SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Kion Gould still lives at the La Jolla Crossroads Apartments, where one year ago on his birthday a gunman opened fire, hitting him and six others.
He survived, but his friend Monique Clark died.
He spent a month in the hospital recovering from three gunshot wounds. When he got out, he went back to his gym routine and says now he’s physically back in shape.
But “mentally, there is anguish,” he says.
His life has become a study in what happens to mass shooting victims who survive.
The shooting plays out in his head often, reliving the day in vivid detail.
“It seemed like it happened yesterday,” he says.
It was April 30, 2017. Gould says things were winding down at the pool and they were about to head to dinner in Pacific Beach.
He was heading toward the pool gate when he noticed a man lying by himself on a lounge chair.
He remembers telling him, “It’s my birthday, come have a good time. We’ve got food, we’ve got drinks, we’ve got girls. That’s exactly what I said.”
The man, now identified as Peter Selis, did not respond with words. Instead, he pulled out a .45 caliber handgun.
“I didn’t think it was a real threat until he basically raised the gun toward my head,” said Gould.
He remembered thinking part of him wanted to jump on top of the man and rip the gun away. But something held him back as he tried to rationalize the situation. Why would someone have a gun there?
“What stopped me was the thought that he was a special needs person that had a toy,” he remembered. “Then I thought he was an undercover cop.”
But within seconds it became clear it was not a fake and he intended to use it.
Reflexively, Gould raised his arms over his face.
Selis’ first shot hit his left arm.
“I remember seeing blood dripping down my face so I thought I was shot in the head.”
He turned to run and was hit twice in the back.
He was able to make it out of the gate and up a set of stairs where he collapsed overlooking the pool.
“I was up above everything and I was witnessing him shooting everyone. Like he’s just there shooting, reloading. Shooting, reloading.”
Meantime, Kalli Seely was down on the pool deck. She had her purse strung over her shoulder and was on her way out when the shooting began.
“I heard the first gunshot and looked automatically at Kion for some reason,” said Seely.
But she couldn’t tell what was going on yet.
“Then I felt something hit my arm,” she said. “I thought somebody threw something at me.”
It wasn’t until she heard a friend yell “gun!” that she realized what was happening.
She had been shot twice. Once in the arm and once in her left breast.
“I was like ‘am I going to die?’ because that’s what you think when you get shot in the chest,” she thought.
Later she would learn the bullet did not strike any vital organs but she ended up nearly passing out on the lawn outside the pool. Someone picked her up and brought her to a sidewalk on Judicial Drive where they waited for an ambulance.
But as police arrived, they began closing off all the roads around the complex, blocking even ambulances from getting through.
A few minutes later, Seely says a security guard drove by and took her and two other victims to the area where first responders were waiting.
“Within 20 minutes we were in the hospital while the rest of them were scared, bleeding, in the pool area with the guy still shooting,” she said.
By the time police killed Selis, seven people had been shot.
Gould’s friend Monique Clark later died.
“She had always been a happy person,” he said.
Clark almost didn’t come. Gould said they had been hanging out several days before when he accidentally closed his car door on her finger, breaking it.
“She was just mad at me. She didn’t hate me,” he said. But she was reluctant to come until Gould worked his charm to convince her.
“I would gladly give my life for her to be here,” he now says, specifically because of her three children.
“I would trade places with her, easily, without a doubt so she could be there for them. She will be forever in my heart.”
Gould was eventually taken to am ambulance and remembers being conscious until he was sedated at the hospital.
It turned out, the bullet did not make it through his arm into his head. Only a fragment had struck his eyelid.
“The doctor was surprised I stopped the .45 with my bone,” said Gould.
Doctors credited his strong physique for saving his life. While some of the fingers on his left hand are now numb, he says his body has made a full recovery.
That’s only one step in the healing process though, he says.
“There’s an aftermath that happens to all of this,” referring not just this shooting, but to victims of all shootings.
“People just have developed [a] numbness to ‘oh, there’s a shooting. And another shooting.’ ”
Seely agreed, observing mass shootings become widely publicized, then the media and the public move on to the next. The pain of the victims, especially the ones who survive, often gets forgotten she says.
“There’s a deep pain that doesn’t go away and it lives with you everyday and it never stops.”
Both describe it as a lingering weight.
“I try and push it to the back of my head and forget that it’s there, but as soon as things are quiet and I go to mundane, everyday tasks it creeps right back in,” said Seely.
Gould says he and another one of the shooting survivors have enrolled in an experimental PTSD treatment study at UCSD. But he’s skeptical it will help.
Even though the shooter is dead, Gould says his hatred towards Selis can be all-consuming.
“He created, this tragic, unforgiving, relentless thing that’s continuing to influence our lives. And you can never have that back.”