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Terror in Vegas

Father of junior witnesses deadly shooting

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10:05 p.m. Oct. 1
Las Vegas, NV

The first shots were fired from the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino by Stephen Paddock.

David Dennis, the father of junior Katherine Dennis, was enveloped in bright lights as he was brought up on stage to participate in the final act of the Penn and Teller magic show. Suddenly, he heard a loud popping sound, but Dennis dismissed it as a jackhammer being used for construction. Later he would find out that the sound was a gun being fired into a crowd of over 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival country concert.

As they were leaving the show, Dennis and his coworker were urged into a glistening, black limousine. Then, Dennis heard the announcement that there was an active shooter over the limousine’s radio. At that point, no one knew where the shots were coming from and there were reports of as many as four shooters.

Time began to move with incredible speed as Dennis recognized the harrowing sound of the erratic, rapid-fire shots.

Both Dennis and his coworker have experience with firearms, which allowed them to identify the gun as fully automatic just by hearing the shots.

While some people would panic and shut down, Dennis did the opposite. He began to analyze the situation so he could survive.

Everyone in the limousine went into overdrive as they desperately searched social media, listened to the police radio and communicated with other limousines in an attempt to uncover what was happening.

Although the weapon could be identified, it was still almost impossible to determine where the shots originated. The structure of the buildings caused the sound to bounce off of the Vegas hotels like pinballs.

“People were running back into fields of fire because they couldn’t figure out which way was safe to run,” Dennis said.

His thoughts turned to his family. He then messaged them about the situation, wanting to assure them that when they saw the shooting on the news, he was okay.

They decided that the safest option was to stay inside the bulletproof limousine and continue to drive in circles until they were told to do otherwise. Dennis felt helpless. The fate of his life was no longer in his own hands.

They would drive until they saw groups of people running away from where they thought the gunfire was coming from. Then, the limousine driver would turn around and go in the same direction of the people.

“You probably couldn’t design a better situation for a terrorist,” Dennis said.

When Dennis looked outside the limousine windows, he saw police officers trying to organize the chaos by evacuating the strip. Other limousines picked up wounded people and rushed them to hospitals. People were helping in any way they could. Ordinary people became extraordinary that night.

“The thing that amazed me more than anything else was the heroism of the average person that was there,” Dennis said.


10:15 p.m.

32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. Paddock fires his last shots.

After they had concluded that the shooting had stopped long enough to get passengers to a safer place, the limousine driver dropped Dennis and his coworker off at their hotel, Caesar’s Palace. Dennis was hesitant because of reports that the shooter was in one of the hotels, but he ultimately decided to trust the driver and the limousine company.

The driver took them to one of the lesser known entrances of the building where members of the Las Vegas Police Department were waiting to protect them by creating a human tunnel to shield civilians from potential sniper shots


11:20 p.m.

SWAT finds Paddock dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound.

Dennis was near the window of his hotel room looking upon the entirely empty Las Vegas strip in complete surreality. An iconic place known for its constant flow of people had suddenly become abandoned in the span of ten minutes.

The scramble for information continued after the shooting ended. On the local news station’s channel, Dennis saw a naked man covered in blood. The man had been in the VIP section of the concert when the shooting started. He tore off his clothes to use as tourniquets for the wounded and to put over the eyes of the dead while under fire.

“That’s an impactful vision,” Dennis said. “It restores my faith in humanity that people can do that.”

An eerie quiet enveloped the city.

No one knew that it was truly safe until around 2 a.m.


Oct. 2
Paddock killed 59 and wounded 527.

As Katherine came downstairs to leave for school, her mother told her that her father was safe and on his way home from Vegas. Katherine was shocked because she had assumed that her father was asleep and out of harm’s way the night before.

That evening, Dennis looked up from the dinner table and focused on his family. He slid his hand into his wife’s as he proceeded to recount the horrors of the previous night. He began to cry as he expressed how incredible it was that people could perform such selfless and heroic acts in the midst of something so horrific.

Many days impact peoples’ lives, but some change them forever.

Dennis began to hug his family more. He even began offering to take his kids to school. Ultimately, the tragedy brought them closer together.

“Terrorism is a big thing now—it happens,” Katherine said. “But I didn’t really think that it would affect my family.”

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Terror in Vegas