Family and friends pay tribute to Las Vegas shooting victims

An injured person is carried from the scene. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
An injured person is carried from the scene. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

Powered by article titled “Family and friends pay tribute to Las Vegas shooting victims” was written by Jamiles Lartey and Guardian staff, for on Tuesday 3rd October 2017 20.11 UTC

A registered nurse from Tennessee. An off-duty Las Vegas police officer. A 35-year-old Californian middle school teacher.

Details of the victims of Sunday night’s mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival country music festival in Las Vegas began to emerge on Tuesday, 24 hours after at least 59 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the most deadly mass shooting in modern United States history.

Carrie Barnette. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Carrie Barnette

Barnette was in Las Vegas celebrating a friend’s 30th birthday, when she was struck with gunfire in the chest. Barnette, 34, worked on the culinary team at Disneyland in Anaheim and the company expressed condolences in a post Tuesday. “Our thoughts are with her family, along with our support, during this incredibly difficult time,” the post read.

“She was a ray of sunshine,” Destiny Calderon, a former coworker, told the Orange County Register. “She always had a smile. If you had a bad day, she would lift you up.”

That’s a sentiment numerous friends shared on her Facebook wall. “Your words would dry my tears, your laugh would make me smile,” a friend wrote.

Rocio Guillen Rocha. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Rocio Guillen Rocha

A longtime cast member at Disneyland who lived in Anaheim, Guillen Rocha gave birth to her fourth child, Austin, just six weeks ago. “My heart breaks that you were taken from your babies far too soon,” wrote a friend on a GoFundMe started by one of Guillen’s cousins.

Even though Guillen Rocha was shot, it was reported she managed to climb a fence at the concert venue, but later died at the hospital.

Hannah Ahlers. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Hannah Ahlers

A 34-year-old mother of three, Hannah and her husband had come to the festival with three other couples. Dave Ahlers, Hannah’s father-in-law, confirmed Monday evening to the Las Vegas Review Journal that Hannah had been struck in the head by the gunfire.

“She was possibly one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, with a heart to match,” a friend told the Los Angeles Times. “She never came across with the diva mentality she easily could have had. She was a devoted mother and wife.”

The music festival was a destination for country music fans far and wide, and the reported deaths are likewise, from all over the US and Canada.

Sonny Melton.

Sonny Melton

Sonny Melton, 29, who lived in Big Sandy, Tennessee, and worked at a nearby hospital, was the first victim publicly identified. Family members confirmed to the news station WSMV that he was killed in the gunfire.

His wife, Heather Melton, told WZTV that her husband had shielded her from bullets on the ground when the shooting began. “He saved my life and lost his,” she said.

A friend of the couple told the Paris (Tennessee) Post-Intelligencer that the two had gotten married about a year ago.

“I want everyone to know what a kindhearted loving man he was, but at this point I can barely breathe,” Heather Melton wrote to USA Today.

The couple both worked at Henry County medical center in Tennessee, he as a registered nurse, she as an orthopedic surgeon. “The thoughts and prayers of the entire HCMC family are with Sonny and Heather’s families,” the center’s chief executive, Thomas Gee, said in a statement.

Jordan McIldoon

Jordan McIldoon

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that a 23-year-old British Columbia man, Jordan McIldoon, was also among the dead, according to his parents. Another concertgoer posted on Facebook on Sunday night that McIldoon had “died in [her] arms”.

“We only had one child,” McIldoon’s parents told CBC. “We just don’t know what to do.”

Bailey Schweitzer.

Bailey Schweitzer

Local outlets in Bakersfield, California, have confirmed with family members that 20-year-old Bailey Schweitzer was killed in the attack. The Los Angeles Times reported that Schweitzer was a receptionist at Infinity Communications and Consulting, a software company in Bakersfield.

“Bailey was always the ray of sunshine in our office on a cloudy day,” Infinity’s chief executive Fred Brakeman told the Times. “No one could possibly have a bad day when Bailey was around. If you have ever called or visited our office, she was the perky one that helped direct you to the staff member you needed.”

Dana Gardner.

Dana Gardner

San Bernardino County officials announced in an email to staff that Dana Gardner, 52, a longtime county employee, had died Monday morning from gunshot wounds sustained in the onslaught. Five other county employees who were also at the concert are said to have been injured.

Bob Dutton, the assessor-recorder-county clerk, told the Sun that Gardner, the deputy recorder, was a “go-to” person and a “dedicated public servant”.

Jessica Klymchuk.

