Journalist’s photos became iconic images of Las Vegas shooting

From the glow of his laptop inside the country music festival’s now-dark media tent, filled with people whispering and whimpering, David Becker noticed his hands were shaking.

The trembling began as the Las Vegas photographer came upon an image he had made just moments prior, steps outside the tent-turned-shelter: A woman lying on the Route 91 Harvest festival grounds, surrounded by tossed beer cans and water bottles, her legs drenched and dripping in blood.

He paused. He stared. His hands kept quivering.

In person only minutes earlier, when he was photographing the panicked crowd, it was too dark to see anything.

He wasn’t even sure there had been a shooting — a security guard had attributed the odd, loud popping noises to fireworks, then malfunctioning speakers.

When it started late Oct. 1, Becker had been editing photos from Jason Aldean’s first two songs. The security guard’s explanations seemed plausible. He shrugged it off and stayed in the tent.

But when people began stampeding toward the exits moments later, Becker picked up his camera and went outside. He assumed the crowd was fleeing out of an abundance of caution, and regardless of the cause, it was probably newsworthy.

As the crowd cleared, though, he saw silhouettes of people lying on the ground. It was strange, but maybe they were “playing dead” — taking cover in a state of shock, he thought.

In the back of his mind, he again considered, is someone shooting?

But once more, he pushed the thought out of his mind. While thousands were fleeing, a few were on the stage, walking with their hands up, as if to tell people to calm down.

He saw others walking around aimlessly, holding beers in each hand.

Now though, he stared at the photo. Straining the muscles in his hands, he tried but failed to stop them from shaking.

He flipped through more images and saw more carnage.

“David,” he thought to himself. “People are dying.”

‘I’m not the story’

Becker has been a photojournalist for more than 30 years. The 54-year-old has covered everything from aid efforts during the Gulf War to sporting events to breaking news to concerts, and as a local freelancer, his images have appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal for at least nine years.

The night of the shooting, Becker was contributing for Getty Images, a photo agency and wire service. It was his third or fourth time covering Route 91.

“I guess, being a journalist for a number of years, I’ve always separated myself out from what I’ve done,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday.

In the weeks since the shooting, the quiet man who doesn’t enjoy talking about himself has struggled to process what happened. Dozens of media outlets asked him to talk. Quickly, he turned them all down, “arguing, at least with myself, that I’m not the story,” he said.

“The story is the individuals who attended the concert, the ones who were shot, the ones who were killed,” he said. “The victims are the story. The people who ran in and saved individuals. The paramedics. The hospital workers who worked tirelessly to save lives. The people on the ground who were doing the actual work.”

“I’m a witness to it,” he added. “I was there to do a job. The job changed.”

As dismissive and humble as he is, Becker’s photos were some of the first pieces of evidence that pointed to the terror so many experienced that night.

While others took pictures of the police response, or people being pulled to safety, Becker was the only photographer on the field shortly after the gunfire began, and he was the only photographer who remained on the field until it ended.

In the days after it happened, his heartbreaking images ran on more than 130 front pages around the world.

“I’m grateful that I was there at the right time, at the right place, and that I was able to leave there that night unhurt, physically, and share the photographs with everybody,” he said. “Hopefully, the impact of them — and the profoundness of them — will maybe give someone the courage or maybe influence somebody to prevent these sort of events from happening again.”

Realization sets in

After he sent in his first, terrifying images, Becker grabbed his things and walked around the scene, snapping away as he slowly realized the scope of the tragedy.

People were still running, hiding, huddling and crying. A few walked around, respectfully covering the faces of the dead. He kept making pictures.

It doesn’t feel good to say — he knows some may find it insensitive or crass. But sometimes, when people are in shock, a mission helps keep them grounded. Documenting the horrors around him became that mission.

Hours later, when authorities shifted from responding to the scene to documenting evidence, Becker walked to his car and continued to edit.

His phone buzzed and rang as family members, friends and co-workers reached out, asking if he was OK. Time both flew by and lasted forever.

When the sun began to rise, Becker spotted for the first time two blown-out windows at Mandalay Bay. Overnight, he’d heard the shooter was stationed there. Now, in the golden morning light, he knew it was true.

He allowed himself a few seconds to digest the sight. Then, he took more photos.

About 11 a.m., Becker decided he’d done enough. In a daze, he put gas in his car, bought a refrigerated wrap, drank a large Gatorade and headed home.

He gave his wife a big, long hug.

He spent time with his dogs.

He tried to nap, but couldn’t sleep.

Then he opened his computer, and got back to work.

Contact Rachel Crosby at or 702-477-8301. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Las Vegas judge’s ruling will halt tonight’s execution
On Wednesday Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez issued a ruling that will halt the execution of convicted murderer Scott Dozier. Alvogen Inc., which makes the sedative midazolam, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the Nevada Department of Corrections of surreptitiously obtaining the drug for use in an execution.
3 people shot in southeast Las Vegas
Three men were shot Thursday night in southeast Las Vegas, and two of them have life threatening injuries. Las Vegas police responded to the incident just after 10 p.m. on the 5000 block of Mountain Vista Street. The investigation is in its early stages and police were unable to describe the suspect or say how man people they think were involved. Police encourage anyone with information regarding this shooting to call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555, or 3-1-1
Robbery suspects apprehended
Four robbery suspects were taken into custody Thursday morning after a vehicle and foot chase that ended in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. The incident began when a person was robbed at gunpoint around 4:45 a.m. near Maryland Parkway and Desert Inn. Officers arriving at the scene tried to stop two vehicles. One vehicle escaped but police chased the second into a neighborhood on Flamingo Road near Mountain Vista Street. Police surrounded the neighborhood and the suspects were apprehended. It looked like one police vehicle was involved in a collision with the suspects' car. One woman suffered an unknown injury and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. 01:04
Las Vegas police looking for robbery suspects
Two robbers who recently targeted three Las Vegas businesses remained at large Tuesday and police are asking the public to help identify them. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser gives update of officer-involved shooting
Metro Capt. Jaime Prosser provides an update about an officer-involved shooting at Radwick Drive and Owens Avenue in the northeast Las Vegas on Thursday. A robbery suspect was shot and killed. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
LVMPD Looking For Robbery Suspect
The LVMPD Commercial Robbery Section is attempting to identify the pictured suspect who is responsible for committing robberies to businesses in the southern part of the Las Vegas Valley during the month of May 2018. The suspect enters the business, threatens the employee with a firearm and demands money from the register. The employee complies and the suspect flees the business.
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead
North Las Vegas police are investigating a triple shooting that left one man dead at 2500 block of Ellis St., on Friday, June 8, 2018. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
1 dead in shooting at southwest Las Vegas home
A dispute between roommates led to the fatal shooting of one man in the backyard of their southwest Las Vegas Valley home on Monday, April 23, 2018. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Henderson Police Seek Armed Bank Robbery Suspect
This afternoon a male suspect entered the Bank of America, located at 2638 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, at about 12:40 p.m. As he entered the bank, he pulled a black mask down to conceal his face.The suspect is described as a late-forties to early-fifties white male adult, approximately 5 foot 8 inches to 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighing approximately 160 to 180 pounds He was last seen wearing a dark colored beanie, a grayish blue plaid shirt, dark jeans and dark colored shoes. His head was shaved on the sides and the top of his hair was dark in color. Vehicle was described as possibly a gray 2012-2014 four door Ford Focus. The license plates were covered with black tape. The suspect is considered armed and dangerous. Do not attempt to contact the suspect but call police immediately. Anyone with information is urged to call the Henderson Police Department at 702-267-4911, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like