Updated December 5, 2023 - 2:49 pm
Shooting survivors acknowledged Monday that living in the streets is inherently dangerous but said their fleeting sense of safety was shattered bullet by bullet at their east Las Vegas homeless encampment days earlier.
“One after another, after another,” Audrey Cook said of the late Friday afternoon gunshots that killed one of her friends and wounded four others, including her boyfriend of three years.
“We’re constantly always looking over our shoulders, leery of people” in the wake of Friday’s shooting, Cook said. “We don’t know who it is; we don’t know why, even.”
‘He is my hero’
Cook, 35, Zachary Adolph, and their puppy, Brody, were in a tent when a male shooter approached the group about 5:30 p.m. on a sidewalk near Charleston Boulevard and Sandhill Road and opened fire.
Adolph quickly jumped on his girlfriend and their dog to shield them, likely saving them from injuries, Cook said.
However, he was shot in the femur, or thigh bone. He is recovering at University Medical Center.
“He is my hero,” Cook said, stifling tears.
Timothy Bratton, 57, died of a gunshot wound to the chest, the Clark County coroner’s office said Monday.
Three other men were also taken to UMC, according to the Metropolitan Police Department, which said one of them had suffered life-threatening injuries.
Police said Monday that they were looking for a dark-colored SUV connected to the alleged shooter, who wasn’t further described. No arrests had been announced as of Monday evening.
Surveillance footage captured the shooter running away from the scene, past a nearby business and into the passenger side of the “waiting” vehicle, according to police.
‘It just gets worse, it seems’
Cook, who has been homeless for a decade, said it’s impossible to get used to the lifestyle and its dangers.
“It just gets worse, it seems,” she said. “And then you become more numb because you don’t know how to even feel.”
Robert Tully, whom Cook considers a father, broke down in tears every time he looked down at the blood-stained sidewalk at the shooting scene Monday. Surviving members of the encampment pitched in for a bouquet of flowers they hung from a fence.
“I never thought it would be like this,” said Tully, 62. “You know, not the violence.”
Police and city of Las Vegas crews were seen clearing out the encampments in the surrounding areas Monday, although most of the people just migrated elsewhere.
“Public safety for all city residents and visitors is our top priority,” wrote Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She noted that outreach teams were offering services, and that the Courtyard Homeless Resources Center was a “safe place where they can go for help.”
Asked about safety, Catholic Charities said in a statement that the organization is “always vigilant for the safety of our clients and the security of our campus.”
“During the holiday times, we engage in extra security efforts,” the statement read. “We’ve employed additional security officers and do additional perimeter walks around our campus. That security team engages with individuals outside to inquire about their safety, make them aware of our services and encourage them to come inside if they are willing or in need.”
Louis Lacey said his heart sank when he heard about the shooting, which happened near his house.
He is the director of HELP of Southern Nevada’s homeless response teams — an outreach organization contracted by Clark County — which hit the streets starting Sunday to convince the unhoused residents in the area to seek shelter.
“I know most of those individuals,” said Lacey, who was once homeless. “You have no place to live, you’re fending for your life, you’re dealing with all of your issues, and then someone comes and tries to take your life, and this person was successful.”
He said that it wasn’t unusual for HELP resources to be turned down continuously until something clicks between the advocates and the person experiencing homelessness, a process he described as the “multiengagement paradigm.”
“Our goal is to meet clients where they’re at, and to offer them meaningful services in the hopes that we can overcome the barriers to them accepting services,” Lacey said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer as to why somebody will or will not accept services.”
This was not the first time the Southern Nevada unhoused population was targeted in apparent random acts of fatal violence.
Two homeless men were bludgeoned to death while sleeping in 2017.
A man caught striking with a hammer a mannequin police set up in a sting operation was not charged for the murders, but he was sentenced to prison for attempted murder in connection to the mannequin attack.
The following year, a man was accused in a spree of random shootings that killed two homeless men, and injured two other people.
Lacey said he’s disturbed and worried about the prospect of there still being a shooter out there after Friday’s attack.
“We have somebody out there that has a complete total disregard for human life,” he said.
Remembering a friend
For now, Cook and Tully are grieving the death of Bratton. Cook said that he was one of the first people she met on the streets and that he gave her tips for surviving.
He was a “good guy,” Tully said. “Kind, never hurt nobody, helped you when he could.”
The survivors said they hesitate to seek shelter because they don’t want to be separated.
Tully ended up homeless after being hit by a truck, which broke his legs, ending his ability to work.
He said Adolph helped him navigate the streets in a wheelchair.
Tully wants to return the favor while Adolph recovers from his own leg injury.
He also vowed to protect Cook until her boyfriend returns.
“I’d die for her if it comes to it,” he said.