Spc. Matthew Conner heard repeated shots fired between noon and 1 p.m. April 27.
He was not in the field training or on a deployment.
Instead, Conner was at home watching TV with his wife at his apartment complex near Willowbrook Drive and South Reilly Road in Fayetteville.
“I thought they dropped a trashcan or something like that, not anything really crazy, but it piqued my interest enough,” Conner said. “Then I heard five or six consecutive shots right after that and thought, 'OK something’s really actually happening right now.'”
That’s when Conner, a paratrooper with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, let his military training take over.
“I went to go see what was going on, and since I had (combat lifesaver) training and stuff like that, I just figured that it would be best for me to go handle the situation … rather than somebody just panicking in front of them, 'cause in infantry, you’re trained to handle well under pressure,” said Conner, who’s part of the brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Conner looked out his window and saw a young teenager running down the hill with a gun in his hand.
“The first thing I thought of was, ‘OK, well what if they turn back around? What if something happens to my wife? What if something happens to my dogs? Like whoever is around me, what’s going to happen?,’” he said. “So I made sure I armed my wife and was like, ‘OK, just stay here, and I’m going to go see what’s going on.’”
Once he stepped outside, Conner heard the victim’s wife screaming and noticed a man was wounded.
Conner helped carry the man downstairs and administered care, placing pressure on the wound with his bare hands, loosened the man’s shirt and ensured he didn’t go into shock.
When police arrived, he was able to describe the suspects’ vehicle — a bright red Charger — and told authorities he heard two voices.
He said by the time he was giving his statement, police were already chasing suspects and later caught three people.
The victim, Conner said, was in critical condition for about three days, but he saw him on crutches about a week and a half later.
The victim and Conner have since moved out of the apartment complex.
And Conner credited his unit leadership listening to his experience, which he said helped him get promoted sooner and enabled him to purchase a new home to ensure his wife can sleep more safely at night.
“Spc. Connor's personal example of selfless service and unhesitating, decisive actions are consistent with the greatest traditions of our uniformed services and played a pivotal role in saving a life,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Buchanan, Conner’s platoon sergeant for the Delta Company 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. “His actions are a testament to the training that all paratroopers receive and enabled him to react without hesitation and perform his duties in a non-commonplace environment.”
And Conner is not the only paratrooper or Fort Bragg soldier who has helped save a civilian’s life this year.
In June, Brig. Gen. David Doyle, outgoing deputy commander of sustainment for the 82nd Airborne Division, recognized Conner, Sgt. Brandon Alvarez and Pfc. Sean King.
Alvarez helped rescue a driver and toddler from a smoking vehicle in April, and Pfc. Sean King helped a gunshot victim in Virginia earlier this year.
On Sept. 1, the 18th Airborne Corps Tweeted that Maj. Levi Zok used his belt as a tourniquet to save the life of a driver in a car accident, with members of the Stoney Point Fire Department crediting Zok’s actions.
©2020 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.