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Las Vegas Shooting

Sydney Dusek, Staff Reporter

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On the night of October 1, a crowd of 22,000 people was gathered on the Las Vegas Strip to see country music star Jason Aldean perform the final act of the 3-day Route 91 Harvest Festival.  At 10:05 PM, bullets began to spray down upon the crowd from a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, located across the street from the festival.  The rapid fire continued for about ten minutes, killing at least 58 people and injuring approximately 500 more.

Police identified the gunman as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock.  Paddock had meticulously planned the deadly attack, transporting 23 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition to his hotel suite over several days.  Twelve of the firearms found in the suite were outfitted with bump stocks, devices that can modify a semi-automatic rifle to mimic the rapid-fire of an automatic weapon. These gun accessories, which are legal under current federal law, enabled Paddock to shoot dozens of rounds per second.

Since the massacre on October 1, calls for regulation on bump stocks have drawn bipartisan support, including the support of the National Rifle Association.

Riley Pankey, ’20, has a mother who was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the night of the deadly attack.  Lori Pankey had left the festival to have dinner with a friend at a restaurant in MGM Grand, and was getting ready to head back to the concert when the shooting began.  “[The waitress] left to go get our check, and seconds later, we heard gunshots and a group of people ran through,” Pankey recalled.  “It was surreal.  I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’”

Pankey and her friend soon connected with another friend who was at the concert, and together they tried to get to one of their hotels rooms for safety.  “Every time we would get close to the lobby, there would be more gunshots, but they weren’t super close.  There were people running… At one point, people were saying, ‘He’s here!  There’s a shooter!’”  

In search of a safe place to take cover, Pankey and her friends ran to a nearby bar and hid in the kitchen.  “My friend then called her dad, basically to say ‘goodbye, I love you,’ just in case.  And there was a guy sitting there who, the top part of him, was like, blood… He said ‘I’m not sure whose blood this is but I don’t think it’s mine.”

At this point, Pankey realized that the shooting was happening at the concert, and she with her friends tried to get to their hotel rooms.  “Not being in a hotel room did not feel safe, no matter where we were. Because every time we’d get close to the elevators, we were running again, and every time it happened, there were more people with blood on them,” said Pankey.

Pankey remembered at one point thinking, ‘Do I call my son?’  “I didn’t want to scare him, and I didn’t want him to worry all night if I was going to end up fine.  But at the same time, I was torn, like, ‘Do I call him and tell him I love him, in case I never get to do it again?’  And that was hard.”

Eventually, Pankey and her friends got to a hotel room.  “That was the first I actually felt that we were safe,” Pankey said.  At that point, she posted on Facebook to let her family and friends know she was safe.  “We just sat there and watched out the window… It was literally just– shock.”

“It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions.  I’ve been numb, I don’t sleep very well, I have been angry, I’ve been sad, I’ve had guilt… It’s been awful,” said Pankey.  

But despite the horrible event she experienced, Pankey knows that she must move forward.  “The one thing we can’t do is stop living.  Although it has been really hard to even leave my house some days, because I’d rather just take my kids and find a little bomb shelter and live in there and know that we’re all safe, but that’s not really a life.”

Pankey is planning to attend another concert in November.  “It will be hard, but the one thing we can’t do is stop living, so I’m already trying to convince my friends that we need to jump in the deep end and go to a concert together.”

 

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Las Vegas Shooting