PopPopPopPopPop! Dustin Jones' first thought was that he was hearing fireworks, not gunshots.
"Not until everyone started running and screaming and the music stopped did I realize what was going on," said Dustin, a network services manager.
So he ran, too.
Many months after the Las Vegas mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, Dustin clearly remembers those frantic steps. "There was one point where we stopped running for a second and people around us started getting shot."
Dustin eventually led between 80-100 concertgoers – including several who had been shot – to safety in a nearby office building. For his heroism, he recently was awarded AT&T Gold Vail Award.
Today, Dustin is determined to put "the melee" behind him.
Easier said than done.
“People were screaming”
For several years, Dustin has helped out a family friend who owns an outdoor food-and-beverage business. That's why he was at the Route 91 festival last Oct. 1.
At AT&T, Dustin manages a crew whose main function is to install and maintain DIRECTV service. At the festival, Dustin's assignment was managing about 60 bartenders' assistants.
Shortly after 10 p.m., the first rapid shots were fired into the crowd of 20,000. Dustin headed to fences enclosing the concert area. He helped people over it, until the force of the crowd knocked it down. "It was crazed, a melee. People were screaming, panicking."
Taking command in a nearby office
Dustin decided the safest place to be was his friend's office. It was just 2 blocks away, and Dustin knew the key code.
As Dustin ran, he spread the word. By the time he reached the office, almost 100 people were with him. Four had been shot.
"We heard there were active shooters in almost every casino on the strip at the time. That one nearby hotel was receiving bomb threats. It was a nightmare. I literally thought, 'This is it: We are going to war.'"
Seeing the magnitude
After an hour or so in the office, paramedics arrived and carried out the shooting victims.
Dustin finally learned that there was just one shooter, firing at concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort nearby. The shooter killed himself as authorities closed in on his hotel suite.
In the end, 58 people were killed. More than 850 were injured, about half from gunfire. It is now called the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Dustin said it wasn't until his 13-year-old daughter – Rylee – called him late that night that the events became real to him. She was crying, prompting the same reaction in Dustin. "You kind of see the magnitude of what was going on."
To get home, Dustin had to walk about 3 miles to get out of the crime scene area. His stepfather picked him up by the side of the road.
It was another 18 days before Dustin was allowed to reclaim his truck. He found a cowboy hat in the back, stained with blood.