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Vegas shooting witness describes “pure terror” at scene

Family+members+of+victims+of+the+recent+mass+shooting+that+killed+more+than+50+and+injured+more+than+500+console+each+other+outside+a+family+assistance+center+on+Oct.+2+in+Las+Vegas%2C+Nev.
Family members of victims of the recent mass shooting that killed more than 50 and injured more than 500 console each other outside a family assistance center on Oct. 2 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Family members of victims of the recent mass shooting that killed more than 50 and injured more than 500 console each other outside a family assistance center on Oct. 2 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times

Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times

Family members of victims of the recent mass shooting that killed more than 50 and injured more than 500 console each other outside a family assistance center on Oct. 2 in Las Vegas, Nev.

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The moment a sharp popping sound interrupted country singer Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night, concert-goers were unaware that they were about to become a part of the biggest mass shooting in modern history. During the festival, a single terrorist took the lives of 59 people from Mandalay Bay Resort 32 stories above and 400 feet away.

Stephanie Chase, a junior communications major at Cal State Long Beach, had taken the trip with a group of friends and coworkers to unwind for the weekend. But her night turned out far worse than she ever could have imagined.

Chase and her group were staying at the Delano hotel, within a few hundred yards of Mandalay Bay. In a 32nd floor room, 64-year-old Mesquite, Nevada resident Stephen Paddock was watching the crowd.

Chase was watching country singer, Jason Aldean perform at the annual Route 91 Harvest music festival with her friends when the first shot went off.

“There was a noise,” Chase said. “Almost like a firecracker. What it really sounded like was one of those confetti fireworks from 4th of July.”

Thinking nothing of it, she enjoyed the next song with the rest of the crowd. Then another pop.

“We thought it was just the speakers,” she said. At this point, some of the crowd had started walking away amongst murmurs of confusion. Another loud pop went off, and Aldean quickly left the stage.

“It still hadn’t clicked for me that it was a real shooting,” Chase recalled. Then a scream rang out from the crowd, and panic started to spread.

“There was a lot of fear in people’s faces,” she said. “Just pure terror.”

At this point a friend grabbed Chase and told her to get away from the area as fast as possible.

“We’ll meet at the hotel, just run,” he told her as he pushed Chase forward. “Another friend in the group grabbed his girlfriend to shield her from potential injury. Another round of gunfire and people started hitting the floor, trying to find anything resembling cover. Those in the crowd started to knock down fences in fear as they fled. Finding a ditch to hide in momentarily, Chase and another concert-goer saw a McDonald’s and ran into it for shelter. Inside, most of the customers seemed oblivious.

“People were walking up in their club clothes ordering food,” Chase remembered. “They had no idea what was going on.”

After what seemed like an eternity, she finally reached the safety of a police barrier.

“When we started running and started seeing people covered in blood, and I saw all the police, SWAT, and all the ambulances zooming down the Las Vegas Strip, I just kind of started crying,” Chase said. “I couldn’t hold it back, everything just poured out.”

Chase didn’t feel safe until hours later as she sat at a friend’s house in the suburbs, watching the news coverage on TV.

“We heard he had been apprehended, I knew it was really over.” The New York Times reported that Paddock was found dead in the hotel room less than two hours after his rampage, along with a small arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Today, Chase is just glad to be back safely.

“I got home, talked with my mom [on the phone], put my pajamas on, got in bed and just tried to relax.”

The attack left 59 people dead and over 500 more injured as of Oct. 3. It was the largest mass-shooting in American history after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting claiming the lives of 49 people and injured another 60.

Among the casualties was 30-year-old Johnathan Paumonte, a former Cal State Long Beach student who graduated with his master’s degree. He leaves behind his wife, as well as the twins she just gave birth to last month, according to the Press-Telegram.

President Donald Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil,” and praised first-responders on Monday in a statement to the press.

“I want to thank the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and all of the first responders for their courageous efforts, and for helping to save the lives of so many,” he said. “The speed with which they acted is miraculous, and prevented further loss of life.”

The incident has reignited the debate between Second Amendment advocates and those in favor of gun reform. Spokespersons for the National Rifle Association have not yet commented on the situation.

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and others took to social media to voice their opinions on Twitter.

“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” her Twitter statement read. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”

Republican Senator Susan Collins echoed the President’s sentiments.

“Horrific act of violence in Las Vegas. Worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. First responders showed extraordinary bravery,” Collins posted.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren wasn’t pleased with responses she saw.

“Thoughts and prayers are NOT enough,” Warren said in a Twitter post. Not when more moms and dads will bury kids this week, and more sons and daughters will grow up without parents.”

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