Off-Duty First Responders Aided Shooting Victims as Bullets Rained on Crowd

After the mass shooting at a country music concert that left scores dead and hundreds injured in Las Vegas, stories of heroism have come to light.

(Published Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017)

Russell Bleck and his fiancee saw other festivalgoers "dropping left and right" as the Las Vegas gunman "sprayed the crowd" across the concert grounds from high up the Mandalay Bay hotel.

As many of the 22,000 terrified concertgoers on Sunday scattered for cover in the wide-open space, off-duty first responders at the event — police officers, firefighters, paramedics and military personnel — jumped into action.

They shielded those around them and shepherded fans to safety while gunfire continued to rain overhead. Some loaded victims into ambulances while others became victims themselves.

Dramatic Images: Dozens Die in Vegas Concert Shooting
Natalynn Rivis, a student at University of Nevada Las Vegas, right, takes part in a vigil Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

"Thank God it was a country concert, you saw a lot of ex-military just jump into gear. I saw guys plugging bullet holes with their fingers," Bleck told NBC's "Today" show Monday in a phone interview. "I saw police officers, while everyone else was crouching, standing up at targets just trying to direct people and tell them where to go.”

Law enforcement officers from departments around the country were among the 58 people killed and more than 500 wounded, victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Former New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the number of casualties could have been higher had it not been for the quick-thinking actions by off-duty first responders in the crowd.

"The fact that so many police officers were in that crowd may have been an extraordinary coincidence that was ultimately beneficial," Bratton said Monday on MSNBC.

Specific reports of their heroism amid the fear and chaos have emerged.

Gail Davis was at the concert with her husband and described how a Las Vegas Metropolitan Department police officer used his body as a shield to protect her as he guided the couple to safety.

"[The officer] was my guardian angel. He never left me,” Davis told CBS “This Morning."

When Conor O'Donnell realized that gunshots were raining down on the crowd at the outdoor festival, the Rhode Island State Police detective called his father, former Rhode Island State Police Supt. Steven G. O’Donnell, to say he was safe.

"I spoke to him as it was happening. Kind of a crazy phone call to get in the middle of the night from your son who explains things to you that there's an active shooter and you can hear the rounds going and trying to tell me he's OK," the retired head of the state police told WPRO-AM in a phone interview.

Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison praised first responders and "heroic efforts of ordinary people" following the shooting in Las Vegas Sunday night that killed scores of concertgoers. 

(Published Monday, Oct. 2, 2017)

O’Donnell said after Conor got his girlfriend to safety, he ran back to the open venue to provide medical assistance to the wounded, including another off-duty officer who was shot.

A fast-acting Marine veteran reportedly saved as many as 30 wounded victims by driving them to the hospital in a utility vehicle he found unattended in a nearby lot, according to The Orange County Register. After finding keys in the ignition of a white truck parked in a lot, Taylor Winston piled some of the wounded concertgoers into the truck and ferried them to a hospital. The Iraq War veteran from San Diego made two trips before enough ambulances were on the scene to assist victims.

"I’m just happy I was able to help," he told the Register.

When Tom McIntosh was shot in the calf while fleeing the gunfire, a U.S. Army Reserve with EMT training fixed a makeshift tourniquet on his leg and accompanied him to a hospital.

"By the time I got over the wall [to safety], my pants were already soaked and my shoe was full of blood,'' McIntosh told the "Today" show's Savannah Gutherie. "No, I wouldn't have made it. I know it wouldn't have stopped. I'm very thankful that James [Lawson] was there to help me."

At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured when a man opened fire at an open-air concert in Las Vegas from a nearby hotel.

(Published Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017)

McIntosh got a chance to thank the stranger who saved his life during an emotional reunion on "Today" Tuesday. Lawson, who was at the Jason Aldean concert with his girlfriend, said it was the first time he's used his training in a real-life scenario.

Bruce Ure, deputy chief of the Seguin, Texas, police department, has been credited for showing similiar courage. He was in the VIP section of the Route 91 Harvest Festival with his wife when the gunfire broke out.

"It was like a war movie,” Ure told NBC affiliate WOAI. "Debris was coming up hitting you in the legs because it was hitting the pavement, and people were screaming and crying and running."

As Ure traversed the field to get his wife to safety, he came across a man bleeding out from the leg and used his belt as a tourniquet.

The brother of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock spoke to reporters about his brother.

(Published Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017)

"I had to hold [the belt] because I couldn’t tie it,” Ure said. "I guess people saw us working on this guy and thought this must be medical. Next thing I know I've got a lady shot in the chest and a lady shot in the back."

Ure flagged down a driver and convinced him to take the four of them to the hospital. After making sure the wounded victims were being care for by hospital staffers, Ure returned to his hotel and reunited with his wife.

The seasoned police chief said he has never seen so much bloodshed in his 33 years of working in law enforcement. 

San Diego resident Tiffany Michelle escaped the mass shooting unharmed. She took to Instagram to thank the countless strangers that helped her flee and praised her "hero husband," an off-duty San Diego police officer, for shielding her from the hail of bullets and aiding the wounded.

"When we were separated and he realized he could no longer protect me he stayed behind to hold pressure on gunshot wounds and carry people to trucks for departure to hospitals," Michelle wrote on Instagram. "He and all the other off-duty officers, military personal, and anyone else in the venue and out who helped save a life tonight are the true heroes." 

Her husband, officer Thomas McGrath, was one of over 100 law enforcement officers from across the Golden State who were in Las Vegas — an especially popular destination for Southern Californians — to attend the weekend festival. More than a half-dozen off-duty California police and fire personnel were wounded in Sunday's shooting and Manhattan Beach authorities said a police department records technician was killed.

"If you get the chance today I urge you to thank an officer. I know I will hold mine a lot closer today and forever," Michelle urged.