Dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Elisjsha Dicken was shopping with his girlfriend when a gunman opened fire on a food court at a Greenwood, Indiana, mall Sunday evening, killing three people and wounding two others.
While the shooter, 20-year-old Douglas Sapirman, fired 24 rounds from an AR-15-style rifle, Dicken did not hesitate to use the Glock handgun he was legally carrying. Sapirman was “neutralized” within two minutes, police said.
“Many more people would have died last night if not for a responsible armed citizen that took action very quickly within the first two minutes of the shooting,” Greenwood Police Chief James Ison said at a news conference Monday.
The grandmother of Shay Goldman, Dicken’s 19-year-old girlfriend, says her granddaughter’s life was one of those spared through the young man’s actions, CNN affiliate WTHR reported.
“‘Eli pushed me out of the way and told me to get down and stay down,’” Goldman told her grandmother by phone, according to WTHR.
“Everybody should be proud of him for what he’s done because if not, there would have been a lot more,” said the grandmother, who the affiliate did not identify.
As Sapirman began shooting from a restroom area into the mall’s food court, Dicken returned fire “from quite a distance with a handgun – was very proficient in that, very tactically sound,” Ison said. As he moved in on the gunman, Dicken motioned for people to leave behind him, the chief said.
“He’s a superhero,” Alison Dick said in a live Facebook post, whose 12-year-old daughter was wounded.
As far as investigators know, Dicken “has no police training and no military training,” Ison said. According to WTHR, Dicken’s grandfather taught him how to shoot.
Making Dicken’s heroism perhaps even more remarkable is the fact cases of an armed bystander attacking an active shooter are rare, according to data from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training at Texas State University.
There were at least 434 active shooter attacks in the US from 2000 to 2021, according to ALERRT data. Active shooter attacks were defined as those in which one or more shooters killed or attempted to kill multiple unrelated people in a populated place.
Of those 434 active shooter cases, an armed bystander shot the attacker in 22 of the incidents. In 10 of those, the “good guy” was a security guard or an off-duty police officer, ALERRT data showed.
Having armed people at the scene who are not law enforcement members can create confusion and carry dire risks, according to a data analysis published by The New York Times. An armed bystander who shot and killed an attacker in 2021 in Arvada, Colorado, for example, was himself shot and killed by the police who mistook him for the gunman, the Times reported.
Few other details have emerged about Dicken, and an attorney for the young man has asked the public to respect the privacy of Dicken and his family.
“Because we want to respect the ongoing criminal investigation by the Greenwood Police Department and take time to honor the three innocent lives lost, we won’t be making any substantive comments on Sunday’s events until after the authorities’ investigation is closed,” attorney Guy A. Relford said in a statement to CNN.
After the shooting, Dicken “approached mall security and told them that he was the one that neutralized the shooter,” and he waited for police to arrive, Ison said.
Police then took Dicken to the station, where detectives interviewed him. His statements correlated with video from the scene, the chief said.
“He’s a young man processing a lot,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. “I ask that you give him space and time to be able to process what he’s gone through.”
“This young man, Greenwood’s good Samaritan, acted within seconds, stopping the shooter and saving countless lives,” Myers said. “Our city, our community and our state is grateful for his heroism in this situation.”
CNN’s Amir Vera, Artemis Mostaghian, Holly Yan and Jacqueline Rose contributed to this report.