‘Blood all over the elevator’: Las Vegas shooting survivors recall attack in own words. [VIDEO]

A gunman opened fire Sunday night into a crowd below him at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

The gunman, who took aim from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, left at least 59 dead and 500-plus injured.

Survivors of the attack and others recalled the night to journalists from the USA TODAY NETWORK. Here is what they saw in their own words.

Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity.

‘Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!’

Justin Zimmerman recalled being with a group of four friends in the middle of the outdoor concert venue, about 100 yards from the stage.

“I left my friends to go get more beer, then you heard a distinct ‘Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!,'” Zimmerman, of Dexter, Iowa, explained. “(I) thought it was the sound guy messing up, but you learn quickly it’s actual gunfire.”

“I just stood there. I didn’t know what to do. Then I got on the ground. Every time it stopped, people would get up and start running. At this point, you have a mad rush of people running toward you. People hit the ground and jumped over things. It was a crowd of running people, you couldn’t see anything. I am just numb right now. It won’t hit me till I get home and see my family.”

‘It looked like a war zone’

Minutes after Cole Watson, his wife and their 9- and 5-year-old children decided to leave the Route 91 Harvest Festival, he heard “firecrackers” popping near the stage. Then Watson, a resident of Reno, Nev.,  heard someone yell “shooter.”

“As we were leaving that event, it was pure chaos. It looked like a war zone. Our main focus was our children and getting them as far away from the situation as we could. Everybody started bunkering down. People started pulling people into their rooms. Every time the shooting would stop — it was like he was reloading or something — people would take off.”

Watson said his two children are too young to understand what happened. He praised the Las Vegas Metropolitan police department.

“It could have been so much worse.”

‘People were diving under tables’

Shelly and Joe Comfort were all having a drink at the hotel bar in Delano, a sister property connected to Mandalay Bay Resort, when the band stopped playing and ran off stage.

“The S.W.A.T. team came running into the (casino), running in with machine guns,” Shelly Comfort said. “We were told to run as fast as we can, there’s an active shooter. It was crazy. People were diving under tables. Everyone was cramming in, trying to get out of there.”

‘Blood all over the elevator’

Maria Beth Stanfield was out with girlfriends Sunday night before heading back early to the MGM Grand two blocks from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

“I was in a cab and it was going slow, so I paid him and got out. It looked like 500 people running toward me. First, I was walking. Then I heard people say ‘Run!’ I didn’t have time to think about what was going on, so I just start running. I saw blood on people’s clothes, so I ran into my hotel. I got ready to get on the elevator, and they cut the elevator off because there was blood all over the elevator. So I waited until they had an elevator clean enough for people to get on.”

Justin Zimmerman, of Dexter, Iowa, said he was with four friends when the carnage began.

“I left my friends to go get more beer, then you heard a distinct ‘Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!,'” he said. “(I) thought it was the sound guy messing up, but you learn quickly it’s actual gunfire.”

He said he, too, froze and then hit the ground. Eventually he ran to the safety of a nearby casino.

Among the victims was Sonny Melton, 29, a registered nurse from Big Sandy, Tenn. “He saved my life,” his wife, Heather, said. “He grabbed me from behind and started running when I felt him get shot in the back.”

Aldean confirmed that he and the rest of his team were safe.

“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean posted on Instagram. “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”

Aaron Rouse, chief of the FBI’s Las Vegas office, disputed an Islamic State claim that Paddock was one of the militant group’s soldiers. Rouse said no connection to the militant group had been found.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “We believe he was the sole aggressor.”

Authorities were reviewing the recent transfers of large amounts of money involving the suspect and the possible relationship to gambling activities, a federal law enforcement official said. The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, said the review is part of wide-ranging search for a possible motive in the attack.

Lombardo said Paddock checked into the hotel Thursday. He said that when the shooting started, authorities could see the gunfire was coming from Mandalay Bay. Employees and guests helped direct officers to the room. Officers used explosives to “breach” the door and found Paddock’s body.

At least 16 weapons, many of them rifles, were found inside Paddock’s hotel room, a federal law enforcement official said Monday in a new accounting of firepower that the gunman had amassed prior to the attack.

The official, who has been briefed on the matter but is not authorized to comment publicly, said that police also found two tri-pods positioned at the hotel windows in what appeared to be a fully-equipped sniper’s nest to take better aim at the crowd below.

Hundreds of rounds of ammunition were among the suspect’s possessions, a cache that could have sustained him in a much longer assault, the official said.

The Associated Press also reported that two of the weapons were modified to make them fully automatic, according to two U.S. officials briefed by law enforcement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still unfolding.

Authorities believe that the gunman, who had no serious criminal background, purchased many of the weapons legally. Though investigators were attempting determine whether he illegally converted some to operate as fully automatic weapons, the official said.

Lombardo said authorities also searched Paddock’s home and found even more weapons — 18 firearms, explosives, and unidentified electronic devices, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Guns & Guitars, a shop in Mesquite, confirmed that Paddock had purchased guns from them in a past. Manager Chris Sullivan said all necessary background checks and procedures were followed.

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Source: www.usatoday.com

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