Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2018

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For many who survived carnage, Tropicana became a safe haven


Steve Marcus

FBI agents confer in front of the Tropicana hotel-casino on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, after a mass shooting during a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday.

Family Assistance Center at Convention Center

A family brings in water and other supplies for donation at the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where LVMPD has set up a Family Assistance Center for those needing help locating and retreiving loved ones involved in the mass shooting that occured Sunday night during a country musical festival, Monday Oct. 2, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Community Reacts to Las Vegas Strip Mass Shooting

Dashenka Giraldo of Las Vegas lights candles at a makeshift memorial for shooting victims at the Las Vegas Strip and Sahara Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Mass Shooting on Las Vegas Strip

An investigator works in the room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where a gunman opened fire from on a music festival Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, in Las Vegas. The gunman killed dozens and injuring hundreds at the festival. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Launch slideshow »

It's 11:08 p.m. Sunday, an hour after a barrage of gunfire began to fall upon thousands of attendees of a country music concert, many of whom turned from dancing to sprinting toward Tropicana Avenue, desperately trying not to be a statistic in the worst modern mass shooting in U.S. history.

A woman runs and talks on the phone, telling the caller to alert someone. Others sprint behind her, some jog, each visibly distraught, and no one looks back.

“Terrorism …” a man wonders out loud. At this point, medics have set up a triage area near the Hooters casino, and people are treated on the spot, while ambulances fly down Tropicana.

A man and a woman sit on an exterior stairway of the Tropicana resort.

Candace LaRosa is enjoying Jason Aldean's performance at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. This is until a man smashes two glass windows of his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay suite, and with an arsenal of rifles on hand, fires indiscriminately onto the crowd below.

“We were all dancing having a good time, and all of a sudden we hear all these shots as part of a fireworks show,” LaRosa said. “We just got to dancing, dancing, dancing and it just went crazy. There had to be a thousand rounds going off.”

It wasn’t long before she finds out it's not fireworks she's hearing, and the blood soaking the ground is there to prove it.

She said she saw a bullet pierce a boy she described as being about 16 or 17.

Two men wave people inside a dusty utility room at the Tropicana — there is water and you’ll be safe, they say.

Once the displaced concertgoers are inside, the men guard the door and direct the evacuees toward a conjoined hallway, where a woman’s arm is bleeding profusely while a man applies a tourniquet. An older woman whose back is bleeding is cared for by a couple of good Samaritans.

Amid the chaos, unfounded rumors are swirling: Is there a commando of gunmen who can soon make their way into the impromptu shelter? Has there been an explosion at one of the casinos? Did one of the evacuees have a heart attack?

A woman desperately pleads for an asthma inhaler for someone in need. Is there aspirin in the first-aid kit?

Patrick Martin finds relief when he hears from his son, who had stayed behind to help evacuate the grounds.

"All I heard was a lot of bang, bang, bang, and everybody hit the ground and everybody started running" in different directions, Martin said about the shooting.

It initially sounded like fireworks, a line oft repeated by others.

A man who seized a leadership role announces, "They're nowhere near us, you're safe."

"Are they terrorists?" asked a woman, but the man doesn't know.

Paramedics and police in armored gear enter the utility room and through the hallway carrying a stretcher, but they decide to leave without patients.

The crowd continues through the hallway and into an office space of the Tropicana. The gravity of what just occurred begins to sink in amid the adrenaline, and survivors start to share their harrowing stories and look for phone chargers.

A broadcast system announces that police have cleared the property and invites the survivors to a ballroom area. Water, white towels and sheets are distributed by hotel staff, and several hundred people begin to make their beds in the middle of the carpeted floor.

One of two women crying, Alex Walters, frantically hunts for a cellphone to call her boyfriend, who was also at the concert but had become separated when he gave an injured victim a ride to a hospital.

The Las Vegas woman added that she thought fireworks had been set off, "then the music stopped" and everyone started running and ducking. "It's (expletive) crazy."

In one of the ballrooms, a distraught man grabs a notepad and pen intended for the next morning's convention. He begins to scribble but tears some pages with the pen in frustration.

Diane Martin's white jeans are stained by blood and dirt. She said that at the outset of the attack, "Somebody turned around and there was blood on the floor."

She described running underneath tables and hearing gunfire in successive staccatos. They were "literally praying" and trying to get everyone covered while the gunman stopped to apparently reload. "People knew that more was coming."

Shots in "extremely rapid fire" compelled the crowd to scatter in different directions in "mass confusion," Marty Philip said. "You don't know where to go and you don't know how to protect yourself initially."

There were volleys, pauses and more volleys," Philip said, adding that he got on the ground in front of a food station, still not knowing where the gunshots were coming from or whether he was safe.

Janet Muzio remembers being near the front row when she heard gunshots and was soon being trampled by others trying to jump to safety.

"Get off my leg, get off my leg," she remembers thinking.

As Muzio ran away, she recalled a desolated field with shoes and bottles littered about.

It's the middle of the morning, and while some victims continue sharing survival stories, others were overtaken by sleep, perhaps a welcome escape from the horror just experienced.

At some point, a Metro Police substation commander uses a megaphone to plead for patience. “I’m so sorry that this happened when you’re here on vacation — don’t let it be a reflection of our great city. I hope you come back again someday.”

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