Kevin Cody

Route 91 concert goer credits veterans, police with preventing panic

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Tammy Carbone, Eileen Roberts and Heather Parnock arrive at the Route 91 Harvest Festival Saturday afternoon ready to celebrate country music. Photo courtesy Heather Parnock

by Kevin Cody

Heather Parnock was in her beach chair in the festival seating area of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, across from the Mandalay Bay Casino on the Las Vegas Strip when she heard bullets whizzing by. The country music fan and El Camino College publications supervisor has attended every Route 91 festival since its founding in 2014. This year she brought along El Segundo friends Tammy Carbone and Eileen Roberts.

“Jason Aldean was five or six songs into his set when we heard a burst of what we all thought was fireworks. Everyone looked up, but there was nothing in the sky. Then there was another burst that went on for what seemed like minutes. That’s when I heard the bullets. The military veterans in the audience began yelling, ‘Get down. Stay flat.’”

When the bullets stopped, Parnock said she and those around her got back to their feet.

“Then the gunfire started again and I dropped back to the ground with the people around me. We didn’t know what was happening, but we saw the people closer to the stage running for the exit, right of the stage.

“I told my girlfriends ‘Run for the truck.’”

Parnock had parked her silver, 2017 Chevy Silverado two blocks away, in the open lot behind the Hooters Hotel and Casino.

She grabbed her keys, leaving behind her beach chair with her cell phone, and ran through an obstacle course of other abandoned beach chairs and baby strollers.

“SWAT teams were coming in as we were running out. They told us to keep our hands over our heads, but they didn’t stop us from leaving.”

“I could still hear bullets a block away, but had no idea where they were coming from. There was so much shooting I thought there must be more than one shooter. People were ducking into the Tropicana and running up service ramps. I decided to keep running to my truck.”

Once Parnock, Carbonne and Roberts were inside Parnock’s truck, she locked the doors to keep people pounding on the truck from climbing in with them.

“I made the decision not to open the doors because I was afraid of being overwhelmed by people piling in,” she said.

Parnock said there was less panic and chaos than she would have expected, given the circumstances,  when the 22,000 fans exited the concert grounds, a fact she attributed to the large number of veterans and police in attendance.

“Big & Rich performed before Aldean. Half way through their set they asked for a show of hands from active military personnel and then veterans and then police, firefighters, nurses and teachers. By the end, half the people in the audience had their hands in the air.”

“When the firing started, there wasn’t any direction over the PA about what to do, but the veterans and police all around took control,” she said.

Among them were eight Redondo Beach police officers. According to Redondo Police Chief Keith Kaufman, the officers began performing tactical medical services to stabilize victims while waiting for Emergency Medical Services personnel to arrive.

Parnock said she and her friends didn’t learn the shots were coming from the Mandalay Bay until they arrived back at their hotel just as the first news reports began to air.

“The shooter had an unobstructed view of the exit. If he had waited 40 minutes, until the concert ended, he could have slaughtered everyone,” she said. ER

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