The brave cop seen in a video calming survivors of the San Bernardino, California, mass shooting — promising them "I'll take a bullet before you do, that's for damn sure" — came forward Tuesday to insist that he was no hero because any other cop would have done the same thing.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Detective Jorge Lozano was just one of more than 300 local, county and state officers who responded to the Inland Resource Center, the state-run facility for people with developmental disabilities where Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 during a holiday lunch last week.
About two dozen of those first responders, all wearing black ribbons, appeared Tuesday at a news conference at San Bernardino police headquarters to talk about their experiences nearly a week after the massacre.
But it was the words of Lozano — recorded on a cellphone by one of the people he led to safety — that captured in the minds of many the heroism of the law enforcement officers who risked their lives that day to save those of others.
"I said what I said, and I meant what I said," Lozano said Tuesday. "I meant it to calm them down and relax them."
It apparently worked, he said — "it calmed them a little bit."
Lozano's moment of truth came as he was shepherding several survivors toward an elevator. One of them was a woman with a small child, "maybe an 8-year-old boy, terrified, shaking like a leaf."
"It's nothing short of what any other person in law enforcement would do. I don't feel like a hero whatsoever," Lozano maintained. "It's our job to put ourselves in the line of danger to protect the community."
And the first teams on the scene definitely knew they were in danger.
"I was thinking a lot of things actually approaching the building," San Bernardino Police Detective Brian Lewis said. "We knew that we were probably outgunned. We knew there were people down and we needed to get someone to them."
"I would be lying if i said it wasn't difficult walking up to those doors," with alarms blaring, sprinklers activated and a pall of gunpowder "prevalent in the room," Lewis said.
"You know, we didn't have any cover," he said. "We didn't know where in the building the gunmen were. We didn't know how many people were down, but we knew we needed to get into the building and save them."
'Today is about the victims'
Standing in front of the row of courageous men and women in uniform, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan repeatedly stressed that the attention rightly should be focused not on the officers, but on their employers — the people of the community.
"Today is about the victims," Burguan said. "We're here to honor them and their families."
Other ordinary cops and community members have also emerged in the last week as their comments struck a chord with people jittery after the attack, which investigators quickly labeled a terrorist act.
San Bernardino police Lt. Mike Madden, who usually mans a desk as an administrative officer, was the first cop on the scene. His call for Americans to remember that most cops "do the job to go out and protect the public" helped to bring the message home that most officers are decent people deserving respect.
"We've taken a lot of hits lately — some of it justified, some of it not justified — and it takes a toll on you," Madden said last week. "It's hard being labeled a rogue cop."
And there was Dany Doueiri, an associate professor at the Center for Islamic and Middle East Studies at California State University-San Bernardino, who urged Americans in a voice choked with emotion to understand that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and reject the message of ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups.
"I don't know how murderers can claim to follow Islam," Doueiri said at a vigil at the university Monday night. "They attacked my faith, Islam. They attacked your faith, and they attacked all the people who affiliate with any faith.
"It may be difficult for us to dream when we are still bleeding, but I hope we can all rise ... with hope and wisdom to fight ignorance with knowledge, to fight violence with compassion and to fight hate with love," he said.