Woman and her fiancé have ties to Elk River
by Joni Astrup
A woman with ties to Elk River was among the survivors of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Dawn (Brindamour) Ali was at a country music festival in Las Vegas with her fiancé, Todd Riley, and friends when shots rang out Sunday night.
Ali was not injured in the massacre by a lone gunman, but Riley was struck by several bullet fragments.
Ali, who lives in Colorado, spent her early years in Elk River, where she attended school until her family moved when she was in junior high.
She said she still has relatives in Elk River, including her dad and step mom, Brian and Deanne Brindamour.
Deanne said it’s been a nightmare to think of loved ones at the scene of the shooting.
“Every time I look at the pictures I think of my stepdaughter running to get away. It just horrifies me,” Deanne said.
Meanwhile Riley, who is an assistant principal, has recounted his harrowing experiences to several media outlets. He directed the Star News to an extensive interview with the ABC-TV station in Denver. Here’s how their story unfolded, according to an online account by that station.
Riley and a friend were buying drinks at the bar near the main stage of the festival when he heard what he thought were fireworks.
“At first it was ‘pop, pop, pop, pop,’ and then it was very quickly followed up by automatic gunfire and people just running as fast as they could,” Riley said.
He tried find Ali in the crowd, but was unable to locate her.
As the shooting continued, a woman running near him was hit by gunfire and fell to the ground, unresponsive. He and another man performed CPR and did chest compressions.
“Then one of the heroes came in,” Riley said.
A young man racing towards the gunfire with a wheelbarrow asked if anyone was injured. They loaded the young woman into the wheelbarrow and pushed her to a group of first responders, three of whom stepped in front of them and formed a human shield with their guns, while the medics rushed over to help the wounded woman.
It was at that point Riley realized he had been hurt.
They put him behind a police car and two people began helping him. When a woman drove up in a pickup truck, Riley and others were loaded into it and taken to a hospital.
On the ride to the hospital, he finally was able to get in contact with Ali.
“She was OK. She was running, and I told her where they were taking me,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ali’s aunt and uncle in Las Vegas, John and Dorie (Brindamour) Thompson, got in touch with Ali as well. John picked her up and took her to the hospital where she was reunited with Riley.
As Riley was walking out of the triage room, emergency personnel were wheeling in the woman that he had tried to save. It was clear she did not survive.
“And I walked out into, just shock,” he said.
Back home in Colorado, Riley got further medical treatment for his injuries. He has six bullet fragments scattered throughout his left thigh, hamstring, calf, knee and lower abdomen.
As he looks back on the massacre that claimed at least 59 lives and injured more than 500 people, he thinks of the heroes who sprung into action that night.
“There were so many people doing the absolute right thing,” Riley said. “That kid running with a wheelbarrow back at the gunfire trying to get people out. Every person in and out of uniform who stepped up. The law enforcement, the EMTs, the firefighters, the medical … That’s what the focus should be on. It was amazing.”
He also said he wants to tie up a few loose ends. He hopes to reach out to a woman named Cynthia who was wounded and transported to the hospital in the same pickup truck as him. Once at the crowded hospital they were placed on the same gurney. He wants to tell her he’s OK and give her a hug.
He’d also like to thank the first responders and other heroes he saw in action that night and he hopes to learn the name of the young lady he tried to help.
“I want to reach out to her family and let them know that she didn’t die alone. I want to let them know that we were there and we were trying,” he said.
He said the tragedy drives home how precious life is and how people should be focusing on the positive.