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Police release first 911 calls from Las Vegas shooting

Updated June 6, 2018 - 11:19 pm

Las Vegas police on Wednesday released 911 calls from the night of the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting for the first time.

The 500-plus audio files, which were released under court order, captured emergency calls placed between about 10:06 p.m. — a minute after the Oct. 1 shooting began — and 11:45 p.m.

They included a mix of people pleading for help and asking for answers as dispatchers worked to sift through the surge of active-shooter reports. Many of the audio files also included callbacks that dispatchers placed with people who initially called 911 but were disconnected for unknown reasons.

One woman, who got through to 911 at about 10:17 p.m., quickly and quietly told dispatchers she was hiding under the stage, on which singer Jason Aldean had been performing just 15 minutes earlier.

The operator confirmed her location and then asked if anyone near her needed an ambulance.

“There’s a lot of people here who need ambulances,” the woman replied. “People shot at everywhere.”

Police have said they received about 1,600 emergency calls in the 24 hours after the shooting.

Frantic for help

Many of the calls released Wednesday were frantic, emotional and difficult to understand. On those placed at the venue between 10:06 p.m. and about 10:15 p.m., continuous gunfire can be heard in the background.

Some calls detailed the moment friends and loved ones were shot. Others were placed by worried parents and children who were far from the festival venue, calling 911 to ask what was happening since their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers were attending.

One father, with two phones, spoke with his daughter and police at the same time. His daughter had been shot twice and — as of about 10:14 p.m. — was hiding at the venue.

“She needs medical attention right away,” the father told dispatch on one phone, still on the other line with his daughter.

He gave dispatchers a description: Blonde, 19, wearing black shorts.

“Sweetie, I’ve got 911 on the phone,” he can be heard telling his daughter.

The dispatcher asked if police could have the daughter’s phone number so they could speak with her directly.

“Yeah,” the father said, “but I don’t wanna hang up with her.”

He suddenly addressed his daughter again: “I’m stuck in traffic. I’m trying to get to you, sweetie.”

Looking for direction

Many calls came from the concert venue itself. While some callers reported people injured or dead, others were looking for direction and reassurance.

One woman, who reached 911 at about 10:19 p.m., told dispatchers she was in the middle of the festival grounds, unharmed, but that the woman next to her had been shot in the head.

In the background, someone could be heard yelling, “Y’all need to get out of here right now! Stop laying here and get the f—- out of here!”

The caller asked the operator, “Is it safe for us to leave?”

“OK, ma’am, whatever you feel safest to do, OK?” the operator said. “You can do that. All right?”

The woman immediately replied, “How am I supposed to know?”

Bad reception

While many of the calls released Wednesday were so clear in quality that listeners could hear people screaming for help in the background, several had static, and some disconnected due to bad reception.

“Early in the event cell phone towers were overloaded and some calls could not get through,” Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Carla Alston told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in an emailed statement. “That was not a Metro issue; this was an across the board cell phone provider issue and remember this was a mass casualty event.”

It remains unclear how many calls or text messages failed to go through, preventing people from contacting 911 or their loved ones.

In one phone call, placed about 20 minutes after the shooting began, a woman reported that she was at the intersection of Reno Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South — just outside the festival venue — with two other people, both of whom had been shot.

The operator patched her over to medical, but it was not a smooth connection. The medical dispatcher had a difficult time understanding her.

“Hello, ma’am … hello … hello, ma’am?” he said over a period of about 30 seconds.

The woman eventually came over the line.

“I have one girl in very bad shape,” the caller said. “She is very pale. She’s having a hard time breathing.”

The operator asked if the woman was bleeding from anywhere specific.

“She has a gunshot wound right above her right leg,” the caller said. “We have gauze, and we have a belt tied around her leg.”

But the blood continued to pour quickly.

“She seems to be fading pretty fast,” the caller said.

Confusion on the Strip

Though the shooting unfolded at the Route 91 venue, in the first few hours after gunshots began, the entire Strip fell into chaos.

Crying and crammed into a hallway leading to a service elevator at the Tropicana, one woman told a dispatcher she heard what she thought were shots. She and the 20 or so other people hiding there didn’t feel safe.

Another woman hiding in a Paris Las Vegas gift shop asked the dispatcher to “hurry,” because she reported hearing gunshots and people screaming. Callers from the Bellagio described hysteria there, too, as people ran and screamed, “Shooter!”

One caller, who found shelter in a building near McCarran International Airport, told a dispatcher her friend had texted from the Hooters Hotel that a shooter was inside there.

“What the hell is going on here?” the dispatcher said to herself as she typed.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Briana Erickson, Wade Tyler Millward and Madelyn Reese contributed to this report.

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