DAYTON, Ohio — Dane Thomas has worked at Ned Peppers, a bar and grill in Dayton’s Oregon District, for 12 years. He had never seen anything like what unfolded outside its doors early Sunday morning.
Just a little over 12 hours after another gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, a man from the small city of Bellbrook killed six standing outside Thomas’s workplace. He had already killed his sister and another victim; he would be dead himself within minutes.
Thomas surprised himself by remaining calm and helping direct patrons to safety as the bar erupted around him.
“I don’t know how I was that way,” he said Monday. “I do remember it all. I remember my thought process in it. It’s just I’ve had years of going through the bar safety program.”
Security video shows Thomas sending patrons to a rear exit, through the wide patio gates, to get out of the bar while avoiding the line of fire.
Normally, Thomas said, the gates allow food trucks and vendors to set up shop on the patio. On Sunday, the truck-sized exit helped prevent a bottleneck of fleeing customers.
“If he had gone into the bar and made it in there, we would have seen probably dozens of other people killed,” Gov. Mike DeWine later said of the shooter.
Thomas agreed but stressed he and the rest of the bar’s staff didn’t feel they had done anything extraordinary.
“That’s not something that any of them want, to think of themselves as heroes,” he said. “They want to think of themselves as people who did the right thing at the right time and responded as they should have.”
Ned Peppers reopened Monday night as a place for regular and locals to talk, hug and start the process of getting back to normal.