Las Vegas remembers the victims of the 2017 mass shooting
Editor's note: This originally aired Oct. 1, 2021
It has been four years since a lone gunman rained more than 1,000 bullets down on a Strip music festival crowd below, killing 60 before taking his own life.
Those 10 minutes of carnage left a sight “you can’t unsee,” said one of the top Las Vegas police officers on the scene that night.
Recently retired Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said the memory “almost leaves me speechless, to be honest with you. That day was unlike any other in a 30-year career.”
He said he remembers most the confusion arriving at a scene where those who were able had fled in all directions.
“The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind was that we just didn't know what was happening,” McMahill said.
With injured people showing up at hotel lobbies and emergency rooms, “we thought we were under attack,” he said.
McMahill said lessons learned from that night “changed policing all across this entire globe.”
As an example, he said paramedics need to be ready to head directly to emergency rooms when the injured are able to be taken from the scene, as was the case that night.
“They can do the medical triage and do the number of things that paramedics can do to at least preserve life so that nurses and doctors can do their jobs instead of coming out of the operating rooms,” McMahill said.
Security improvements on the Strip, including increased surveillance and more scrutiny of rooms facing the street, have made it “probably one of the safest places in the world."
That night also led to a greater appreciation of the psychological well-being of the department's officers, McMahill said, adding that includes him.
“One October, obviously, you know, really put that over the top,” he said. “And I realized that I had a little bit of that PTSD that I never really acknowledged in my entire career."
McMahill, who is a candidate for sheriff, said counseling has proven invaluable to him and the idea of regular psychological wellness checks for officers is something the department should weigh.
Honoring a lost son
Among the eight Nevadans killed on Oct. 1, 2017, was Quintin Robbins, a Henderson native.
The 20-year-old Basic High School graduate was a “fantastic friend, and a great example,” his father recalled.
Joe Robbins said his son was “always wanting to help where somebody is needed, always willing to mend relationships when his friends were fighting.”
After the shooting, that family received a similar show of generosity from the community, Robbins said.
“Vegas Strong is a real thing,” he said. “It's just not words, the community came together, and they supported us like no other.”
That support included random acts of kindness done in Quintin Robbins’ memory and financial contributions.
That allowed the family to create a foundation in Quintin Robbins’ memory that provides scholarships to students at the schools he attended.
Reporting and holding back tears
Television journalist Christine Maddela was off for the weekend but came to the KVVU-TV studios as social media filled with reports about a shooting on the Strip.
“I just immediately went on on the anchor desk and started trying to gather as much information as I could and didn't leave until the next day,” said Maddela, who is now a media consultant in Las Vegas.
She recalled the efforts her team made to ensure the accuracy of what was reported.
“In a situation like this, I just couldn't report anything that I had not confirmed,” Maddela said. “In chaotic situations, even witness accounts are just a snapshot of what's going on.”
She said the marathon reporting in the hours after the shooting took a toll she was unaware of until finally taking a break and noticing her mouth was hurting.
“Unconsciously I'd been biting my left cheek throughout the night to keep from crying on air,” she said.
Still being resilient
The Vegas Strong Resiliency Center took shape shortly after the shooting, serving as a clearinghouse for victims and their families to seek assistance.
Calls to the center “tick up” as the Oct. 1 anniversary nears, said Tennille Pereira, executive director.
“The year mark can bring up a lot of triggers and emotions,” she said, adding that “over the years that has lessened a bit.”
She said the center remains active connecting clients with social services and counseling.
“In the media aftermath, it was much more raw,” she said. “At this point. A lot of it is kind of, ‘I thought I would be further along,’ or ‘I'm surprised at how well I'm doing.’ So it's such an individual process.”
Pereira is also chairwoman of the group building a memorial to the shooting. She said it’s too soon to discuss a construction schedule because “we're not going to rush this process.”
Kevin McMahill, former undersheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Joe Robbins, father of Quinton Robbins, PlayItForward Foundation; Christine Maddela, journalist, Storyville RD; Tennille Pereira, director, Vegas Strong Resiliency Center