One of two men shot after the disturbance at the Toucans Tiki Lounge in northern Palm Springs last Sunday is speaking out about the incident. Aaron Alter, a professional dancer and a former U.S. Navy aviation ordnance technician, told reporters from local media outlets, the Desert Sun and KESQ News Channel 3, in Palm Springs;
“I heard a gunshot, and after the first gunshot there was a really fast second gunshot and after that one I felt it (the bullet) in my leg and I felt like someone hit me with a baseball bat,” said Alter.
Alter said that he had finished his shift work dancing at around 1:30 am and was back in his street clothes when a fight broke out. Speaking with the Desert Sun, Alter noted that it appeared to be more than a typical bar brawl.
“One guy was being jumped by four or five guys,” he said. “This was an attack.”
Alter said that before the gunfire began, he grabbed the man who was jumped and removed him from the situation. He then followed the guy out of the club, to ensure he got out safely.
He was caught at the center of the gunfire, but said he quickly worked to get people inside the bar to safety before tending to his gunshot wound.
“I took off my belt and started putting a tourniquet around my leg. That’s when three other guys came running, sliding into me and, you know, helping pull the tourniquet tight, making sure I was safe, talking to me, keeping me calm,” he recounted and added that he didn’t know how severe his injury was.
“I started calling, my kids were my first thought, [I thought] if something is going to happen to me today, I want to at least say good bye and I love you,” Alter said.
Alter has five children, ranging from age 1 to 18.
According to Alter there are still bullet fragments stuck in his leg. Doctors didn’t remove the fragments out of concern there would be further complications
“There’s a very good chance that my muscles may reject the foreign bodies and push it naturally out. If its [thigh] bumped the wrong way it sends shock pain. It causes a tingling sensation. I get intermittent numbness,” Alter KESQ News Channel 3, adding he expects recovery to take at least four months.
Alter has performed in the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley areas for more than a dozen years. He also dances at Wang’s in the Desert and Copa Nightclub and tours with the troupe Men Next Door Uncovered. He says he must relearn to walk and dance with shrapnel in his leg.
“It’s like a hiccup,” he said. “I can’t let this beat me or get the best of me. I have to get through it and recover so I can get on with my life again.”
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go back to my dancing career. This is my career. This is how I make my money and survive, but right now, we’re just taking it day by day,” said Alter.
Palm Springs Police Department spokesperson Lt. William Hutchinson said that investigators still have not determined a motive for the incident and are still searching for the gunman who was described as a Hispanic Male Adult, approximately 20-30 years old wearing a black hat, black hooded sweatshirt, black sweatpants and with tattoos on his neck.
Hutchinson added that the club’s owner and its management team are cooperating fully with investigators.
A GoFundMe has been set up to defray his medical expenses and Wangs will be hosting a fundraiser for him next Wednesday, April 3 at 7 pm.
Reporting by The Desert Sun, KESQ News Channel 3 and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.