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Newport Beach police officer Troy Zeeman and his wife Shannon decided to celebrate the end of Shannon’s chemotherapy treatment by attending a 3-day music festival in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, this festival was ultimately the site of one of the worst mass shootings in history. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, the Zeemans share their harrowing tale with Daniel and Tana Amen, and also illustrate how they used the experience to change lives.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we have been transforming lives for 30 years. Using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com
Dr. Daniel Amen: Hey everybody, we have a very special week with you. What we're going to talk about, surviving trauma. In fact, if you find yourself in a traumatic situation such as an active shooter situation, well, what are some of the things you should be thinking about. With us this week is police officer, Troy, Zeeman, his wife Sharon Zeeman. They both survived the Las Vegas massacre and they're so insightful. And I got to meet them, I'm doing a project with the Newport Beach Police Department. We're creating brain-healthy officers and I'm with them for six months and have just come to love them. Because no matter what the sort of chatter is about police officers, when you're in trouble, they're the first people you think about. And so from my standpoint, we have to protect their brains, get them to be as healthy as they can because they virtually live nonstop in trauma. If you want to learn more about their work as things go along. S as in Sam, C as in Charlie, Z as in zebra, activeshooter.com.
Troy and Shannon founded the SC Zeeman training. After surviving the Route 91 mass shooting with a mission to provide knowledge and hope for survival in an active shooter event. They'd been married for 18 years and they're the proud parents of their two boys. Troy has been in law enforcement for over 23 years. Between 1999 and 2000 LAPD SWAT was tasked with creating the first active shooter response tactics. Troy was involved in training and the evolution of active shooter training. Since then, he has been awarded the California state governors Medal of Valor, Newport Beach police chief citation, city of Newport beach Medal of Valor along with many other awards for his amazing service to the public.
Shannon is a Baylor university graduate with a background of sales and marketing, but she's learned a lot through her 18 years of being the wife of someone in law enforcement. Shannon brings a civilian perspective of an active shooter event to our services. Now I know Tana is so excited-
Tana Amen: I'm so excited.
Dr. Daniel Amen: ... to have them on.
Tana Amen: First of all, I want to thank you for what you do. I have just huge respect for law enforcement, military and very happy to have you here.
Troy Zeeman: Thank you.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So tell us the story of being in Las Vegas. What happened?
Troy Zeeman: So on October 1st it was a three day concert and we were there for three days. So the reason we went there, Shannon had breast cancer and she had just finished up her chemotherapy. And we decided that it would be great if we celebrated her beating cancer and it was also our anniversary that that year. So Shannon found this three day concert in Las Vegas and said, "Hey, I think this was a great place to go." So we went there for three days and it was, it was a blast. It was a great place. I thought the venue was amazing. And then on the third day on the last singer, it was about 10 o'clock at night and all we heard was gunfire and a crowd of 22,000 people screaming.
Tana Amen: Did you know right away that it was gunfire? I mean, you would know. But I think the average person isn't sure.
Troy Zeeman: Yeah. Well even even police, I mean the first barrage, I didn't know that it was gunfire. I mean, this is a concert. It's a country concert with all kinds of military and police officers who shoot all kinds of weapons who recover all kinds of weapons. And due to the fact that he was a thousand feet away and up 32 stories inside of a hotel room-
Tana Amen: Right, what are you going to do?
Troy Zeeman: ... the shots came out and you kind of were, I was befuddled on it. I was like, "I don't know what that is, but it seems weird. There's something that's amiss."
Tana Amen: So it didn't seem like part of the concert.
Troy Zeeman: Yeah. And it really did seem like, it's danger, but I just don't know what kind of danger yet. And so I was able to turn around and assess the situation and while I was assessing a second barrage came down and that barrage, you could see the barrages were anywhere from 60 to 90 rounds.
Tana Amen: Oh my gosh.
Troy Zeeman: So you could actually see the rounds coming down range and hitting people. At that moment I decided, "Whoa, we got to figure out a way to get out of here." So that was the moment of-
Dr. Daniel Amen: And were you in an open space?
Troy Zeeman: Yes. This is an open venue. So the shooter was in a sniper position and there was no roof on this venue. Nothing in this venue is going to stop the-
Tana Amen: To get cover.
Troy Zeeman: ... bullets that were to hit. So one of the things that military and police get trained on, we get trained on concealment and cover. And these are kind of the things that we train civilians in our business too. And the difference between concealment and cover. Cover is when a bullet can be stopped by what you're hiding behind. And concealment is when you're not being seen by the suspect, he just kind of guessing where you are and shooting at that area. Obviously gives you a better percentage of he's going to hit you or not if he can't see you.
So we discuss that and in this case there was nothing in there that gave me cover. It was all concealment. So I was able to run back to a location about 40 feet away. There was a little hut that I can kind of hide behind and get into the shadows. And at that moment with, luckily Shannon and her friend met me there. I don't think it was planned, but it was just something that coincidentally we were in the same area at the same time. And got to the same place.
Tana Amen: So you weren't together when you first noticed it.
Troy Zeeman: No,
Sharon Zeeman: So Troy was being the good husband and he and my friends husband we're at the bar getting us drinks.
Dr. Daniel Amen: No, no, I don't drink Dr. Amen.
Tana Amen: Never drink at concerts.
Sharon Zeeman: He was getting us water Dr. Amen. But we weren't extremely far apart. The venue was laid out amazingly where you went to the bars and things and they were right in front of the stage. So we weren't far apart. I did not know, nor why would I ever know or think that it was someone was shooting at us. The first ones, he did just a few random shots and I thought they were fireworks that were going to come off of the stage, because it was the last-
Tana Amen: [crosstalk 00:07:42] singer.
