LAS VEGAS — On a Monday when many here would be winding down from a weekend of gambling, music and dancing, the scene on the Las Vegas Strip was uncharacteristically subdued and somber, as several blocks where closed while police investigated the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in the country’s history.
Tourists still milled on the sidewalks near the Mandalay Bay Resort, from where the shooter is suspected of firing down on the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival directly across the street. The stage and other equipment from the festival still stood in the shadow of the gold-colored hotel.
Still wearing the festival’s wristband, Anthony Luca, 30, described a harrowing sequence of events to Variety after he first heard gunshots shortly after Jason Aldean took the stage.
When the first gunshots erupted, Luca recognized the staccato of bullets as gunfire, not fireworks as many others has assumed. He recalls running toward fencing erected near the stage where others were trying to clamber over to safety. Under the weight of so many people, Luca said, the fence eventually toppled over, providing a way to safety for hundreds trying to escape.
“Once that fence went down, it was like cattle,” he said. People were running away amid the hail of heavy fire, but no one seemed to know where the gunfire was coming from, he said, only adding to the anguish and fear as panicked concertgoers looked for a way out.
He couldn’t say what was more terrifying: running from the hail of bullets or hearing the screaming and crying from those hit during the lulls in gunfire.
— Variety (@Variety) October 3, 2017
Luca said he and others managed to run away from the concert grounds and made it to a nearby hangar at McCarran International Airport. There they encountered a gunshot wound victim, a man, whom they provided first aid to as they awaited for emergency personnel.
Sage Leehey, a 25-year-old substitute teacher from Henderson, was still in shock the day after the shooting. She had attended with her best friend, who she said is a huge Aldean fan. They took their spots near the stage and before long, they heard the sound of gunfire.
“When the shots rang out out, we didn’t think it was real,” Leehey said. “I kept looking for fireworks.”
Eventually, once it became clear they were under fire, they began looking for an exit. Her panic turned into terror when she saw a body and saw police officers take cover. She and her friend ran to safety, fleeing past the developing carnage.
A Los Angeles marketer who gave his name as Marty I. said he sought cover behind a food stand after the gunfire rang out. Because of how loud the gunfire was, he said he couldn’t tell how far away the shooter was or whether there was a second or perhaps other shooters.
As the day continued, throngs of people milled around the perimeter erected around the crime scene. Some people brought food — pizza boxes and Taco Bell — for police and other first responders. A woman and two young girls pulled a wagon with bottled water.