The 22,000 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest festival expected a night of country music, dancing, and celebration in the nightlife capital of the world. Instead, they got trauma, massacre, and chaos.
Witnesses recounted a night of absolute terror when a gunman open fired on the crowd of people attending an outdoor country concert in Las Vegas on Sunday. At least 59 people were killed and 527 injured, according to the most recent estimates from law enforcement. It’s believed to be the deadliest mass killing in recent U.S. history.
“You could see bodies laid out on the street,” said Mark Jigarjian, a 31-year-old from New York City, who took cover in the MGM casino nearby and was still inside when he spoke to VICE News. “There were people laid out.” Jigarjian, who was spending the weekend in Vegas for a bachelor party, was told to hide behind a slot machine until instructed that it was safe to go outside.
“Everyone started to panic,” he added. “People thought there were maybe bombs on the Strip.”
The gunman, identified as 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, fired bullets into the crowd of concertgoers from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The hotel, about 400 yards from the stage, overlooks the concert grounds below.
“He was spraying the crowd, it was relentless”
The first calls to 911 dispatchers were at 10:08 p.m. At 1:32 a.m., the Las Vegas sheriff announced Paddock had been killed. People who were attending the concert below hid, crawled, and ran to dodge the bullets as they rained from above.
“We had to run under the stage to take cover,” said Brittany Flatmo, an actress who had traveled to Vegas for the Route 91 Harvest festival. “People were running with us and were taking off in different directions.”
“Anything tall, there were people hiding and huddled together,” Flatmo added.
Some thought they heard a bomb go off, and others assumed it was fireworks. But one witness knew immediately where the noise came from.
“I heard pop, pop, pop,” said one man who didn’t want to disclose his name because his employer did not know he was in Vegas. “I’m a gun owner. We all looked at each other, and we said, ‘That was gunfire.’”
When hundreds of people fled the scene in a panic, many lost their loved ones in the stampede.
Courtnee Alaniz, a substitute teacher from Las Vegas, passed by in her car as people poured out of the area. A man who said his wife had been shot stopped Alaniz and asked her for a ride to the hospital.
“No knows where to go. You don’t know where it was coming from”
“There were so many ambulances trying to get through, cars weren’t even in lanes at this point,”Alaniz said. “When I left the strip, I was pretty traumatized. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep.”
The gunman, who lived about 25 miles away in Mesquite, Nevada, was armed with at least 10 guns, according to Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, He’s believed to have killed himself after the shooting.
But witnesses describe utter terror as bullets rained down on them in a continual burst that lasted more than five minutes.
“He was spraying the crowd; it was relentless,” Russell Beck, a witness, told NBC News. “ I saw people plugging bullet holes with their fingers.”
“People are just running and screaming and falling,” a tearful witness told ABC News. “No knows where to go. You don’t know where it was coming from, all you were hearing… it sounded like 1,000 shots.”
Another witness described being saved by a police officer who sheltered her and instructed her to get down and run.
“He was like my guardian angel, and he never left me,”Gail Davis told CBS News. “We could hear the shots getting closer it seemed.”
President Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil” Monday, adding he would be going to Las Vegas on Wednesday.