By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
When the shooting started at the Las Vegas concert, an off-duty correctional officer returned to his hotel room, retrieved his weapon and assisted police.
California Institution for Men Officer Jason Peacock attended the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas and was enjoying the show, despite the large crowd.
“It was about 9:45 and there were a group of us near the stage closest to Mandalay Bay,” he recalls. “As a CO, I began to feel a sense of anxiety over the crowd beginning to thicken and close in on us so I decided to move toward the back as it was less dense.”
Much like others at the concert, he heard a short burst of pops and thought it was fireworks.
“Thinking it was fireworks, I looked up and saw nothing. I thought it was possibly a helicopter, but again, nothing was in the sky,” he said. “I looked back at the stage and things changed.”
Suddenly, more “pops” could be heard.
“I knew right away that it was gunfire. My mind told me that there was someone firing into the venue from Las Vegas Boulevard,” he said. “Before the first volley of shots had stopped, I yelled ‘Let’s go!’ to everyone and began to run until the second burst of shots began. I’ll never forget the look of terror on people’s faces as they ran along side of us.”
He and his group dropped to the ground and took cover behind a beer booth. In the panic, the group was separated.
“Two of us were still together trying to escape. As the firing stopped, we got up and took cover further away behind the food vendor facades which I felt was adequate cover. As I stood there and heard more shots, I knew at this point, I was coming back to help no matter what,” he said. “The shots seemed closer, most likely because the shooter switched windows to fire from, and I feared that someone may be inside the venue continuing to shoot.”
The sound of screams, crying and gunfire continued.
“People were still running around me, crying, looking for a way out,” Officer Peacock recalls. “I made our way toward Tropicana Avenue where approximately 30 people were trying to climb the almost 10-foot high fence and couldn’t.”
Nearby were some fence-like barricades.
“I looked over into the corner and saw several metal barricades. I grabbed them and made makeshift ladders … and told everyone to climb over. Once we were over the fence I ran across Tropicana Avenue as more shots were fired,” he said. “I knew at this point the shots were coming from somewhere elevated from Mandalay Bay. We were now safe and there were many people escaping and entering MGM. I ran back to the Luxor and security opened the stairwell for me to get to my room.”
He said he knew he needed to help.
“I retrieved my weapon and ran back to the parking lot of Mandalay Bay assisting Luxor security, guiding everyone in the area inside for cover,” he said. “I observed three Las Vegas police officers taking cover behind a car. With my badge in plain view, they asked me if I was off duty and armed. I said, ‘Yes.’ One of them, a Sergeant, asked if I had body armor on. When I said I didn’t, he said he couldn’t have me out there.”
Officer Peacock asked if there was anything he could do to help.
“(The sergeant) told me to go toward the Luxor front door where there were approximately 30 people barricaded behind a sign taking cover from Mandalay Bay. (He asked me to) watch over them.”
Officer Peacock ran to their location and said he could see the look of relief when he arrived.
“Assisting Luxor security, we eventually got all of them indoors and to the basement for safety. Once indoors, I assisted Luxor security and Las Vegas Police in clearing the entire casino,” he said. “While clearing the casino floor, I was notified by Luxor security there was a bomb threat at the valet area. Myself, an off duty Chicago officer, and Luxor security directed everyone toward the Chris Angel theater away from the valet. All other patrons who were still walking inside the casino were directed to one of three safe zones – the basement, the buffet and the theater.”
Panic in the fleeing crowds
As others have reported, rumors began to fly about bombs and other shooters.
“While people were still migrating toward the safe zones, chaos erupted again. It seemed like approximately 100 people were running from the Excaliber toward the Luxor. I was informed that someone was shooting in the walkway to the Excaliber.”
He and another off-duty officer drew their weapons and took cover behind two pillars, still trying to get everyone to the basement.
“It was at that moment I remember thinking about my three daughters and that I may not see them again, and that I could possibly die there,” he recalls. “I was the most scared at this point. My only hope and plan was to hide as long as I could, surprise the gunman when he got closer, and take my best head shots ever and unload my magazine. Ultimately and thankfully, a gunman never appeared – the people running ended up being panicked patrons hearing of the events unfolding. I felt a sense of relief after a few minutes and kept my focus as best I could.”
Locking down the casino
Once the casino floor was vacant, Officer Peacock, Luxor security and two Las Vegas police officers enforced a complete lockdown.
“I had met the general manager of Luxor security and his assistant, and continued watching over the walkway connecting Mandalay Bay and Luxor for the next couple hours,” he said.
Worried there were additional gunmen, local police told him he should be cautious.
“Without knowing who was a suspect or not, anyone who appeared inside the casino was approached and verified as patrons before escorted by security to the elevators,” he said. “Rifles from Las Vegas Police and handguns were at the ready when confronting anyone inside.”
Eventually, the situation settled in the casino and Officer Peacock called it a night.
“I shook everyone’s hand and wished them luck and a safe shift. I ultimately made it back at about 3 a.m. It was definitely a night that I will never forget,” he said.
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