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Local businessman recalls shooting aftermath

Farmington businessman Bret Burgess was about three blocks southwest of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas when tragedy struck Sunday night.

Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino around 10:15 p.m. during a performance by Jason Aldean at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, authorities said. As of press time Monday, 59 people had been reported killed, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. At least 527 others were injured.

Burgess, who had flown to Nevada on Thursday to visit a friend in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, had returned to Las Vegas around 4 p.m. Sunday to make final preparations for his return flight to Missouri the following morning.

“I was filling up my rental car when I heard all kinds of sirens coming towards my direction,” he said. “I drove towards the ‘Strip’ to my hotel. That’s when all the commotion began. I was just a few blocks away from Mandalay Bay. Just across the street was where the assaults were being targeted. It was just a mess. There was a whole lot of chaos.

“We didn’t know what was going on. People just kept saying that there was somebody shooting. Nobody knew any details, of course, at that time. We knew there was an active shooter, but they thought it might be terrorism. They locked up all the hotels. I was actually staying at Trump International because I got the best rate for Sunday. I couldn’t get back to my hotel — they had that all blocked off . They were very concerned initially that Trump International was going to be targeted.”

Burgess was caught in traffic as people were running away from the shooting site.

“I was in my vehicle behind some minimal barricade that was just being set up because EMS and the police were just getting there at the time,” he said. “People were coming out screaming. There was this terrible fear — as anybody would have in that type of situation. It was very difficult because you felt so helpless.

“I was right there on Thursday watching them set up for the Harvest Festival and [Sunday] night I actually had plans of coming back to the festival. If they were still playing music, I was gonna’ park and listen. By the time I got back was when the chaos was going on and there was nothing but people running and taking cover. People were filtering out into the streets.

“People were trembling, screaming, confused, and I felt so helpless. Yet, I saw the men and women in blue and the men and women in red running towards the very place everyone else was running from. Las Vegas Metro [Police] and Clark County [Sheriff’s Office] and everybody involved did about as good as they could in that type of situation.

Burgess said there are many, many thousands out on the street any night of the week on the Las Vegas Strip.

“They literally had every property shut down. Every property was barricaded probably within 20 or 30 minutes. They didn’t know what they had. They were expecting the worst as they should.”

Burgess didn’t get into his hotel room until around 1 or 1:30 a.m. and as one might imagine he had difficulty sleeping. He wasn’t aware until the next morning how bad it had been.

“It’s really been weighing on me today as I’m sure it is a lot of people,” he said. “I’m the lucky one who gets to come home. I saw them on Thursday setting up for the Harvest Festival and I was actually going to stay at Mandalay Bay on Thursday night because I wasn’t driving to see my buddy until Friday.

“I ended up choosing the Venetian because — I don’t know — I think the reviews online were better. I actually went into the hotel lobby at Mandalay Bay and for some reason — the room was even a little bit cheaper — I just decided not to stay there and evidently that’s around the same time Paddock checked in.

“I have a very heavy heart today, especially for those I saw grieving for their loved ones, but I also feel such admiration and respect for those who are willing to serve their communities and have chosen an average to below average paid profession that requires them to run towards the threat and not away from it.”

Despite Sunday night’s senseless act of mass murder, Burgess said he hopes that somehow good may come as a result.

“Las Vegas is definitely a place where sin and evil abound, but even in the midst of sin, God’s love and mercy is present,” he said. “I pray the city and community of Las Vegas will heal from this horrible act of evil and may God’s love become more apparent in a place that needs restoration.”

“It’s really been weighing on me today as I’m sure it is a lot of people. I’m the lucky one who gets to come home.” — Bret Burgess

Investigators work the scene Monday after a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday in Las Vegas. Local resident Bret Burgess was blocks away when the shooting occurred.

Investigators work the scene Monday after a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday in Las Vegas. Local resident Bret Burgess was blocks away when the shooting occurred.

Bret Burgess

Bret Burgess

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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