Steve Malone heard the pop, pop, pop, and knew right away that gunshots were being fired during Sunday night’s Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
Malone, of Rapid City, S.D. was with daughter Jennie Clabo, son-in-law Darren Clabo and friends Steve and Daneen Jacquot of Spearfish in a VIP area just to the right of the stage where country music star Jason Aldean was performing at about 10 p.m.
At latest reports, the death toll stood at 58, with more than 500 people wounded or otherwise injured when 64-year-old suspect Stephen Paddock reportedly opened fire with automatic weapons from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
Authorities believe Paddock took his own life just before police stormed his hotel room.
“I heard a gun started shooting, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,” Malone said.
Malone went to end of the white VIP tent to investigate the noise, but didn’t immediately notice anyone being affected by the apparent gunshots.
Then another round of gunshots rang out. This time Malone saw people began to move and saw Aldean with the other musicians flee the stage.
“Then you realized it was real,” Malone said.
Malone took cover with the others. The firing came in spurts over what Malone described as the next five minutes, although it could have lasted longer than that, he said.
“There would be a pause and people would start running and then he’d start shooting and everybody would duck back down. Then he was picking them off when they started running," Malone said.
“There were a lot of things (that) happened really quick, Tables were flying. Chairs were flying. There were people running, people hiding under stuff,” Malone said.
Malone said a couple people in the VIP area had been hit by gunfire. He saw more bodies in the general concert area — no more than 30 to 40 yards from the tent.
“Nobody knew what was going on. They just started running away from the gunshots. We got out and there were a lot of people laying around that didn’t make it,” he said.
He and his group eventually made to a gate in the fenced concert venue. By then, the shooting had subsided, he said.
Malone eventually returned to his hotel, the New York, New York, about a half-mile from the concert venue. The hotel was in lock-down.
Hotel workers weren’t allowed to leave the hotel, and early this morning there were still armed security people in the lobby, he said.
Jennie and Darren were in a hotel across the street from the New York, New York.
“She’s a little shook. Everybody is really shook,” Malone said in a telephone interview with the Journal at about 8:30 a.m on Monday.
“A couple of hours ago she said she was going to try to get some sleep. I told her to call me when she woke up,” he said.
He said Jennie and Darren originally had planned to fly back to Rapid City today. Malone’s plans had included staying in Las Vegas for a few more days, then continuing a motorcycle tour of the Grand Canyon. He wasn’t sure Monday morning how the shooting, one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history, would affect those plans.
He and his family and friends had attended the country music festival to have a good time. Being an eyewitness to such a horrific tragedy drove home the importance of staying close to loved ones.
“Just tell people to hug their kids before they go to bed,” Malone said.
“We’re glad we’re alive,” he said.