Tom Brooks was on the scene when a gunman opened fire at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
Brooks was fleeing with his 19-year-old son, Morgan, when Morgan noticed a toddler on the ground who was pinned beneath a man’s body.
“Morgan initially says, ‘Dad, there’s a boy out there … We’ve got to go get him,'” Brooks told NBC News correspondent Emilie Ikeda.
The man on the ground was the toddler’s dad, Kevin McCarthy, who died in the shooting. The boy’s mother, Irina McCarthy, was also killed. Kevin was 37 and Irina was 35.
Brooks believes that McCarthy, who he found lying face down with his body fully covering his son, Aidan, intentionally threw himself over Aidan to shield him from the bullets.
Brooks also shared that McCarthy was still alive when he and Morgan went to help him, and he described how Morgan tried to stop the heavy bleeding from McCarthy’s leg by making a tourniquet with his shirt.
Brooks said McCarthy had his eyes open and was making gargling noises, but was not otherwise responsive. Brooks said he spoke to McCarthy, telling him that Aidan was going to be OK and that he had done a good job protecting his son.
Photos: Community Remembers Parade Mass Shooting Victims in Highland Park, Illinois
“He had that kid in his arms, and his final act of his life was bravery,” Brooks said.
Aidan was not injured. Brooks said that as he carried the boy to safety, the child wasn’t crying, but kept asking questions about his parents.
“He kept on saying ‘shots’ … is my dad shot? My mom shot? Kept on saying shots, shots, very simple,” Brooks said.
Aidan was ultimately reunited with his grandparents. A few days later, the family set up a GoFundMe page to support Aidan and his caregivers.
“Aiden will be cared for by his loving family and he will have a long road ahead to heal, find stability, and ultimately navigate life as an orphan,” reads a message on the GoFundMe fundraiser, which has so far raised more than $2.8 million. “He is surrounded by a community of friends and extended family that will embrace him with love, and any means available to ensure he has everything he needs as he grows.”
Brooks, a father of two, said McCarthy’s final act of heroism touched him deeply.
“He was shielding his son. He fell with the son underneath him … it was intentional,” he said. “This gentleman is a hero. His son is alive because the father reacted like he did.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: