

Walker indicated his family is now "suffering and dying in a nightmare we don't understand," having lost "a great, great son, a loving husband."

"He had two grandchildren and a stepson," added Walker. "Thousands of people loved him. ... What are we gonna do tomorrow, the next day? How are we gonna handle this?"

Tricia Asselin, 53, was among the seven people slain at Just-In-Time Recreation in Lewiston. Although a part-time employee at the establishment, Asselin had the night off and was bowling with her sister Bobbi Nichols when the carnage began.

Nichols, who survived the massacre, told CNN, "We heard a loud noise and I wasn't sure what it was until I heard another shot and then I knew."

People began scrambling to escape the bowling alley amid the crackle of gunfire. In the chaos, Nichols said, "I couldn't see [Asselin] and everybody was running, and I got caught in people trampling."

Nichols indicated that after making it outside, "We just kept running and running and running. ... And it was dark out."

"I just ran as far as I could go until there was a fence and there were some trees and a bunch of us were hiding behind the trees wondering what was going on," said Nicholas.

Hours after police escorted the survivors out of the murky woods, Nichols said that "somebody came out and said that she called 911, and when she called 911 to save everybody, she lost her life because of it."

The New York Post reported that Asselin was a mother who worked three jobs.

"My sister's a hero," said Nichols. "She was a hero."

Asselin's brother DJ Johnson said, "If she there was an argument going on, she would be the one to calm everyone down. ... If somebody was having a bad day, she would be right on the phone to talk to you about it."

Upon learning Asselin had tried to call for help, Johnson said, "That was just her. She wasn't going to run. She was going to try and help."

Besides a tragic end, it appears many of the victims shared bravery in common.

Michael Deslauriers Sr. noted that his son, Michael Deslauriers II, was with "his dearest friend," Jason Walker, when they were "murdered last night at the bowling alley."

Deslauriers Sr. said that "they made sure their wives and several young children were under cover then they charged the shooter."

Also among the victims who have so far been identified:

  • 76-year-old retiree and well-loved volunteer bowling coach Bob Violette;
  • Peyton Brewer-Ross, a 40-year-old pipefitter and new father remembered for his good nature and sense of humor;
  • 44-year-old Bill Young and his 14-year-old son Aaron Young;
  • Bryan McFarlane, a dog-loving truck driver who had been participating in a deaf cornhole tournament at the bar;
  • 34-year-old Tommy Conrad, a manager at the bowling alley, who leaves behind a 9-year-old daughter;
  • Joshua Seal, a young father of four and an American Sign Language interpreter for the Pine Tree Society;
  • Ron Morin, remembered as "an upstanding man with a lot of joy in his heart," reported the Independent;
  • 42-year-old Arthur Strout, a father of five; and
  • Bill Brackett and Steve Vozzella, both of whom had been attending the deaf cornhole game.

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'I told you that you could trust me': Video shows California cop race against time to save chained dog from trailer park inferno

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A police officer in the city of Arvin, California, risked immolation earlier this week for the sake of a dog, earning its undying trust in the process.

According to the Arvin Police Department, Officer Adam Calderon responded Monday to a report of a fire, which enveloped a local mobile home and had begun to spread. Upon learning from the owner of the pyre that their family dog remained chained up out back, Calderon leapt into action.

Bodycam footage of the ordeal shows Calderon run past a firetruck and into the adjacent lot, hemmed in by flames. He made a mad dash to the side of the house and jumped a six-foot fence, finding what appeared to be a pit bull cowering just feet away from the inferno.

With smoke heavy around him, Calderon found the dog's chain and notified the creature, "I'm trying to get you out boy."

"Oh, they chained you up," Calderon said despairingly, noticing the dog was well-secured with a steel chain and locks.

As the flames began to arc closer, Calderon appeared ready for a journey through the wooden fence with the dog in tow; however, the animal was frozen with fear.

"Come on, please. I'm trying to save you, boy," Calderon told the obstinate dog while the fire grew.

Calderon managed to bust through the fence and clear a path for the dog, but it elected not to follow.

Getting desperate and feeling the heat, the officer called out in both English and Spanish to an onlooker in a neighboring yard, requesting bolt cutters. The woman provided him with only pruning shears. With time running out, Calderon decided he'd try to make do.

Calderon returned to the dog, now through the fence, and attempted to cut it free with the shears.

Multiple attempts to cut the chain proved fruitless, prompting Calderon to say, "I'm sorry, doggy. I'm trying."

Finally, Calderon mustered the strength to break the chain, freeing the dog. Grabbing the canine by its collar, the officer led it to safety.

Down an alley with the fire crackling behind them, Calderon caught his breath in the company of his new friend, noting, "S**t, it's hot in there. It's real hot. ... I told you to trust me!"

The APD indicated, "In review of his body worn camera, it is clear that the flames were right behind him, the smoke was thick, and the heat was intense. He never thought about giving up and clearly saved that dog's life."

Calderon told KBAK-TV, "To be honest, I wasn't even thinking straight. I just jumped out and said, 'I am going to make the best out of this if I can get him I'll get him out.'"

"My back was already on fire. Whenever I was able to shelter the dog, my back was burning," added Calderon.

As for the pruning shears, Calderon recalled saying, "'Lord help me cut these' because I couldn't do it."

The APD acting chief said, "He really humanizes the badge of having officers like that within the department, but with that heart. comes from the passion compassion, the drive, the comradery, and the teamwork, You can't train for that. ... I just hope it motivates people to do the right thing at the right time. We didn't sign up for the job to just take bad people to jail or look cool carrying a gun or driving fast. We do it to do the right thing at the right moment."

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