Man keeps watch over Strip shrine to mass shooting victims

Updated August 24, 2018 - 6:13 pm

When Steve Round looked at the memorial that sprang up on the median of the Strip near the Route 91 Harvest festival grounds, he saw the faces.

Melissa Ramirez, Steve Berger, Stacee Etcheber and Jordyn Rivera looked back at him in photographs.

All were killed when a gunman opened fire over a country music festival on the Strip on Oct. 1, killing 58 and injuring nearly 500.

“It’s kind of like a sense of duty just to keep an eye on things,” Round said.

Round stood guard at the memorial at Reno Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South from Oct. 2 until Tuesday night, making sure passers-by treated the shrine with the reverence it deserved.

The memorial was steps away from the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. From the median, the covered corner Mandalay Bay window where the gunman opened fire is visible. Signs from the concert are still set up across the street.

“It was pure evil, the worst of humanity,” Round said. “And then the horrors that happened on that concert field brought out the best of humanity.”

Round, a 47-year-old Las Vegan, placed the first flowers at the site when pedestrian traffic reopened there after the attack. He watched as bouquets and candles, teddy bears and beer bottles were added. Some people left cowboy boots and hats. A phone case left behind in the chaotic escape from the concert rested near a Jason Aldean CD. A prayer book had messages in more than a dozen languages.

Round made sure nothing was disturbed.

“I kind of just felt like, ‘If I don’t do it, who’s gonna do it?’” he said.

Keeping the focus on the victims

Round was walking in front of the Luxor when he heard the barrage of gunfire on Oct. 1. He was staying in a suite at the Aria after stints doing hurricane relief work in Texas and caring for family in Florida.

“And then I came all the way back and was just trying to relax, and then this happened, so to hell with the vacation and the crab legs,” he said.

Round works a day job as a consultant. He is a military veteran, but he did not want to talk about his service because he wants to keep the focus on the shooting’s victims. A stroke he suffered in 2015 inspired him to help others wherever tragedy hits.

Round and a team of more than 10 other volunteers watched over and maintained the site around the clock. He did 47- and 38-hour shifts, sometimes sleeping in a folding chair someone brought him, other times in a car across the street. One night, he got a room at the Excalibur just to shower and clean up.

On Tuesday, dirt was still stuck in the grooves of his finger pads, and his gray stubble grew in the shadow of a camouflage hat with an American flag on it. The stained, neon-yellow shirt he wore helped drivers see him as he shielded memorial visitors from traffic.

“I think we’ve seen enough tragedy for a while,” he said.

Memorial relocated

It bothered Round when people posed for photos in front of the memorial, and he had no tolerance for those who eyed the alcohol left at the site.

When strong winds whipped through the valley Sunday night, Round and others boxed up every remembrance from the site to keep them from blowing away. Some chased prayer cards that the wind swept down the street. He wanted to ensure the items were preserved.

Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said county workers cleared the median Tuesday night and took some items from the site for safekeeping. Round and others helped pack things up, and survivors decided what went with the county.

Other items joined another memorial at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Round stayed until the work was done, but he won’t be guarding the sign memorial. He went home for the first time Wednesday.

Round said people would sometimes ask him what agency he was with when they saw him on the median.

“I just tell them, ‘I’m just Steve,’” he said Tuesday. “‘I’m just here to help.’”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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