CARSON CITY (CBS) — A couple was finishing up their Labor Day weekend by visiting family at a Carson City IHOP restaurant before heading back home to Azusa.

During their farewell breakfast Ethlyn and Howard MacDonald narrowly escaped a gunman’s shooting rampage.

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“I could smell the smoke, and heard the bullets getting closer,” Ethlyn said. “I really thought I was going to get shot in the back. I thought we were all going to get shot.”

The breakfast was an annual family tradition — that turned tragic.

“It sounded like something exploded in the kitchen,” Ethlyn said.

A gunman, Eduardo Sencion, pulled up to the restaurant, sprayed it with bullets and then walked inside with an assault rifle.

Another stranger and their daughter Kathy helped the couple and their great-grandbabies under the table.

“With two bad hips, Howard couldn’t crawl,” Ethlyn said.

“I stood up and walked out and looked — here was the man with the AK-47 in his hand pointed,” Howard said. “At any time he could have turned and hit me.”

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A bullet went through the back of the chair where one of their great granddaughters had been sitting.

“If we hadn’t been pulled down she would have been shot,” Howard said.

The gunman ultimately shot 11 people, killing four. Three of those killed were National Guard members.

“We believe God put a shield around us,” Howard said. “I’m 79, my wife is 78, we’ve lived a long life.”

“We believe God has something left for us to do so that’s the reason we are still here.”

Another one of the MacDonald’s grandchildren was on the way to the restaurant but they called her and possibly saved her from driving up on the shooter.

The shooter committed suicide.

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His motive is still under investigation.