Sonny Melton was among the 59 people killed in the Las Vegas shooting late Sunday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino during the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. Melton was from Paris, Tennessee and was at the festival with his wife, Heather Gulish Melton. She credited the 29-year-old with saving her life.
“I want everyone to know what a kind hearted loving man he was but at this point I can barely breathe,” Heather told USA Today.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker sent his condolences to Melton’s family:
The shooter was identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who police now believe killed himself.
There were several off-duty police officers at the event, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said, The Los Angeles Times reports. One local off-duty police officer died, while two others who were off-duty were wounded. The Los Angeles Police Department also confirmed that one of its officers was wounded.
“Our officers were actually attending the concert as civilians,” Bakersfield Lt. Jeff Burdick told the Los Angeles Times. “Keeping our fingers crossed that that’s good info.”
Here’s what we know about the police officer and the shooting.
Sammy Melton Was With His Wife Heather, Who Says He Saved Her
Melton was with his wife, Heather Gulish Melton. She sent a statement to Fox 17, in which she credited Melton with saving her life.
“At this point, I’m in complete disbelief and despair. I don’t know what to say. Sonny was the most kind-hearted, loving man I have ever met. He saved my life and lost his,” Heather said.
“He saved my life. He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back,” Heather told WSMV. “I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”
Melton was a registered nurse at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and a financial adviser at Modern Woodmen of America. He studied nursing at Union University and finance at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
Union University paid tribute to Melton, adding that he graduated in 2015 and was president of his Bachelor of Science in Nursing Accelerated class.
“You know how when you met someone and you just know that they’re good and kind? That was Sonny,” Christy Davis, assistant professor of nursing, said in a statement. “He just had a sweet, kind spirit about him.”
Sonny & His Wife Have Been Married Since June 2016
Heather and Melton celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary in June. According to their wedding website, the couple married on June 30, 2016 in Mexico and also held a reception in Puryear, Tennessee.
“We were the couple that never should have met, fallen in love or had a future together….but life is funny and we believe God brought us together as soul mates. We have shared amazing times together and nearly unbearable heartaches but through it all we have grown stronger in our love for each other and our families,” reads a statement on their site. “We thank God everyday for this relationship and the support and love of our families.”
The shooting happened late Sunday night, when 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock began firing at the festival form the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, police said. Paddock was killed when a police SWAT Team entered his room after blowing the door open.
Lombardo described Paddock as a “lone wolf,” although they were searching for Marilou Danley. She was described as Paddock’s “companion” and a “person of interest.”
Two law enforcement sources told CBS News that there doesn’t appear to be a connection to terrorism. Paddock had a criminal history and was known by local police.
About 22,000 Country Music Fans Were at the Festival to See Jason Aldean & Others Perform
The Associated Press reports that about 22,000 fans were in the crowd when the shooting happened. It started just as singer Jason Aldean was finishing up the last set of the festival, which began at 8:40 p.m. local time, according to the festival website.
Big & Rich, Dylan Scott, Jake Owen and Luck Combs performed before Aldean. Aldean is safe. “Active shooter at @Route91Harvest in Vegas. We’re safe. Love you guys,” Combs tweeted.
Kodiak Yazzie, 36, told the AP that it sounded like fireworks went off and the music stopped for a moment. After starting up again, another round of “pops” went off and the performers left the stage.
“We were all dancing, we were having a good time, all of a sudden I heard all of these shots,” Candace LaRosa, 48, of Huntington Beach, California, told the Las Vegas Sun. “It was just mass, mass blood everywhere.” She also thought there were fireworks going off.
Witnesses Said They Heard ‘Bullets Flying Everywhere,’ but Police Say There Was Only 1 Shooter
Although witnesses described hearing “bullets flying everywhere,” police said there was only one shooter and any reports otherwise are fake. Since witnesses could have heard the echoes or fire from police officers, some thought there were multiple shooters.
“Clip after clip after clip, bullets flying everywhere, people running,” a witness told News 3LV reporter Nathan O’Neal. “It was really, really bad. We were the furthest VIP stages away from Mandalay Bay and they (the bullets) were ricocheting everywhere where we fear. They were firing from somewhere high and they were unloading clip after clip after clip. Multiple shooters, has to be.”
“It was pretty much chaotic,” witness Mike Cronk told ABC News. “Lots of people got hit. … It took a while to get him out. We had to get him over the fence and hiding under the stage for a while, you know, to be safe. And, finally, we had to move him because he had three chest wounds.”
Operations at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport was briefly closed because of the shooting, but have since resumed.
This Is the Deadliest Mass Shooting in U.S. History
The Las Vegas shooting is already the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 59 people killed and 515 injured, according to the Las Vegas Sheriff.
It happened 15 months after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, when 49 people were killed at an Orlando, Florida gay bar. The shooter, who pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call after the shooting began, was also killed.
The AP reports that the FBI has announced that Paddock had no connection to international terrorism. There was a group that claimed Paddock converted to Islam, but the group is known for making false claims. Police have yet to determine the motive for the shooting.