DENVER, COLORADO (HawaiiNewsNow) - From the shores of West Maui to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Blake Ramelb found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time.
"It was mostly me begging for my life," he said.
The 21-year-old Maui native moved to Colorado nearly two years ago to go to school and expand his business. He was driving along Independence Pass last Wednesday when he drove up on Brolin McConnell, 30, with two guns in the middle of the highway holding two people hostages. Ramelb became the third.
"We took our shirts off and had our hands on top of our heads. He asked, 'What's your race?' And I said, 'Me?' He said, 'No, the two white guys.' I kinda took that as…oh no, he might be pointing me out in this whole situation," Ramelb said.
Ramelb, who is half Filipino half Caucasian, said he believes the attack was racially motivated.
"He had us line up, me closest to him and the other two hostages behind me, kind of in a straight line, looking at him," said Ramelb.
"Mostly the whole time I was thinking about my family and thinking how I can't have this guy end my life and I don't want to die right now, that I haven't done what I wanted to do in life. I wanted to change the world and he was gonna take that away from me."
At one point, the suspect got distracted when another car drove up on them. But Ramelb wasn't able to move quickly because of a recent foot surgery. The two other hostages made a run for it, leaving him behind.
"I knew I couldn't run away because I had my surgical boot on…and if I was to run, I would be for sure the last guy closest to him and he would take a shot at me," said Ramelb.
Ramelb is a 2013 graduate from Lahainaluna High School. Those who know him said his levelheadedness is probably what kept him alive.
"I'm envisioning that Blake, as scared as he was, I think with his natural smile and trying to convince the guy to talk story with him, that probably calmed the gunman down I think or at least protected Blake from any harm," said retired LHS Student Activities Coordinator Art Fillazar.
Ramelb wrote about the harrowing ordeal in his blog. In it, he writes, "I started talking to him again, mentioning if he's been to Hawaii, because he asked where I was from. I started talking about the Aloha spirit and how everyone there is kind and welcoming."
"I was just trying to look at him and maybe make a connection with him and make him like me," Ramelb said over the phone.
Ramelb bought enough time for police to find him. That's when he acted as a negotiator.
"It was just me yelling at the cop at the top of the road…to the guy holding to guns in my face what he wanted. But to tell the truth, it didn't seem like he wanted anything but to shoot me."
Ramelb said the crazed man said he was Jason Bourne and he was convinced that Ramelb was working for the government and came to get him.
"Before the first shot, he was talking about shooting my leg, and my knee caps, shooting my heart and watching me bleed," Ramelb said. "I was supposed to turn away from him. But before I could turn fully away, he shot. And I just saw dirt go up in the air, smelt the gun powder."
"I looked at his eyes, especially after that first shot, he was laughing. I saw, he will kill me."
Ramelb said McConnell fired again, but missed.
"After the second shot, I thought I was dead. And at that point I knew if it was gonna be a third, it was gonna be the kill shot."
Ramelb saw the opportunity to escape when McConnell went into his truck.
Law enforcement officers moved in and arrested McConnell for kidnapping and weapons charges.