Gorge Amphitheatre shooting survivor tells story of how he stayed alive
Jun 20, 2023, 6:30 PM
(Photo courtesy of August Morningstar)
Last weekend, a shooting at a neighboring campground near the Gorge Amphitheatre resulted in two people killed and another three injured. The shooter has since been apprehended.
“Earlier that day, people were shooting off rockets and fireworks, so when I was walking, what I thought were fireworks ended up being actually gunshots,” August Morningstar, one of the concert’s attendees who survived a gunshot wound, told KIRO fill-in host Jake Skorheim on KIRO Nights. “So I just mosey on my way to go look for my brother. While I was walking, I heard a girl and her voice sounded like she was in distress or concern, saying that we need to call the cops.”
Morningstar stated he believed it was a fight or a scuffle and carried on, not realizing the shooter was nearby.
“Within like the next 10, 15 seconds, all I hear is, ‘Please don’t do this. You don’t have to do this,’ ” Morningstar continued. “And it sounded way closer to when I first heard her. I turn around and she’s a solid 20 feet away from me. And within two seconds of me seeing her, the guy pops out of nowhere behind a tent and pointed a gun at me. My mind went blank and survival instincts kicked in. I tried to move out of his line of sight.”
He bobbed and weaved through the tents, realizing the shooter was chasing him, using cars as cover and zigzag patterns to stay out of the shooter’s line of sight.
“When he shot me, I didn’t feel anything,” Morningstar said. “All I felt was something pushing my shoulder. It felt like somebody had put their hand on my shoulder, like the impact and that was the impact of the bullet. Like someone poking me really hard, but it didn’t hurt.”
The two people shot and killed at a campground near the Gorge Amphitheater were from Seattle. The Tri-City Herald identified them as 26-year-old Josilyn Ruiz and her fiancée, 29-year-old Brandy Escamilla. It’s not believed they have any connection to the suspect under arrest for the crime as the motive for last Saturday’s shooting during the music festival remains unclear.
Morningstar claimed the shooter shot three more rounds at him that missed after wounding him in the shoulder.
“After he saw me, my mind went blank the moment I saw the gun,” Morningstar said. “But when I got shot, the only thing that popped into my head is I got to survive because I don’t want my daughters to not have a dad. I want them to grow up with me around. So I got to survive at any rate.”
Morningstar is a father of two from Eugene, Oregon. He was attending his first concert in 12 years when he was just 19 years old.
After finding staff to help him get into the medical tent, Morningstar stayed there receiving treatment for 30-45 minutes before being airlifted to Harborview Medical Center via helicopter. He stated his recovery will take an estimated six months with additional time needed for rehabilitation to get the shoulder moving properly.
“As I’m getting flown out, I have no way to reach anybody. I don’t remember anybody’s phone number and no one was able to reach me,” Morningstar said. “All the people that I was there with at the venue couldn’t reach me because I didn’t have my phone, so everybody was thinking the worst. They found out that two people died and they didn’t know which one I was, if I was one of those or not.”
The alleged shooter is suspected of being a soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, according to KIRO 7’s Elle Thomas, who reported the 26-year-old suspect was booked into the Grant County Jail.
“I’m more thankful. It’s hit me more today than it has any other day,” Morningstar continued. “Most definitely going to see life as more of a blessing. Being thankful that you’re here because not everybody has the opportunity to be here. And sometimes people get in this bad situation where they don’t end up getting to be here.”