Elgin native describes scene at Mandalay Bay during Las Vegas shooting
Elgin native Trent Jeray was about to go on stage Sunday at "Michael Jackson ONE" at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas when the music and video abruptly stopped.
The stage manager ordered Jeray and the other performers back into the dressing room and told them to lock and barricade the doors. The 1,300 people in the audience, meanwhile, were instructed to sit calmly in their seats as police surrounded the room and covered the exits.
Thirty-one floors above the ground-level theater, police say, a man was shooting into a concert crowd across the street. He killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
"Some people were crying and on edge. The people in the audience were on edge. Like, are we safe?" said Jeray, a dancer in the Cirque du Soleil show.
"I was definitely feeling a little nervous, but I was trying to stay calm. Inside, I was thinking, man, this is really crazy."
Jeray waited in a dressing room for almost eight hours until 6:30 a.m. Monday, when police deemed it safe to leave. He and the other dancers passed the time by talking and texting on their phones, watching the news on TV, sleeping on the floor or playing cards. Some of his fellow dancers heard the shooting, but he didn't.
Woodstock City Councilman Dan Hart witnessed chaos break out along the Las Vegas Strip.
"People were hysterical ... running in every direction," said Hart, 37, who was in town for a retreat and had "never been anywhere close to something like that."
Hart was in an Uber cab Sunday night returning to his room at Hooters Casino Hotel, about a mile from Mandalay Bay.
Some people fleeing the concert ran past Hart, who got out of the cab a block from his hotel. By that time, Hart had checked news reports online to discover what had transpired.
Hart was unable to get through police barricades to return to his hotel room.
"It was kind of surreal seeing all the ambulances and police cars everywhere," he said. "There were people everywhere with bags and stuff; ... they were displaced from their hotel rooms. Nobody could get a ride."
Hart, who also owns D.C. Cobb's restaurant in Woodstock, posted a video from the scene through Facebook Live to let friends and family members back home know he was safe.
"To go back later and see the videos ... it's understandable why people were panicked," Hart said.
The blockade lasted for hours and Hart eventually booked another room on the other side of the strip. He flew out of Las Vegas Monday.
Travel Channel "Ghost Adventures" host Zak Bagans, a native of Glen Ellyn, was scheduled to open his new Zak Bagans' The Haunted Museum Monday on the Las Vegas Strip, a few miles down from the shooting site. He immediately postponed the grand opening and is trying to host a blood drive there to help the shooting victims.
When interviewed Monday morning, Bagans, who lives in Las Vegas, was on his way to visit the memorial display in front of the Mandalay Bay. He said a few kids from his niece's school had been shot.
"I don't know, I just had to go," he said. "It's kind of weird how, when it happens in your city, how much more you feel it."
Both Jeray and Bagans said Las Vegas was eerily quiet Monday, with the famous strip shut down and the future uncertain.
"What are they going to do security-wise? They don't check people coming into the hotel. Are they going to do that now?" Jeray said. "It makes people afraid to go out and do anything."
John Diederich, chief operating officer of Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, was at the concert but is OK, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed Monday. He wrote on his Facebook page: "Mass shooting at Jason Aldean concert. Keith and I are safe. We were very close. Major emergency response right now. Please pray."
Batavia MainStreet Executive Director Jamie Saam was in the nearby Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel & Casino at the time of the shootings and was not harmed.