LITTLETON, Colo. – Math teacher David Benke says he had no time to fear for his life when he tackled a man he said was preparing to reload a rifle to shoot students at a Colorado middle school who were heading home for the day.
And Benke doesn't consider himself a hero for stopping the 32-year-old accused of wounding two students Tuesday at the Littleton school that's just miles from Columbine High School, the site of one of the nation's deadliest school shootings.
"You know, it bugs me that he got another round off," Benke said of the two shots that authorities say Bruco Strongeagle Eastwood fired.
On Tuesday, Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink praised Benke, calling him a hero. Benke, the father of 7-year-old twins and a 13-year-old girl, fought back tears after Mink thanked him.
"I know he feels bad about not being able to intervene sooner, but believe me when I say, I think he stopped what could have been a more tragic event than it was this afternoon," Mink said.
The victims, Deer Creek Middle School students Reagan Webber and Matt Thieu, were both treated at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Spokeswoman Christine Alexander said Webber was treated and released to her home, and Thieu was transferred to another hospital.
Authorities say both victims had surgery Tuesday.
Benke and other teachers were monitoring the parking lot in the afternoon when Benke heard what he thought was a firecracker and began walking toward the noise.
"At first when I was walking over there, it was kind of what a teacher does," Benke said, still shaken hours after Tuesday's shooting. "`Hey kid, what are you doing,' you know that kind of thing."
"Unfortunately he got another round off before I could grab him. He had a bolt action rifle .... He figured out that he wasn't going to be able to get another round chambered before I got to him so he dropped the gun and then we were kind of struggling around trying to get him subdued."
Benke said he doesn't remember the students running from the scene or the time it took sheriff's deputies to arrive at the school. He didn't have time to think about anything happening around him.
The 6-5, former college basketball player oversees the school's track team. He said another teacher was quickly on the scene and both of them pinned the gunman to the ground.
"I basically have my arms and legs wrapped around him, (the other teacher) has his forearm around his front and we were basically trying to get the guy to quit struggling.
School officials could not immediately confirm the names of other teachers who helped subdue the shooter.
"I talked to him while we were on the ground. I was underneath him and his face was pretty close to mine," Benke said. "I asked him, `Why did you do this? Were you a student here?'
"He either didn't respond or his responses didn't make a whole lot of sense," Benke said.
Denver station KUSA-TV reported that Eastwood attended Deer Creek Middle School in the early 1990s.
Eastwood has an arrest record in Colorado dating back to 1996 for menacing, assault, domestic violence and driving under the influence of alcohol, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
In 2005, he participated in a NASA-funded medical study in which he spent 10 days in a hospital bed so scientist could study muscle wasting, an affliction experienced by astronauts during long flights, according to a story in the Rocky Mountain News.
He told the newspaper that he had a lifelong dream of being an astronaut and described his occupation to the newspaper as horse trainer working at his father's Eagle's Nest Ranch in Hudson.
Investigators said Eastwood visited the school previously and was inside shortly before the shooting. He is expected to make his first court appearance Wednesday and may face at least two counts of attempted murder.
A man who answered the phone Tuesday night at a number listed for Eastwood identified himself only as "Mr. Eastwood" and said he was Bruco Eastwood's father. He was at a loss for words.
"There's nothing you can say about it. What can you say?" the man told The Associated Press. "Pretty dumb thing to do. I feel bad for the people involved." He wouldn't comment further