In Las Vegas, shooting tragedy met with goodwill from strangers

 06 Oct 2017 - 19:42

In Las Vegas, shooting tragedy met with goodwill from strangers
FILE PHOTO: Paola Bautista, 39, from Fontana, California, sits in her hospital bed at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center after being shot at the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 4, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

AFP

Las Vegas:  Curtis Leoni and Robin Davis had a prime spot at Las Vegas's Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival, standing just 100 feet from the stage, the Mandalay Bay Hotel towering over them.

But not long after the final act began, the pair heard a volley of shots and, as Davis puts it, "our lives changed forever."

But "we are some of the fortunate ones," she says. "There's a lot of people that didn't get to go home."

Leoni, a policeman from Colorado, was hit in the thigh and now hopes to one day walk normally, while Davis will now live with shrapnel embedded in her leg.

When shots first rang out Leoni immediately "recognized it as a real gunshot" and warned Davis to stay standing for risk of being trampled to death. After the second round of fire the band stopped and the couple fled, seeking shelter.

Following the third discharge, Leoni fell, struck by a bullet in the right thigh. Upon touching his leg the policeman's hand was covered in blood.

He feared for his femoral artery; had it been hit, "I was gonna die in about two minutes," he says.

"People got up and started running," Leoni told AFP. "The shots started back up and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't get up, and I could hear the shots flying all around us, and there was nothing we could do."

"We just sat there, hoping that we weren't going to get killed, that we weren't going to die."

The shooting finally stopped and Davis called for help, wrapping the wound with a tourniquet crafted with the strap of her bag.

Several people ultimately carried Leoni to a red pick-up, and he was transported to the hospital along with 10 others.

Good Samaritans

The cop hailing from Denver escaped the grisly scene thanks to that "good Samaritan" driver, who made three trips evacuating the wounded that night.

Since that harrowing night Leoni -- who after 23 years in the force is no stranger to compartmentalizing his feelings -- says his most marked emotion remains anger.

"I'm mad at that guy. Why would you do something like that?" he says from his hospital room. "We were there to have a good time and something like this happens. And our lives are changed forever, for no reason and that really makes me angry."

"I'm not used to being the victim," he continues. "My job is to help people in these situations, and I could do nothing. Absolutely nothing."

Leoni is still suffering from nerve damage and is unable to move his right foot. Doctors say feeling may come back, but nothing is certain.

Despite the horrors of Sunday's massacre in Las Vegas -- which left 58 dead and some 500 wounded to become the worst mass shooting in recent US history -- profound friendships rose from the ashes.

The driver of the pick-up checked in to see if Leoni had been released, and he met the couple whose lives he touched mid-week.

"We have a new friend for life," Davis said. "That kind of was a summary of what the night turned out to be. We're not going to talk about the person who did this horrific thing."

"We're going to talk about the people that stood up for each other."

Leoni, who is due to leave the hospital Friday, insists that he adores Vegas despite having narrowly escaped a tragic end there.

"I must've come 100 times," he says of the city famous for gambling and vice, where he had been planning to visit again with some buddies come February.

"We'll see if there's a 101st."