News & Opinion | October 3, 2017 8:47 am

What It Was Like to Be in the Crowd at the Las Vegas Mass Shooting

"Your heart is racing and you’re thinking, 'I’m going to die.'"

Las Vegas shooting
People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (David Becker/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Most people in the crowd of 22,000 country music fans did not know what was happening when the gunfire started in Vegas Sunday night. It sounded like firecrackers, or maybe somehow part of Jason Aldean’s musical performance.

A cellphone video obtained by the Associated Press shows confusion and silence when the noise stopped. One man can be heard saying “That’s gunshots,” while a woman begs people to “Get down! Get down! Stay down!”

And then the noise continues. That’s when the fear set in.

Andrew Akiyoshi provided the cell phone footage to the Associated Press. He said that you “could feel the panic. You could feel like the bullets were flying above us.” Some people ducked down, while others fled towards exits, pushing through narrow gates or climbing fences as “40-to-50 rounds of gunfire rained down on them” from the Mandalay Bay casino hotel across the street.

“You just didn’t know what to do,” Akiyoshi said to the Associated Press. “Your heart is racing and you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’”

By the time it was all over, 59 people were dead and 527 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the Associated Press reports.

The motive is still unknown. The gunman has been identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada. He killed himself before the police stormed his hotel room. He was an avid gambler and had a small fortune, which he made investing in real estate. According to The Associated Press, he “busted out windows” to create a sniper’s perch. He was roughly 500 yards from the concert.

Paddock had 23 guns total in his hotel room, authorities have said, including some with scopes. The Associated Press reports that officers found two gun stocks that allow the shooter to replicate fully automatic fire.

Authorities found 19 more guns at his home, along with explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. They also found several pounds of a fertilizer called ammonium nitrate, which can be turned into explosives, according to the  Associated Press.

The Islamic State tried to claim responsibility for the attack, but the FBI said it “found nothing so far to suggest the attack was connected to international terrorism,” reports the Associated Press. 

President Donald Trump called the massacre “an act of pure evil” during an address to the country, and according to the Associated Press said, “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has.”

Authorities put out a call for blood donations and also set up a hotline to report missing people and speed up identification of the dead and wounded. The Associated Press reports that bodies covered in white sheets were still being removed from the festival grounds 12 hours later.

The shooting began at 10:07 p.m. and Paddock seemed to fire for more than 10 minutes. The shooting started as Aldean closed out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival. The crowd had little cover and no easy way to escape, the Associated Press reports.

Dylan Schneider, a country singer who performed earlier in the day, told The Associated Press that “No one knew what to do. It’s literally running for your life and you don’t know what decision is the right one.

The Associated Press writes that “tales of heroism and compassion emerged quickly,” such as couples holding hands as they ran together, people loading the wounded into the cars and driving them to hospitals, strangers helping strangers.

It is believed Paddock acted alone. As for why, even his family doesn’t understand. According to the Associated Press, his brother in Florida, Eric Paddock, told reporters, “I can’t even make something up. There’s just nothing.”