Istanbul attack: An injured American survived by playing dead, staying silent, motionless

Jake Raak , an American shot during the Istanbul nightclub rampage told NBC News he survived the ordeal by playing dead, remaining silent and motionless even after the gunman shot him.
Jake Raak , an American shot during the Istanbul nightclub rampage told NBC News he survived the ordeal by playing dead, remaining silent and motionless even after the gunman shot him.

An American shot during the Istanbul nightclub rampage told NBC News he survived the ordeal by playing dead, remaining silent and motionless even after the gunman shot him.

Jake Raak was one of around 60 people injured during a rampage in and around the Reina nightclub early on New Year’s Day. Some 39 people were killed in the incident — most of them foreigners.

The 35-year-old from Greenville, Delaware, recalled that as gunman moved through the club spraying bullets, he targeted people who were lying on the floor.

“When he shot me I didn’t move — I just let him shoot me,” he said. “I was shot when I was already on the ground. He was shooting people that he had already shot.”

ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting on Monday, identifying the attacker as “a heroic soldier of the caliphate.” It said the attack had been carried out “and in response to a call” from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, although it did not say whether it directed or merely inspired the perpetrator.

The gunman fired some 120 rounds during his rampage in and around the nightclub at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday), police told NBC News. The incident lasted less than 10 minutes.

Raak was shot in the hip and the bullet traveled to his knee. He added that he didn’t move or make a sound even after he was hit, fearful that the gunman might realize he was alive.

“You just have to stay as calm as you can,” he said. “I took a bullet.”

Raak was with a group of nine people, he said, seven of whom were shot.

Raak said he came within inches of the shooter, who walked along a bench that he was lying underneath.

“I saw him coming and he shot us all,” he said. “Somebody said 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 added: “I was probably the luckiest person in the whole thing.”

Authorities were Monday engaged in an international manhunt for the suspect, who fled the scene after the shooting.

Police in Istanbul released Monday what they said was an image of the suspect taken from security footage.

“Efforts to find the terrorist are continuing,” Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu told reporters Sunday. “God willing, he will be caught in a short period of time. This was a massacre, a truly inhuman savagery.”

Twenty-eight of the dead were foreigners, Turkish Health Ministry officials said.

Canadian, Iraqi, Saudi, Indian, Lebanese, Tunisian, Kuwaiti and Syrian citizens are among the dead.

NBC NEWS