Ole Miss community reacts to Las Vegas shooting

Posted on Oct 2 2017 - 6:17pm by John Touloupis

The deadliest mass shooting in recent United States history took place late Sunday night outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. As of Monday evening, 58 people are dead, and an estimated 515 people are injured.

The gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the resort into the crowd of more than 22,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival.

Country singer Jason Aldean was in the middle of his performance when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire on the festival’s crowd. Authorities later found Paddock dead in his hotel room, along with 10 guns ranging from rifles to handguns, after what they believe was a suicide.

Police officers stand at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The catastrophic effects are being felt by members of the Ole Miss community. Shannon Farrell, a Las Vegas native, is a senior at Ole Miss who received news her loved ones were injured.

“Vegas is a really special place to me,” Farrell said. “It’s my hometown and a place I’m really proud to call home.”

Farrell’s family friends were in attendance at the concert when the gunman started firing.

“I had a bunch of friends at the event, and I had some extremely close family friends that were shot,” Farrell said.

Farrell said her friends are all in stable condition now.

“I’m extremely grateful,” Farrell said. “Everyone is out trying to donate blood and offer housing, and everyone seems so willing to help wherever they can.”

Delaney Splawn, a junior political science and psychology major from Las Vegas, grew up 30 minutes outside the Las Vegas Strip, where the shooting took place.

“I was in shock, and then I immediately called my family,” Splawn said. “I had friends and family at the concert. My sister-in-law was down there, and she was seven months pregnant.”

Splawn said there was complete chaos. 

“My sister-in-law was taken to a complete stranger’s condo, and they let her stay until it was clear,” Splawn said. “We’ve all banded together. We’re so sad this happened. We never thought something like this would happen in Vegas.”

Splawn received texts and calls from family and friends back at home who go to other schools and were trying to make sure everyone was OK.

Parker Williamson, a senior elementary education major from Las Vegas, woke up to dozens of text messages and the news all over her social media feed.

“I was shocked and confused because I saw it when I woke up this morning,” Williamson said. “I woke up with a ton of texts from a group message with friends from Las Vegas asking if everyone was OK. I got on social media, and I saw everyone was marking themselves safe on Facebook.”

Throughout the weekend, Williamson saw people posting videos and photos of the concert on social media.

“I’ve been contacted by so many people, people I don’t even talk to that often. They wanted to make sure my family and friends were OK,” Williamson said. “I’ve had friends from Oxford shoot me texts reaching out to make sure I’m OK, people I didn’t even think about.”

The shooting provided a stark eye-opening for Williamson.

“I think something like this can happen anywhere. We’ve seen so many shootings on college campuses,” Williamson said. “It can happen anywhere in the world, and seeing it in my hometown makes it more real and more eye-opening.”

However, Williamson said the shooting won’t affect how she lives her everyday life.

“We all just have to get together and make some changes so things like this don’t happen anymore,” Williamson said. “I hope everyone keeps Vegas in their thoughts and prayers. I have friends who have people who passed away or are getting out of surgery, and we just need to keep them in our thoughts.”

The Oxford and University police departments train every year to respond to active shooters and violent intruders in case violence were ever to break out on campus.

“All local and state law enforcement agencies are trained on the latest active shooter response and techniques so that we are as prepared as possible for any emergency event,” Oxford Police Chief Joey East said,

In the event of an emergency, law enforcement officials advise three steps to maintain safety.

“We emphasize three steps: Avoid and run. Then deny and try to hide and block and secure the door.  Last, defend. If you’re encountering a shooter or violent intruder and if you have no other options, you must be prepared to defend yourself against the assailant,” University Police Chief Tim Potts said.

East said there are always security concerns whenever there’s a large event.

“By working together with all our local, state and federal partners analyzing, training and by sharing information, the LOU law enforcement community has and will always work together to keep our community as safe as possible,” East said.

Law enforcement always prepares security for special or big events and factors in consideration for potential security threats.

“We arrange appropriate security for large-scale events based on what the event is, the location and the crowd expected,” Potts said. “We will not share the specifics of our plans, but they are well-planned and researched.”

Potts said that with any tragic event, law enforcement will always go back to the drawing board to reconsider planning for future large-scale events.

“We have already been analyzing and making adjustments to crowd control. This is something that has to be reviewed each and every time there is an event,” East said.

 Grace Nelson and Mary Katherine Withers contributed to this article.