An American says he survived the shooting at an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve that killed 39 by pretending to be dead as the gunman stood over him and shot him.
Jake Raak, a 35-year-old from Delaware who was celebrating the new year with nine friends at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul’s Ortakoy district, told NBC News that at first he brushed off reports of a shooter in the building.
“Somebody said that there were shots fired and I initially did not believe it until I saw the gunman and he started shooting up the whole place,” he said.
Raak described laying on the floor and pretending to be dead, with his head under a bench and his legs sticking out. The gunman shot Raak in the hip. He said he struggled not to flinch or scream in hopes that the gunman would move on.
“He was walking on the bench above my head when my head was underneath,” Raak said. “When he shot me, I didn’t move. I just let him shoot me.”
The bullet entered his hip and traveled down to his knee, where it was lodged. However, Raak is in stable condition and will be traveling back to the United States this week.
Despite the harrowing experience, Raak knows it could have been much worse.
“I was probably the luckiest in the whole thing, I do find myself very fortunate,” he said. “I was with nine people — seven of us were shot.”
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The Associated Press reported that the assailant, who escaped and has not yet been public identified, was armed with a long-barreled weapon and killed a policeman and civilian outside the nightclub. The attacker then began shooting at people partying inside the club. It is unclear if the attacker acted alone or if there were multiple assailants.
A Lebanese woman who was at the club told Reuters that she heard the gunman shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”), and ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 39 people from 14 different countries and wounded nearly 70 more.
Turkish security services arrested eight people on Monday, though officials say they still do not have the gunman in custody, NBC reports.