A testimonial from Las Vegas – Blue Titan Fitness

A testimonial from Las Vegas

24
Oct

A testimonial from Las Vegas

An email we received after the Las Vegas shooting from a student who was there:

Eric,

The reason for my email is that my wife & I were just out in Las Vegas on the night of the Mandalay Bay Mass Shooting.

Luckily we were NOT at the concert, but the panic & chaos spread from Mandalay Bay & cascaded up the strip, as no one knew the scope of the attack. Most (including security guards we spoke to as we ran & hid from building to building) believed that there were multiple shooters targeting multiple casinos.

One of the last classes I took at Blue Titan was an active shooter class, where you turned the lights off, strobe lights & police lights were turned on, and sounds of gun shots, screaming & police sirens were blaring as we went through rifle disarming drills.

Prior to Las Vegas, I never experienced such a sensory overload as I did during that class, where we were continuously running back and forth to take turns disarming & being the shooter. The quick running back and forth behind the line, along with lights & sounds made for a VERY stressful and chaotic setting (and you of course yelling/barking at us).  That stress load made me realize just how chaotic those events could be while I tried to concentrate on the task at hand, all of which came into play in Las Vegas when my #1 goal was to keep keep my wife & I out of harm’s way.

In an instant our night in Vegas went from playing the slots to running for our lives.  We had slot machine noises & lights all around us, things being knocked over onto the casino floor as people panicked.  People were tripping, falling, running, yelling & screaming inside & outside the various casinos that we found ourselves in, as well as police sirens outside moving up and down the strip.

It made for an environment that was intense & overwhelming, especially given that the situation “was not a drill”, yet it still had a tinge of familiarity….as if I had been in a similar chaotic situation before – and I feel as though your class helped contribute to that feeling.

Additionally the classes I took in various Krav Maga techniques, as well as the relentless pad work & mental preparedness we did helped to give me a more aggressive mindset in case I did find myself in close distance of a shooter with nowhere to go.  Obviously my first instinct the whole night was for us to keep running away from what we perceived to be great danger, but if push came to shove and there was nowhere to go, I had this feeling inside me that I wasn’t going to allow myself to be an easy victim. I believe that also stemmed from the mindset you try to foster in your classes.

BTW I remember asking you in one of my first classes how I could develop a more aggressive mindset during our drills. You essentially told me that there are people out there who would not hesitate to do unspeakable things to you and your family (at least that was the gist of your advice) and to try and picture yourself in those situations as you trained.

I understand exactly what you mean by that advice now.

So thank you for all that you did for me & continue to do for your students. I can honestly say that your training and instruction helped to prepare me for the situation we found ourselves in that night in Las Vegas and convinced me that I want/need to continue with training so I can be even more prepared to defend my family.

 

-Adam Johnston

The following is my account of that night which I posted on my Facebook wall:  

At about 10:30pm my wife Laura and I were on the Bellagio casino floor, sitting about 100 feet from each other playing separate slot machines located in different sections. I had my back to her location as I faced inwards towards the heart of the casino. Laura was facing the opposite direction (looking away from the heart of the casino) and facing outward towards the beginning of some shops and stores located within the Bellagio.

As I’m sitting there mindlessly pressing the slot machine buttons I hear a bit of a commotion from in front of me but I can’t see anything since the slot machine is blocking my view. Seconds later people are sprinting to the left and right of me in sheer panic, heading in the direction of where Laura is sitting.

I quickly stood up & saw an even larger crowd running towards me, with people shouting and screaming. It was at this point I heard someone yell “SHOOTER!”, followed by what sounded like 2 loud noises/bangs.

I turned and sprinted towards Laura who was already standing up, her head swiveling left and right assessing the situation for herself, looking for where I might be. I heard her yell out “Adam?!” just as I got to her. I grabbed her arm and said “We gotta go now”.

We sprinted together arm in arm towards the nearest exit as my periphery caught the sight of person falling down to our left. Given the shouts of “shooter” and the bangs I heard, I wasn’t sure if they were shot or were pushed from behind/tripped & fell. I felt myself tense up, anticipating a similar push from behind or possibly something much worse, like a bullet in the back. Luckily the exit was close & we got out without being trampled or shot. Given that Laura is pregnant I was very concerned that she could have gotten trampled from behind so I tried to keep her out in front of me as we ran as fast as we could.

