An Arizona man who was shot in the head while attending a Fourth of July party with his family this summer is speaking out about how he was able to thwart the shooter from killing more people with his concealed carry firearm.
"My back was turned. I heard the first gunshot and that's what made me, kind of turn my head ... But by the time I even was able to look and see what was going on, a bullet already had struck the side of my face," Raul Mendez recounted to Fox News Digital in a phone interview Tuesday.
Gunshots rang out at a home in Surprise, Arizona, on the evening of July 3 as Mendez, his two daughters and his seven-month pregnant wife gathered with friends and other families to celebrate the founding of America. About 30 people were gathered in the home, including young children, as the group celebrated with fireworks and food, Mendez told Fox News Digital.
A neighbor of the man hosting the party soon joined, and mingled with the group despite not being close friends with anyone there, according to Mendez. That neighbor was later identified by police as 46-year-old Jason Hunt, the sole suspect in the case who opened fire unprovoked on the families and partiers, police said in July according to the Arizona Republic.
Two of Mendez’s friends, Conrradito Ochoa Navarro, 41, and Carl Dinora, 38, were killed in the incident. Four others, including Mendez, were left seriously injured.
As Hunt and other partiers had a bite to eat in the kitchen, the suspect pulled out a gun and began firing on the crowd, sending everyone fleeing, Mendez recounted.
Mendez was shot in the head in front of his wife, who rushed to his side and believed he was dead due to the amount of blood covering his face. She then grabbed their two daughters and put them into a room deeper in the house, barricading them and other children inside.
"She barricaded the door with the dresser. There were three other children in there, not including my two daughters. A total of five kids. She … throws them in the closet, throws clothes over them. Tells them, ‘Be quiet. Do not make a peep if you hear loud noises in this room,’" Mendez said of his wife's actions.
As Hunt continued his alleged rampage, two other women began fighting back against the suspect and screamed for Mendez, knowing he had a concealed carry weapon, Mendez said.
"By the glory of God or the adrenaline and just everything, just the will to live and the will to protect my family, I was able to hear those pleas, those yells for help. I heard my name. And I was able to get up," he said.
He was able to pull out his firearm and shoot the suspect four times in the chest.
"Detectives have determined the individual who shot Jason, and others who fought against Jason, were acting in self-defense and defense of other innocent parties," Sgt. Tommy Hale said in a press release days after the incident, KTAR reported at the time.
Mendez spent a week in the hospital after the shooting and has more surgeries on the docket. He lost his left eye, fractured his jaw, suffered a torn eardrum, and lost his sense of smell.
"Luckily, I turned because it just got me at that perfect angle," he said.
Mendez is now speaking out about the importance of the Second Amendment and how law-abiding, armed Americans can help end shootings before they claim more lives.
"I fully back up the Second Amendment and … this is why I'm speaking up," Mendez told Fox News Digital.
"This world is unpredictable. And honestly, at the end of the day, the people that want to ban guns, they're only banning it from good people, not criminals. Because again, there is no gun laws for criminals."
"If I didn't have my gun with me, everyone in the house would have died. The news vans would've been front and center. But because I did, you never even heard about it," he said in the video.
He has since purchased two additional handguns for his family to train with, saying they are "more ready to confront [evil] with equal force now than ever."
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre highlighted in comments to Fox News Digital that the Mendez family’s story "must be told because they are just one example of why the NRA fights hard to improve self-defense laws all across our country."
"Raul Mendez and his beautiful family are alive today because he was able to carry his firearm under NRA-backed Constitutional Carry," LaPierre said.
"Over one million Americans use firearms yearly to protect themselves and their loved ones, and often most media outlets refuse to tell their stories. That is why the NRA is committed to spotlighting these courageous American armed citizens."
No motive has been released in the case. The Surprise, Arizona, police department did not immediately respond to requests for updates on the case.