Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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Metro officer, victim’s family forge friendship after Oct. 1 shooting

Las Vegas Portraits Project, 1 October Memorial Exhibit

Miranda Alam/Special to Sun

Mary Jo von Tillow, whose husband Kurt von Tillow died in the Oct. 1 shooting, talks about the the Las Vegas Portraits Project exhibit at the Clark County Government Center in Las Vegas on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.

Kurt von Tillow was enjoying the Route 91 Harvest festival with his wife and family last year when the sound of gunshots rang out and people started falling.

Wounded by a gunman's bullet, von Tillow hit the ground, mortally wounded, as his family surrounded him, frozen by his side as the bullets continued to rain down.

That’s when off-duty Metro Police Officer Eric Brown, who was attending the outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, rushed over to the group. “They wanted to stay with him in the middle of the gunfire. It was still early on, and rounds were still coming down,” Brown said.

In the chaos, he convinced them they had to get out — immediately — and led von Tillow’s wife, Mary Jo, and four other family members to safety. They included von Tillow’s niece and sister-in-law, who also were wounded in the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting that left 58 people dead and more than 800 injured.

Brown commandeered a golf cart and drove to family to an ambulance, before he rushed back to the concert grounds to help more people after a gunman opened fire from a Strip hotel tower across the street.

His selfless act made an indelible impression on the family.

“There were police officers outside of Caesars Palace where we stayed, and we asked them if they could find Eric Bown,” Mary Jo von Tillow said. “We gave them a phone number and he called us back almost immediately and came to the hospital and visited my nieces and sister-in-law there. So, that was the beginning of our relationship.”

When von Tillow learned Brown had a family at home, his actions became all the more meaningful.

“Knowing that he has a young family, that means even more to me that he risked his life that night,” von Tillow said. “He saved my family’s life and will be forever grateful for what he did that night.”

Since then, the families have forged a friendship.

Brown even accompanied von Tillow on their annual family vacation to Lake Tahoe last summer, because “he’s part of our family,” von Tillow said.

“We’re all family now,” Brown said. “I know they lost everything, and I gained a lot by being able to help them.”