Once outside we ran across a major side street (Flamingo Road) towards Caesars casino which is the first casino to the north of the Bellagio.

As we’re running we compared mental notes to try and assess the situation. I mentioned to Laura that I heard someone yell “shooter” and thought that I had heard a few bangs which could have been gunshots. We tried to calm ourselves down by saying that if there was a shooter in the casino, it was more likely an isolated incident, like some drunk guy who got into an argument with someone and pulled out a gun as opposed to a mass shooting situation.

Once we made it to the other side of the street we found ourselves up against the side of Caesars, in the middle of some landscaping/brush with no clear entrance in sight. We made our way through the brush, hopped down off a small retaining wall & arrived at a side door only to find it locked. A security guard behind the glass door said they were on lock down & that we couldn’t get in that way.

At this point we were separated from the crowd that ran out of the Bellagio and were starting to feel exposed. Our instinct was to try and find more people as safety in numbers seemed like a reasonable plan. Although the thought of being around a large group of people could potentially make us a target as well given the trend of truck attacks and the fact that IF there was a mass shooting taking place, shooters would gravitate towards masses of people.

We didn’t know whether we were running away from danger, or being funneled into another attack, but we didn’t have much time to deliberate our options.

So we decided that rather than trying to hide somewhere outside Caesars alone, we would make our way around the building to try and find another entrance into Caesars and hopefully to some protection from hotel security.

We made our way around Caesars and found the next entrance which was more like a secondary valet entrance, but they were letting people in for some reason so we were happy.

Once inside the casino floor we walked towards the table games and looked around for any threats, noticing it was fairly empty, but the casino floor still had people milling about. There were also dealers/staff behind their tables.

As we started to catch our breath I began to look around to try and locate armed security. Unfortunately, all I saw (and continued to see for over an hour) were security guards armed with flashlights and radios.

We felt like we were on our own.

Not even a minute went by when all of a sudden people started running from outside through the entrance we just came through. Additionally people on the casino floor started running towards our position too.

It was another stampede.

Now I’m officially thinking mass shooting incident, and that danger is close, maybe even right outside the entrance we just made our way through. What was outside & what were these people running from? Given that we had no idea what was coming our way and that the stampede caught us off guard we quickly dove into/behind the nearest table game pit and got down for cover along with others as I placed my body over Laura’s fearing a shooter was just around the corner.

It’s at this point where I started to feel helpless, frustrated and angry.

We escaped from what we perceived to be a dangerous situation inside the Bellagio and reached an area we hoped would afford us more security and protection. Instead we only managed to make our way towards more unarmed men with the word “SECURITY” written on their golf shirts. No one could help us and we did not have the means to fight back.

I did not want for us to die cowering behind a table. I wanted to defend my wife & our yet to be born children, as well as those hiding with us with every fiber of my being. I wanted to give us a chance to live and yet here we were, unarmed and surrounded by unarmed security.

But given that we couldn’t defend ourselves, and there was no one around us who could, we quickly made the decision that we had to keep moving. I peeked up over the edge of the table and did not see a shooter. People were still streaming into the casino from outside and running left and right all over the casino floor, but the amount seemed to be thinning, so we quickly jumped up and began running again.

We ran north through Caesars, out another entrance and into a restaurant named “Joes”. This time we were not alone but rather joined by a group of people who were running with us.

Unfortunately, the Joes staff said they were evacuating their employees & closing. They told us we couldn’t stay there, so we all made our way into the attached mall which was off the restaurant. The doors to get out were locked from the inside with chains but security guards (again unarmed) let us out from the inside.

From there we quickly made our way to the next casino which was The Mirage. It was at this point where we first saw Metro police on the scene. They pulled up in front of the Mirage, armed with rifles, shotguns & body armor just as we got to the entrance. They were checking room keys before letting people in, but given Laura’s pregnancy they decided to make an exception, for which we were really thankful for.

Once inside the Mirage we saw that casino floor was completely empty. We were quickly ushered into a back area by security which was protected by key card access. This was where the hotel/casino employees were all hiding. As we were ushered through this area we overheard the security guards talking to each other.