Jessica Klymchuk

Jessica Klymchuk, an Edmonton, Alberta, mother of four, was also confirmed dead in the shooting. In a statement, Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, called the incident an “act of violence that is almost beyond comprehension in a time of peace”.

Klymchuk worked as an educational assistant, librarian and bus driver for St Stephen’s School, according to the Edmonton Journal.

Tina Moore, who had worked with Klymchuk, said: “She did so much for her children. She went over and above for them.”

Klymchuk was in Vegas with her fiance for the music festival.

Quinton Robbins.

Quinton Robbins

The first Las Vegas resident identified as a victim was 20-year-old Quinton Robbins, a student at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

On Facebook, a woman who identified herself as Robbins’s aunt wrote: “He was the most kind and loving soul. Everyone who met him loved him. His contagious laugh and smile. He was truly an amazing person.”

Rhonda LeRocque.

Rhonda LeRocque

Rhonda LeRocque, of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was identified as a victim by relatives. Her family told Boston 25 News that she was with her husband, Jason, when she was shot in the back of the head.

“[Her husband] thought she ducked and she didn’t – she was caught in the back of the head,” Rhonda’s half-sister Jennifer Zelenski said.

Denise Burditus, right.

Denise Burditus

Denise Burditus, of Martinsville, West Virginia, was also among the first victims to be identified.

Her husband, who was also at the concert, mourned her on Facebook. “It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting,” Tony Burditus wrote. “Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE.”

Sandy Casey.

Sandy Casey

The city of Manhattan Beach, California, lost Sandy Casey, 35, a middle school teacher. A local paper, the Daily Breeze, reported that Casey was a special-education teacher from Redondo Beach, and had attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with a group of fellow teachers, principals and staff members from Manhattan Beach Unified, which shared news of her death in an email to parents.

Casey was engaged to Christopher Willemse, a special-education aide, according to the Daily Breeze. He shared a photo of the couple on Facebook and wrote: “As I sit and mourn such a beautiful life gone too fast, all I can say is look up and watch the birds fly high and free today as that’s where I feel you smiling down upon all of us. I love you baby girl! Love you to pieces!”

Rachel Parker.

Rachael Parker

Also of Manhattan Beach, Rachael Parker was a 10-year veteran civilian employee of its police department.

Her mother, Robin Monter, told KXLY, a TV news station in Spokane, that Parker was “brilliant and had a heart of gold”. She also said her daughter volunteered with the elderly and the homeless.

Angela Gomez.

Angela Gomez

A 2015 graduate of Riverside Polytechnic high school in Riverside, California, Angela Gomez was identified by the Riverside Unified school district as one of the victims, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

On Monday, a Facebook post read: “It is with heavy hearts that we inform you that one of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting tragedy was a 2015 graduate of Riverside Poly High School.”

The high school’s staff described Gomez as “fun-loving young lady with a great sense of humor” who had a “warm heart and loving spirit”.

Gomez, a cheerleader in high school, was described by her former English teacher and cheer coach, Lupe Avila, as a “wonderful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her”.

Charleston Hartfield. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Charleston Hartfield

An off-duty Las Vegas police officer and military veteran named Charleston Hartfield was identified by friends as a victim, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“I don’t know a better man than Charles,” said Troy Rhett, who said he’d been friends with Hartfield for eight years. “They say it’s always the good ones we lose early. There’s no truer statement than that with Charles.”

Stan King, who wrote “RIP Brother” on Hartfield’s Facebook page, told the Review-Journal that Hartfield was “one of the nicest guys ever” and would be remembered as “the most true-blue American guy I’ve ever met”.

Adrian Murfitt. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Adrian Murfitt

A close friend of Adrian Murfitt watched as medics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him, the New York Times reported.

Murfitt, 35, was a commercial salmon fisherman in his home state of Alaska. He loved playing hockey, could fix almost anything mechanical, and was devoted to his dog, Paxson, a Western Siberian Laika.

After working long hours throughout the summer, he and two other childhood friends booked tickets for the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, his sister, Shannon Gothard, told the Times.

Murfitt was with his friend, Brian MacKinnon, when shooting broke out, Gothard told the Times.

“He was just having a good time, enjoying himself and got shot in the neck,” she said of her brother. A woman standing next to Murfitt was shot in the head, MacKinnon told the family.

He watched as medics tried to resuscitate Murfitt, though the medics told MacKinnon to leave the scene for his own safety.

Susan Smith. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Susan Smith

Susan Smith, 53, was a popular office manager at an elementary school in Simi Valley, Calif. She had two children.

Her father, Tom Rementer, told the New York Times that his daughter was a “wonderful person”.

