DAYTON, Ohio — Aug. 4 marks three years since a gunman opened fire outside a crowded bar in Dayton's Oregon District and killed nine people.

For the first time since that mass shooting, the officers who stopped the gunman before more lives were lost are speaking out. 

What You Need To Know

  • Six Dayton officers said they were already on scene when the gunfire started

  • At the time, most of the officers had about three years of experience and recent active shooter training that they say helped them react quickly

  • All six officers received presidential medals, but they said they still carry the loss of the nine people who they couldn't save

The six officers who were on scene that night sat down with their police information specialist and recorded their comments. 

Spectrum News 1 was invited to submit questions, but was not allowed in the room to ask them directly, but here’s what the police department shared in a video posted on their YouTube channel. 

In a matter of 32 seconds, the first officers who responded ran straight toward the sound of gunfire to stop the Dayton mass shooting. 

“We looked and we—’Is that fireworks?’ ‘Is that a drive-by?’ 'What’s going on?’ At that point in time, I think everybody just jumped in,” said Dayton Police Sgt. W. Chad Knight (Ret.).

For the first time in three years, the six officers who jumped in answered questions from one of their own and shared publicly what happened next.  

“I’m thinking about where the threat is, where the civilians are and how to safely and quickly end the threat and stop the violence. (I) wasn’t thinking about anything else,” said Dayton Police Officer Dave Denlinger.

At the time, most of the officers had been on the force about three years and recently had active shooter training. 

They said that’s what kicked in when they made that split-second decision. 

“Bullets are hitting the ground. Smoke flying up. You see bullets hitting people, people falling, people running everywhere—it’s a chaotic situation, but for me, I just focused in this hyper-vigilance almost on him, and that’s when I decided to shoot. It was all very quick,” said Dayton Police Officer Jeremy Campbell.  

Even the 32 seconds it took to stop the shooter was long enough for him to kill nine people. It's something they said still haunts them to this day.

“I think about what I could’ve done different, how I could’ve been faster, how I could’ve stopped him prior to the shooting,” said Denlinger. 

“We would trade any medal, anything we received, to get those nine people back,” Campbell said.

The medals they were wearing are from the president for heroism on that day in 2019. It's a day these officers said will always stick with them.  

“It doesn’t matter if it’s one year from now or 10 years from now—never gonna forget anybody down there,” said Dayton Police Officer Ryan Nabel.