Jesse Zamora of Kennewick said he had never before been in a situation where he might have to use his gun in public.
But after a 47-year-old Oakville pastor asked if he was armed during the chaos of shots being fired at the Tumwater Walmart on Sunday, Zamora, 37, responded with "yes," and "let's go."
Zamora and the Oakville man, who has yet to be identified, then exited the store to confront Tim O. Day, 44, of McCleary.
Before Day had arrived at Walmart, he had tried to carjack a vehicle in Olympia, crashed his own vehicle in Tumwater, and fired shots in the area to carjack another vehicle. During that shooting in the area of Tyee Drive and Israel Road Southwest, a 16-year-old boy's thumb was grazed with a bullet, according to media reports.
Day then took off for Walmart.
Meanwhile, Zamora -- who lives in Kennewick but is currently is working in the Olympia area -- said he was shopping with his wife at the big box store. When he heard two shots, he asked his wife if it sounded like gunfire.
"No," she replied.
Minutes later, people started running, with some saying "shooter," Zamora said.
Zamora said he told his wife to run, then spotted Day running with his gun in the air.
Day, according to Tumwater police, had entered the store and headed for the sporting goods section where he fired shots at an ammunition display case, removed ammunition and left the store.
By then, Zamora had pulled out his handgun and was joined by the Oakville man.
Both saw Day try to carjack a vehicle in the parking lot that belonged to a 48-year-old man. That man was shot twice by Day and later flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where he remains in critical condition with paralysis and organ damage, spokeswoman Susan Gregg said.
Zamora said he never pointed his gun at Day, but the Oakville man did.
"I know he said something along the lines of 'Put your gun down,'" Zamora said.
Then Zamora heard gunshots and watched Day die. "He gasped for air and he kept looking at me," Zamora said.
Zamora said he believes Day was on the verge of shooting more people. Based on Day's behavior, he felt compelled to act.
"That's why we did what we did," he said.
Tumwater police spokeswoman Laura Wohl said Tuesday that the department never wants to see anybody put themselves in harm's way. However, her understanding was that the Oakville man was familiar with firearms and how to use them safely, she said.
"In this situation, we are glad more people weren't hurt," she said.