Smith had worked at the Vista Elementary School in Simi Valley, California, for three years and the school district for 16 years, a spokesperson for the school district told ABC News.

She had been attending the festival with two friends, who both survived.

Lisa Romero-Muniz. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Lisa Romero-Muniz

Lisa Romero-Muniz, a high school secretary from Gallup, New Mexico, was an “incredible loving and sincere friend, mentor and advocate for students”, the Gallup-McKinley County Public Schools interim superintendent, Mike Hyatt, said in a statement.

“As a colleague, she was also outgoing, kind and considerate of all those she worked with,” he said.

A wife, mother, and grandmother, Romero-Muniz had been in Las Vegas with her husband to see the country music singer Jason Aldean for their wedding anniversary.

“She was beyond excited,” said Rosie Fernandez, her friend and supervisor at the high school where they worked told the New York Times.

“For her husband to remember her anniversary and do all of that, this was a big thing for her.”

John Phippen. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

John Phippen

John Phippen of Santa Clarita, California, was with his son, Travis, at the country music festival in Las Vegas when he was struck by a bullet in the lower back, Reuters said.

Travis, an emergency medical technician, carried his father to a car that took them to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, where the elder Phippen died from his injuries.

“He was my best friend,” Travis told the Los Angeles Times. “He never did anything wrong to anybody. He was always kind and gentle. He was the biggest teddy bear I knew.”

In the chaotic scene, Travis had been shot in the arm but didn’t realise it until he arrived at the hospital. He is staying with family in the Las Vegas area until the Clark County coroner releases his father’s body.

A GoFundMe page set up by a neighbour described Phippen as having “a heart that was larger than life and a personality to match”.

Chris Roybal
Chris Roybal Photograph: Go Fund Me

Chris Roybal

Roybal, 28, was a United States military veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was in Las Vegas celebrating his birthday with with his mother, who survived, ABC News reported.

In a Facebook post from July, Roybal described what it was like to come under gunfire during combat.

“I remember that first day, not sure how to feel. It was never fear, to be honest, mass confusion. Sensory overload … followed by the most amount of natural adrenaline that could never be duplicated through a needle,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, as the fights continue and as they as increase in numbers and violence, that excitement fades and the anger is all that’s left.

“The anger stays, long after your friends have died, the lives you’ve taken are buried and your boots are placed neatly in a box in some storage unit.

“Still covered in the dirt you’ve refused to wash off for fear of forgetting the most raw emotions you as a human being will ever feel again.

“What’s it like to be shot at? It’s a nightmare no amount of drugs, no amount of therapy and no amount of drunk talks with your war veteran buddies will ever be able to escape.”

Thomas Allen Day Jr, a victim of Las Vegas shooting. facebook photo

Thomas Day Jr

The Los Angeles Times reported that Thomas Day Jr was a 54-year-old home builder from Riverside, California.

He went to the festival with his four children, who are all in their 20s and 30s. Day’s father told the LA Times that Day’s children were “crushed.”

“He was the best dad,” Day Sr said. “That’s why the kids were with him.”

Neysa Tonks. A victim of the Las Vegas mass shooting on 2 October 2017.

Neysa Tonks

Tonks was a mother of three who lived and worked in Las Vegas. “She was a very nice woman who was full of life and energy,” her former church counselor Tracy Downey told the Las Vegas Review Journal.

After word of her death, Tonk’s employer, Technologent, began a GoFundMe page for her family “in their hour of need”. Tonks “has been a light to everyone she’s touched” one friend wrote on GoFundMe. “The world will not be the same without her. We must carry on in her honor. Love and prayers to her family!”

Friends flooded the fundraising page with photos, of them together and captions like “you made me smile and always knew how to enjoy life”. She was 46.

Jenny Parks, a victim of Las Vegas shooting

Jenny Parks

A kindergarten teacher and mother of two, Parks lived in Lancaster, California with her husband Bobby, who sustained a non-fatal gunshot wound in the arm Sunday. Family told People Magazine that Parks had just earned her master’s in education earlier this year and was in the process planning her husband’s 40th birthday party.

Jenny was “absolutely beautiful and very intelligent, had a wonderful sense of humor and was so kind”, Bobby’s uncle told the magazine.

Her husband’s Facebook page shows a smiling family at Dodgers games and on vacation. “Great picture of such an amazing family!” one friend wrote. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Myrddin Gwynedd

Myrddin Gwynedd

Journalism Tutor at NZ Radio Training School
Myrddin Gwynedd is an award-winning writer who hails from Wales. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his partner and an army of felines.
Myrddin Gwynedd