Sharon Zeeman: Yeah. And then there was no reaction from anybody. So we all kept dancing. I just thought, "Oh, something went wrong with the fireworks or whatever. Then the first barrage came out and it sounded to me is like the old firecrackers on a string, the poppity, pop, pop, pop. So I was thinking, "Who was stupid and brought in fireworks to let them off in the venue?" So I was looking where I thought the sound was coming from. And again, the singer was still performing. No one in the audience was moving at all.
Tana Amen: And it was dark?
Sharon Zeeman: Yeah, it was dark and we were behind about 7,000 people because we weren't in, there's like a grass area where everybody was standing and we're right behind it. And then, I did think to myself like, "That's weird." But again, I thought it was just someone that brought in something that was being stupid.
Tana Amen: Your brain can't quite put it together.
Sharon Zeeman: Yeah, why would I ever think someone? And I mean I've gone shooting before with Troy and stuff and it didn't sound anything like I'd ever heard.
Tana Amen: Up close.
Sharon Zeeman: And so the second barrage came out and that was when the singer ran off the stage. And then we saw the people that were in front of us, they were starting to run back because where we were was the way to get out of the main entrance and exit.
So a lot of people, if your brain isn't familiar of where your emergency exits are or any other avenues that you could take, that's immediately where you're going to go. So again, I still thought it was someone being crazy and with fireworks. And so my intent was to get somewhere to keep my girlfriend and I protected from being trampled. So we wound up how far? It was only 10, 15 feet away from where I was. I mean it wasn't far the little corrugated building. And so we went straight there and it just, luckily that's where Troy went too. But again, I still didn't think we were under fire. It would have never dawned on me. And it wasn't until we met up and I realized that there was being shots fired.
Tana Amen: So you reach concealment? But didn't you get shot?
Troy Zeeman: Oh, not yet.
Tana Amen: Okay.
Troy Zeeman: So at concealment. We started to find a way to go. Now in my knowledge, I knew that the shooter was towards the right side of the stage and that the shooter was elevated, but I didn't know where the shooter was. So as through my training I decided, "Okay, well I have to assess before I make a decision." And again, these are things that we trained through our training courses. Even though a decision might be three tenths of a second, a decision is better than just aimlessly doing something. So I turned around and decided that I had Shannon and two other friends with us. I had four people that I had to get out of a possible sniper situation. And with all the training that I've had in there, I can make a decision to get out of this venue.
So as I turned around and I start looking, I realized that the subject is outside, the suspect is actually outside the venue somewhere and he's elevated towards that right side of the stage. So I have time now because there's a little bit of time gap that I have only because he's not in the venue. If he was in the venue approaching, then there's less time. So because I had some time, I was able to turn around and tell them, "Hey, this is what we're going to do." But as I turned around and decided, we're going to move to another location, there was like 20 to 40 people there now at our location looking at me for help.
Tana Amen: Oh God.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And they're looking at you for help because they have a sense you're a police officer?
Tana Amen: Did they figure out you were a police officer?
Troy Zeeman: I think it was more of a feeling.
Tana Amen: Yeah, like, this guy knows what he's talking about, right?
Troy Zeeman: I wasn't panicking. I was looking at things, I was directions to her to give directions to other people. So I think they felt like, "Oh, he's in charge of this situation right here. Let me just latch onto him and see what happens."
Tana Amen: Right.
Troy Zeeman: And then there were, after a couple of barrages, there were a few people who said, "Are you a cop?"
And I said, "Yes." And there was actually one guy who was standing right next to me. He had his wife pinned up face to face. She had her back on the corrugated metal and he had her pinned up there.
And he asked me, "Are you a cop?"
And I said, "Yep. I'm a cop."
And then he says, "Don't worry honey, he'll get us out of here."
Dr. Daniel Amen: No pressure.
Troy Zeeman: Yeah, no pressure. I was like, "Okay, wait a minute. I was trying to get my own wife out of here." So I said, "Okay, well you know what, if these people are depending on me, then now I have to kick into a different gear of, well I just can't leave them. If they're willing to go then I think I can get them out."
And so I had to turn back around, started assessing more. And at that point now there's a lot of rounds that have come down range. There's a lot of people, there's a lot of carnage. So there were certain people that I couldn't help. But then there were certain people that were still running out and one of them was our friend that was up towards the front of the stage and she comes running out and I yell at her and grab her and pull her into our group. Some other people had come down into our group and I figured a way that we can move from one location to the other, but we still had time. So I was just preparing everybody to try to move them to an indoor bar. There was an indoor bar that was on the other side of the venue.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So we're going to have to stop this one, but we're going to go on to the next podcast.
Tana Amen: And I have so many questions.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But one thought I had is before you go to a big venue, like this is one of the tips know the escape route. So when you go into a grocery store, when you go to Walmart.
Tana Amen: I'm one of those crazy people who's always looking for exits.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Is it to just be aware that there are crazy people out there. I've seen many of them. And just to begin to go, "This is possible, not common." Which is very important to understand. This is actually a very rare event. The news media makes us think it's like breaking news.
Troy Zeeman: Every day.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Every day.
Tana Amen: But it happens way more than it should.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So it's being aware. So when we come back, we're going to continue through this story of trauma. But also our goal is to give you things to do. And if you want to learn more about their work, because this could be great for your your family.
Tana Amen: Your business.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It could be great for your business, for your organization. The website again is sczactiveshooter.com stay with us.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying the Brain Warrior's way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
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