How the Las Vegas shooting unfolded

Gunfire rang out just after 10pm, sending the audience and performers at a country music festival fleeing, with at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured

The Guardian | October 2, 2017

10pm in Las Vegas

It is a warm night in America’s gambling capital and more than 22,000 country music fans of all ages, including children and teenagers, are in upbeat mood at the Las Vegas Village and Festival Grounds, run by MGM Resorts. It is the climax of the sold-out Route 91 Harvest festival, “three days of country music on the Vegas Strip”. The singer Jason Aldean is beginning his set, overlooked by the two gold towers of the Mandalay Bay hotel, which has 3,309 rooms and a 135,000 sq ft casino.

Just after 10pm

Jason Aldean performs during the festival.

Jason Aldean performs during the festival.  Photograph: Mindy Small/FilmMagic

Rapid fire rings out. At first, few realise the extent of the unfolding horror, assuming the sounds are part of the show. But as bullets continue to rain down, the music stops and Aldean rushes off stage. “He literally dropped his guitar, threw it down and sprinted to the side,” a witness, Brian Claypool, told the MSNBC channel. “A lot of people were still sitting in their seats. They didn’t realise what was going on … There was an onslaught of shots. It felt like it was world war three, like it would never end.”

William Walker, from Ontario, California, said: “It sounded like something was wrong with the speakers. Jason Aldean kept playing through three rounds of it. Then once he stopped everyone took it more seriously.

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“We were under a big spotlight and someone said: ‘Turn off the light.’ They shut it off and you could see and hear bullets hitting the ground. People piled up behind cop cars, and ex-military guys were saying, ‘Give me a gun, I’m going to get these fuckers.’”

Bullets hit concertgoers and spark off the pavement. People scream and duck for cover, fall on top of each other or run for their lives; witnesses see people fall dead in front of them. Split-second decisions make the difference between life and death. The country singer Jake Owen, who was on a side stage, told CNN that for the attacker, it was like “shooting fish in a barrel”.


An injured person is tended to in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.

An injured person is tended to in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.  Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images 

Police get the first call reporting the shooting. According to the New York Times, video captured nine seconds of rapid, continuous bursts of fire, followed by 37 seconds of silence and panicked screaming from the crowd. Gunfire then erupted again in at least two more bursts, both shorter than the first.

There is a stampede and carnage. Megan Kearney told NBC: “People started screaming that they were hit and to get down and then about every 20 seconds after that you would hear a round of machine guns and people just dropping; I mean hundreds of bodies all over the ground.”

Jackie Hoffing, her eyes glassy, still in a clear state of trauma, said: “It was hysteria. There were people trampled. We jumped walls, climbed cars, ran for our lives. I’ve never run that hard or been that scared in my whole life.”

Desiree Price, from San Diego, said: “Two girls hid behind a car with us, right outside the concert. We huddled together. That’s why I have their blood on me. One girl was shot in her leg, the other had it in her shoulder. It didn’t stop so we all ran – we kept going.”

There are acts of heroism from concertgoers and first responders treating the wounded despite continued gunfire. More than a hundred people are taken to the University Medical Center in ambulances and cars. They include four who died and 12 in critical condition.