The man stumbled into Maxwell's bar in Minneapolis early Sunday, six bullet wounds soaking his clothes with blood.
As he yelled for help, he didn't know that great good fortune in the form of six nurses was just a few feet away. Like a well-oiled triage team, they sprang into action, using bar towels, a first aid kit and the man's own belt to slow the bleeding.
A few minutes later, police and paramedics arrived and whisked the man to Hennepin County Medical Center. He will survive the shooting, which happened a block away outside a gas station on Washington Avenue.
"He would have bled out and died right in the bar if we didn't help him," said Tim Carew, one of the nurses who worked on the man, whom police did not identify Sunday.
Police continue to investigate the shooting at Bobby & Steve's Auto World, and nobody has been arrested. The man was confronted about 1 a.m. inside the gas station and was shot outside as he tried to flee. The shooting suspects were in two vehicles, said Sgt. Stephen McCarty.
An armed security guard at the business shouted a warning before firing at the vehicles, but it's unclear whether anyone else was injured or whether they returned fire, McCarty said. Police said the victim managed to drive the short distance to Maxwell's.
The bar was pretty crowded with more than 25 people inside, said Carew, a 40-year-old psychiatric nurse. When the injured man came in, he screamed that he had been shot.
"The bartender thought he was asking for a shot," said Carew.
There were three different groups of nurses in the bar, and none of the groups knew their fellow patrons also were nurses, he said. Carew looked at the man and saw his bloody pants. The man was told to lie down on the floor toward the front of the bar.
"He was leaking blood," said Carew. "He needed to lay down or risk going into shock."
6 gunshot wounds
The nurses removed the man's pants and discovered he had been shot twice in the abdomen and twice in each leg. The most serious wound involved his femoral artery, an injury that could cause the man to "bleed out" if not dealt with quickly.
So the bar staff and nurses began to work in concert. The nurses asked if there were any gloves available because of the amount of blood. None could be found.
The group carried on, applying pressure with towels and using the man's belt as a tourniquet. At the same time, other nurses talked to the man to keep him conscious, said Carew. They asked name, age and where he lived. He said he was 22 and lived in Minneapolis.
"He kept saying, 'I love you guys,'" said Carew.
They managed to slow the bleeding until paramedics arrived and placed a better tourniquet around the man's leg, wrapped him in a blanket and hoisted him onto a stretcher. Then Maxwell's became a crime scene as officers took statements from customers. The nurses with blood on them were later tested to make sure they hadn't been exposed to any contagious diseases.
"I had to bag up my clothes and throw them in the garbage," said Carew. "I was coated in blood."
Bar employees were shocked at what had just happened, but relieved there were so many nurses who could help, he said. The staff responded very well to the shouted instructions, he said.
"Nobody was freaking out," Carew said. "Everybody kept their cool."
And Maxwell's picked up the nurses' tabs.
"That was very nice of them," Carew said.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465