Bernie Kozen thought he heard fireworks. Then, he saw a wall exploding as bullets slammed into it.
Terrified people at the rural Pennsylvania township board meeting Monday night ran for cover as a shooter opened fire and yelled, "They stole my land! They stole my land!"
For a brief, crucial moment, the shooting stopped. Police say the gunman left the meeting to get another weapon.
Kozen huddled in a corner. As the shooter returned and approached with a handgun, Kozen sprang into action.
"I jumped him from behind," Kozen told CNN in an exclusive interview Tuesday.
Now, police are hailing the local parks director and another man as heroes. The gunman killed three people at the board meeting in Monroe County. But if Kozen and another man hadn't tackled the shooter, police say, there would have been even more casualties at the meeting in a small town about 70 miles north of Philadelphia.
"It's certainly courageous what they did, and they absolutely would have saved lives," state police Lt. Robert Bartal told reporters Tuesday.
The two men tackled the shooter even as rounds were fired, authorities said.
"It happened so quickly, I wouldn't say I was scared," Kozen told CNN. "The opportunity was there and the guy upstairs was looking out for me, and we did what we had to do."
A chaotic scene
As he and the other man subdued the shooter, a chaotic scene surrounded them.
Some people took off their shirts to apply compresses to wounds, Kozen said. Others performed CPR or wrapped bandages for injured victims.
The other man who helped tackle the gunman, who did not wish to be identified, told CNN he saw Kozen grab the shooter, then he jumped in to help the parks director.
"Bernie held the bottom half of his body, then I stood on the shooter's neck," the man told CNN, adding that he "punched, kicked, pulled the handgun from the shooter's hand" and helped pull the shooter to the ground.
He and Kozen tied the shooter's arms up with a jacket, he said.
On Tuesday, Kozen said he was still rattled by the shooting. The gunman killed one of his close friends -- a man whose kids played Little League baseball with his.
"I am saddened for the loss of life," he said. "Senseless. It makes no sense at all."
The shooting, he said, was the kind of thing he'd only seen before on TV.
"You see all the shootings, the Aurora and Newtown, and you say it can't happen in small-town America like this, but it can," he said. "It can happen anywhere."
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