‘Most people would have done the same thing’
umerous tales of bravery have played in the background of David Royer’s life–here are a few examples.
His uncle was injured while serving in Vietnam, his truck driver father rescued someone injured in a car crash and his Army veteran brother saved a fellow soldier in Iraq. US Army Master Sergeant Royer considers them all acts of bravery.
Royer is stationed at Fort Leavenworth and described how a combination of innate thoughts and logic led him to surmise that someday his tactical skills probably would be tested.
“You see it all over the news,” Royer said. “You just never know what’s going to happen. As crazy as it sounds I felt like I was always prepared for the worst.”
Last Wednesday, the Ohio native’s quick, decisive actions propelled him to stop an active shooter. His reaction led others to label him with a title Royer is familiar with subscribing to others, but still does not believe he earned: that of ‘hero.’
“If I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that’s what needed to happen,” said Royer, who has lived, with his fiancée, Haley Siela, and children near Platte City for the past few years. But the 34-year-old does not consider his actions special.
“Most people, in my situation, would have done the same thing,” he said during a telephone interview with The Landmark.
That fateful day, Royer was driving his truck home from Fort Leavenworth, on the Centennial Bridge which spans the Missouri River between Leavenworth, Kansas, and Platte County.
Traffic was stopped due to road construction and he was speaking with his fiancée on his cell phone when he noticed a nearby motorist leaving his vehicle and exiting to open his trunk. To Royer’s surprise, the man lifted from his trunk a semi-automatic weapon and started shooting.
“I was somewhat in shock,” Royer said of his initial reaction. “It was actually happening right before my eyes.”
The suspect, now identified as Jason R. Westrem, 37, of Houston Lake, pointed his weapon at the Missouri side of the bridge and fired eight to 10 rounds in quick succession, Royer said.
Depending on how many rounds were loaded, the shooter could fire numerous shots, making this a potentially very deadly attack. He noted multiple potential victims, from motorists in cars to construction workers on the road and two older men who had exited their vehicles, perhaps intending to help.
“To me, that’s a big deal,” he said, adding that “he was shooting in the direction of other people.”
Royer said he next thought, “‘I’d better do this quick.'” He later said, “There was no way I could have not done something.”
In fact, Royer said, remembering heroic tales of those close to himit was almost as if he had always prepared for this moment. “I’m used to thinking about it,” he said.
The 34-year-old Royer said his mind raced as he sprang to action, heavily relying on his 15-year military training.
Still on the phone with his fiancée, Haley Siela, he told her there was an active shooter and instructed her to call 911.
“I was looking at everything,” he said, recalling how he assessed the situation in mere seconds. “It’s not human to think that fast,” he said, attributing his thoughts not only to his training but also to an adrenaline rush.
“I wasn’t carrying a weapon at that point,” he recalled, stating that his truck was the only instrument within reach.
He accelerated and immediately knew he had hit the suspect but was unsure if his maneuver had been enough to stop him.
“He wasn’t done shooting when I hit him,” he said. “I was hunting him, basically.”
Royer said he exited his truck to assess the outcome. He had a rush of anxiety as he realized if he had only injured the shooter in a minor way, the threat remained, and by hitting the suspect with his truck he could have angered and emboldened him.
He felt a twinge of relief as he noticed the rifle on the ground nearby but knew the area would not fully be secured until he saw the suspect was subdued. When he finally spotted the shooter pinned under his truck, he contemplated putting his truck in reverse and backing up to make the victim more accessible when medical personnel arrived, but decided against it, afraid it could make his injuries worse.
He knew fluids could leak from his truck and the suspect’s vehicle, which continued to run, so he turned off both ignitions. When turning off the suspect’s vehicle, he noticed bullet holes in the windshield and a loaded handgun in the passenger’s seat.
“I didn’t know if someone shot him or if he shot out of the vehicle,” he said.
Royer said his military training continued to be a guide, causing him to lapse into life-saving mode. The next move was to try to assess if the suspect was conscious. He tried to ask him questions about his injuries but could not make out his response.
“He was making some noises, but I couldn’t understand anything,” Royer
That’s when he heard approaching sirens and knew the harrowing incident was coming to an end.
Royer’s thoughts returned to his family. He texted his fiancée that he was not injured and instructed her to be with his three children ages 14, 13 and 11. Siela knew if she told them the truth then, it might be too much, so she told them he was in a car accident but was uninjured.
Their father relayed the incident to his children later.
After Royer filed a report with the Leavenworth Police Department, detailing his role, his fiancée drove to the station to pick him up. The two embraced and she held him for quite a time, very tightly.
Since returning home, Royer said he has allowed himself to consider other outcomes.
“If that situation was different and I didn’t go home that night,” he said, “it chokes me up to think about it. But I know they (his fiancée and children) would have been alright.”