Dustin Shappell expected a fun weekend of live music to be the most significant thing he would remember from his weekend working the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Instead, he narrowly avoided being in the middle of an active shooting situation.
"We were planning on staying for Jason Aldean," said Shappell, the promotions coordinator for California Country music station K-FROG. He was helping coordinate his station's coverage of the three-day music festival happening on the Strip near the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Musician Jason Aldean was the concert festival's final act, and though Shappell had planned to stay, he and his coworkers made a last minute decision to get some food just before shots were fired.
A gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on the crowd attending the Festival. The shots came from the window of the nearby Mandalay Bay.
"We suddenly saw a crowd of people start running," said Shappell, who had gone to the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino to get a bite. "We had no idea [what happened]. All we hear is, 'Active shooter,' and we think we need to get as far away from here as possible."
'You let your guard down when you're at a music festival.'
According to Shappell, an event like the Route 91 Harvest Festival draws a diverse crowd.
"A lot of the time, it's country music fans," Shappell said, of those in attendance. "But you also get a lot of people from all walks of life. We saw people holding babies, we saw 80-year-olds. Just about everybody. And that's what's so scary about this all."
While there were tens of thousands of fans in Las Vegas to attend the festival, Shappell said the setting was comparably intimate to some of the biggest country music events of the year.
"You let your guard down when you're at a music festival," Shappell said. "You're having fun, you're having a couple drinks and you're listening to your favorite music. Everyone's having a fantastic time; until of course the entire weekend took a turn for the worst."
Shappell and his coworkers had to leave the area as quickly as possible. They were led out of the MGM Grand Hotel by the building's staff. "We hopped into a cab. We just told them, 'Drive us anywhere. It doesn't matter where. Just drive because we need to get out of here.'"
Music festivals are 'a whole lot less safe'
Shappell said that an attack like this is especially hard to deal with. Concerts are a big part of his life, both personally and professionally.
"The radio business is starting to become a whole lot like the concert business," Shappell said. "My passion is to go see my favorite bands; To go out to festivals and stuff like that. Suddenly, it's starting to become where it's a whole lot less safe."
Now, Shappell believes that he'll spend more time looking over his shoulder at concerts to make sure he is still in a safe situation and is ready to leave on short notice.
But Shappell is also grateful that his last-minute decision had such a big difference.
"I've been watching all these videos and it seems like everybody was just frozen," he said. "Then you start to think 'What would I do in that situation? Would I have frozen and just stayed on the ground? Or would I have bolted, found protection and, possibly, even saved a life? It's a crazy situation that somehow we decided to leave a little early and that was a blessing. "