Security Guard 1: “They are making their way up the strip, picking people off.”

Security Guard 2: “we probably shouldn’t be saying that out loud”

This seemingly confirmed what we perceived to be happening all around us, that there were shooters all over Vegas and no one knew which casino was safe to be in.

They kept us in this area for about 15 min. To me this was the safest we felt since we started running from the Bellagio. This was also the first time we heard any mention specifically of the Mandalay Bay attack as employees had their phones out and were reading the incoming social media posts and breaking news feeds.

Unfortunately, we weren’t in this location long as we were then ushered out from that area into a back area parking garage which was deemed the Mirage employee evacuation zone. We didn’t like this at all because it was open on all sides, with multiple unguarded entrances and no police in sight. Given that we were under the impression there were multiple shooters on the strip, being exposed outside didn’t seem like a good idea.

Rather than stay out in the open pacing around the parking garage as some employees were, Laura and I decided to position ourselves between the parked cars & concrete poles. We talked about how if any shooting were to start we’d have to stay low, and move quickly with our heads below the car windows, using the cars & concrete poles as cover as we made our way to the nearest exit.

It’s at this point that people were now watching the raw Mandalay Bay footage and we had an opportunity to take our phones out as well. The sound of machine gun fire and screaming emanating from the videos people were watching gave me chills. We were praying none of that made its way to where we were. People around us looked panic stricken. We could only hear that for so long before we had to move away from it to another area.

It was now about 12:00am and we’ve been on the run and/or hiding for an hour and a half. Thankfully the more time that went by the more we started to feel secure in our position and that the police would have a handle on the scope of this attack, yet I’d still rather have been inside a building than outside.

Around 12:30am Mirage security finally told us we could come back inside the casino and head up to our rooms if we were staying there.

Once inside we were told the entire strip was closed to traffic south towards where Mandalay Bay was located, so that meant we wouldn’t be able to get back to the Bellagio anytime soon, nor did we know if that was even a good idea at this point. Every security guard we spoke to said they would not go back towards the Bellagio given what they knew about the situation but that it should be safe to head away from it given the police presence and perimeter they had set up.

We tried to get a room at the Mirage but they were completely booked. Instead of staying on the casino floor of the Mirage for the remainder of the night, we decided to try & find another hotel with availability further north so we could try and rest. In hindsight we should have just stayed in the Mirage but we decided to cross the street and try the next hotel which was the Venetian as the police presence was quite large by this point.

Every hotel had security outside their main doors, with armed police as well as (unarmed) hotel security. We were turned away outside the Venetian as we did not have room keys and they were not letting anyone in who didn’t already have a reservation. They told us to keep moving north and said the further we got away from the Mandalay Bay the better luck we’d have in getting inside a casino/hotel.

It was at this point Laura joked to me as she held her pregnant belly, “I feel like we are Mary & Joseph and there’s no room at the Inn for us”. It felt good to laugh a bit.

We continued to move up the strip, away from the Venetian and towards the Wynn who thankfully let in. We were made to show ID, scanned with handheld metal detectors, and patted down before being allowed inside. Unfortunately, they also were not allowing anyone new to check in but at least we could stay. So rather than continuing our search for a room we decided to have something to eat at an Italian restaurant inside the Wynn, and then just passed the time away on the empty casino floor, sitting on some slot machine chairs while we waited until southbound traffic was opened to cars. During that time, we were able to get a sense of the devastation that occurred at the Mandalay Bay by checking the news on our phones.

By around 4:30am we were told by security that traffic was opened to cabs around the Bellagio, but that hotel entrances to cars were still blocked off. That being the case we decided that it was time to try and get a cab back to our hotel. There was a huge police presence outside the Bellagio, with cars blocking the entrance, tactical police at the doors & K9 units at the elevators. Once inside we also passed people sleeping all over the ground floor of the casino and hotel, filling hallways. We assumed they were people who ran from the Mandalay Bay concert and/or people from nearby hotels who could not make their way back to their hotels just like we had just experienced as the strip was still closed the closer you got to Mandalay Bay.

Passing the K9 unit we showed our IDs again, got some water from the shop next to the elevators and headed up to our room. Our heads hit our pillows by around 5am sleeping till around noon. Thankfully we were safe after a night we won’t soon forget.

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