When a Mayville couple checked in to their Las Vegas hotel on Friday night, they had no way of knowing the perpetrator of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was staying just two floors below them.
Brian and Patty Caspary of Mayville made their 10th annual trip to Las Vegas Friday to celebrate her birthday and their wedding anniversary. They arrived at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and were given a room on the 34th floor.
They were elsewhere on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday night when a 64-year-old Nevada man busted out windows in his 32nd-floor room and opened fire on a crowd of thousands attending a country music concert across the street, killing 59 and wounding more than 500.
The Casparys easily could’ve been among the concert-goers in the cross-hairs of Stephen Paddock, who killed himself in his hotel room as law enforcement closed in.
“We were vacationing with another couple from Richfield,” Patty said. “Our friends had tried to get us tickets to the concert, but it was sold out.”
The two couples were walking across a pedestrian bridge when they heard sirens and saw ambulances just after 10 p.m., when the shooting occurred. But Patty said they didn’t think much of it, “because there are sirens in Vegas all the time.”
The four friends entered the Planet Hollywood Casino — about a mile and a half up the Las Vegas Strip from Mandalay Bay and the Route 91 Harvest music festival site — and went in different directions, with the intent to meet up at 11:15 p.m.
“I remember so vividly catching sight of a TV at 11:05 p.m. that said an active shooter was at Mandalay Bay,” Patty recalled. “I immediately texted Brian and he found me and we then found our friends so we’re all together.”
Brian said as everyone was watching the TVs, he looked through a window to the street and saw people running between cars on the busy Las Vegas Boulevard.
“They weren’t concerned about getting hit by a car,” Brian said. “There was just this mass running.”
“It takes you a minute for your brain to register, ‘What is going on here?’” Patty said. “Then some people came in with blood on them and I touched them saying, ‘Were you there?’”
Brian noticed blood on their legs and feet.
“They had flip flops on and said they ran all the way from the Mandalay Bay — which is a long way,” Brian said.
People started screaming “Run!” and everyone went into a frenzy.
“We got separated from our friends. It was like a stampede. People were falling,” Patty said. “We saw a lot of people with black eyes and using crutches the next day.”
Brian said people saw on the TV that there could be multiple shooters, and in people’s heads, they thought they were being chased by shooters.
“Brian grabbed my arm and we ran, and ran and ran through the corridors,” Patty said. “There was a herd of people just running, screaming and crying. We got to the basement and people ran outside. But then they came back in so we thought there was a threat out there. We were trying to find a safe place to go.
“A women happened to open the door to a break room and we pushed our way in there. Brian and I huddled in the corner and texted our friends to find out if they were safe, and they were.”
The couple remained in the break room for about 40 minutes until an employee took them to be with others in the employee cafeteria.
“I was so grateful when we were with other people, because you could comfort each other,” Patty said. “I ended up helping a lady in the bathroom who was vomiting because she was so distraught.
“Everyone was really caring for each other and I oddly felt safe there.”
They received reports that the SWAT team was checking floors looking for other shooters. After some time, Planet Hollywood staff announced that people could leave and go back to their hotels — but the Casparys couldn’t go back to Mandalay Bay, because it was now a crime scene.
A Planet Hollywood security guard suggested they go to the Bellagio Resort & Casino, which like Mandalay Bay is owned by MGM Resorts International.
“The people at the Bellagio were so kind,” Patty said. “They put lots of us up in the ballroom and came up with carts of blankets and pillows and water.”
There they met a woman and her two daughters who had been at the concert. Patty said they were just staring blankly, showing no emotion.
“Anyone walking around with cowboy boots, I asked if they were there — and then I said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here!’” Patty said.
The couple made it a point to text their college-age daughters and families that night.
“We knew they would be sleeping, but we didn’t want them to wake up to the news,” Patty said. “The first sentence of the text was, ‘We are safe.’”
Patty is a teacher at Mayville Middle School and emailed the school right away so that her students would know she was OK.
Mandalay Bay guests were allowed to return to the hotel Monday morning.
“There was blood on the sidewalks and investigators out front,” Brian said. “We had to go in the back way. It was like a ghost town — eerily quiet.”
FBI agents were in the elevator with them as they went to their 34th-floor room, though the agents got off two floors below, where the gunman’s perch was located.
“We went in our room and I went over to the window to pull the shade — I couldn’t help but look out at the gunman’s window,” Patty said while choking back tears.
They called Southwest Airlines and booked the next flight home, returning a day earlier than planned.
“That fear of running for your life is awful,” Patty said. “I can’t imagine what it was like being pinned in at that concert. My heart just breaks for the injured and all the families of those who died.”
The Casparys don’t know if they will go back to Las Vegas.
“You can’t live your life afraid,” Patty said, “but it will never be the same.
“That evil was in the hotel from the moment we got there. I really am having a hard time coming to grips with how someone could do this.”
“It’s just senseless,” Brian said.