Students recount experiences at Las Vegas shooting

At least three ASU students were at the Jason Aldean concert when the shooting began

Dana Manuel could not run when the shooting started. Her cousin with multiple sclerosis can’t run, and Manuel couldn’t leave her behind.

“I didn’t want her out of my sight because she isn’t very able to run,” she said. “I needed to take care of her before me.”

Manuel was one of at least three ASU students who witnessed one of the largest mass shootings in modern American history.

On Sunday night, a gunman, whom police identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, fired on a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, a country music festival in Las Vegas. He killed at least 59 people and injured over 500. The attack happened near Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during Jason Aldean’s performance.

Manuel, a senior studying journalism and mass communication, went to the festival with a group of 20 people. She said they are all safe other than some scratches and bruises, but they are “emotionally shook.”

Manuel said the first round of shots confused people, and she compared them to very loud poppers that people throw on the ground on the Fourth of July. Then after the second round of shots, people started screaming "get down” and Jason Aldean ran off stage.

“As soon as the shots stopped, that’s when everyone just ran,” she said. “That was how it was every single time. When the shots were going, everyone was ducking for cover, then as soon as it got quiet, that’s when everyone just ran.”

Manuel said she got split up from her group except for her older cousin, who has MS.

Manuel and her cousin hid inside a pizza food truck, where they texted their parents, she said.

“There were people who weren’t moving,” she said. “They were all trying to get out at the same time.”

She heard over a radio in the food truck that they were no longer safe on festival grounds and had to go to the street, Manuel said.

“At that point, most of the people were already gone and you could see the remains of where the crowd was,” she said. “You could see people lying there.”

When they left the pizza truck, two different men helped carry her cousin until they reached a Hooter’s, where they stayed until 3:30 a.m., Manuel said.

“You just see people helping people, and that gave me hope that we’re for sure going to be making it through this night,” she said.

But Manuel said she won't the event rule her life.

“I’m trying not to lose my life in fear because obviously it was horrible, but I can’t let this affect my everyday life,” she said.

Kendal Balas, a senior studying communication and nonprofit leadership and management, was with her family at the concert. Balas and her sister stood in the front row, and their parents were directly behind them.

In an email to The State Press, Balas detailed her account of what happened.

Initially, concertgoers thought the noise was firecrackers, so they just looked around confused as Aldean kept playing, Balas said. 

“Then the second round happened, and Jason Aldean ran off the stage, and people started to realize what was happening, and everyone hit the ground,” she said.

Balas said her father watched the person next to him die. Then her family jumped the barrier by the stage and ran to the a bathroom, and a nurse barricaded groups of people in.

“I had a panic attack in the bathroom right after we ran and was throwing up and random people were washing my face and putting wet rags on me,” she said.

Balas said security and staff emptied their work lockers and gave her family jackets and pants because they were cold.

“I saw nothing but humans helping other humans,” she said. “People were sharing phones and water. Nobody there was speaking about hate or political party or race or anything.”

Jaycie Seta, a sophomore studying criminology and criminal justice, said her family lives on the Strip in Las Vegas. She found out about the shooting when her cousin from Hawaii asked her if she was OK.

Seta said she didn’t know anything was wrong, and when her cousin told her there was a shooting on the strip, she immediately hung up the phone to call her mother.

Seta said her family is safe, including her sisters, who both work on the Strip but got off work early.

The night of the shooting, she said she couldn’t sleep because four of her friends were injured in the shooting.

“I was worried I would wake up, and they wouldn’t be there anymore,” she said.

Seta said she felt helpless being in Arizona and not at home.

“It’s hard because I don’t actually know that everyone is OK back home,” she said.

ASU’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity will sponsor a blood drive to support the victims of the shooting on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in a United Blood Services Bloodmobile in front of Manzanita Hall.

Garrett Daniels, a junior studying community sports management and Phi Kappa Tau’s president, said 25 fraternity members will be volunteering at the blood drive.

He also said only 58 time slots are available, so if students want to donate, they should sign up soon. If an ASU student donates, he or she receive a coupon to Whataburger.

“The victims are still in need,” he said. “They’ll be needing blood throughout the week.”

Daniels said the United Blood Services of Arizona already sent over blood to help Las Vegas hospitals.

“It’s not just helping the Las Vegas community, but it’s also helping put blood back in Phoenix,” he said.

An ASU spokesperson provided a statement that said it is impossible to not be affected by the shooting.

“Our Sun Devil family grieves along with everyone who has been impacted by this horrible event,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Members of our community who were present in Las Vegas, and those of us who are watching the coverage of what occurred, all need to be cognizant of how events like this can affect us, and we need to be unafraid to ask for help and to help each other when there is a need.”

Reach the reporter at or follow @alexa_buechler on Twitter.

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