Questions, memories remain of shooting incident

Melissa Wall and Travis Sizemore bought western hats during the intermission between performers, and then posed for a selfie, with the Mandalay Bay hotel in the background. “I look back at that picture and I just feel like my head was a target. I’m right at the window. We had just taken that picture before the shooting.” (Contributed photo)

As questions swirl about the possibility of multiple shooters in the Las Vegas incident, a local resident who was there at the time also marvels that a single person was responsible.

Melissa Wall recalled a phone call she made to her mother, not long after hearing the first shots at a concert she attended in Las Vegas, Nev.

“I said ‘people are shooting,’ because the firing never stopped. Never did I realize there was a pause” in the firing, she said.

Authorities identified Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., as the lone gunman who opened fire from two windows in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 59 and wounding more than 200 people.

Wall said she has heard reports the two windows were at a 45-degree angle from one another, and understands that could change the sound or create an echo, “but I never heard a pause. I don’t believe one person can do that by themselves with no background (in the military) and no (specialized) training. He just seemed like a normal man. Not some ex-military or someone who would have had training.”

“To me, he looked like a grandpa figure, someone you’d buy ice cream from. He looks normal and his ability to get back and forth between two windows without stopping” shooting helps fuel her questions.

Wall and her boyfriend, Travis Sizemore, arrived in Las Vegas, Nev. the Friday before the incident, specifically to attend the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

That first day, “we were typical tourists,” Wall said, noting she and Sizemore rode the monorail, visited the strip and took in other sights. On Saturday, she said they rented a motorcycle and visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Death Valley in California and others, before heading to the festival on Sunday.

Arriving there between 4:30 and 5 p.m., Wall said Kane Brown was finishing their set in advance of performers like Big & Rich, Jake Owen and Jason Aldean.

“We were just having a good time. There was all kinds of food, souvenirs” to wander through during the 45 minute intermission between Owen and Aldean. “We went and got food, talked to some people, just some random conversation, and then made our way back to where we were” before Aldean took the stage, Wall said.

When the shots rang out, “I said ‘somebody’s got a gun,’” Wall said. When Sizemore replied it was firecrackers, Wall said she was adamant in her belief it was gunshots.

“Then, it started and people just started running. I just turned and ran. He (Sizemore) had to catch up with me. I thought somebody was shooting in the venue itself,” Wall said, adding she called her mom, Vickie Payne, at 10:13 p.m.

“My instinct was I have to call my parents,” Vickie and Cotton Payne, also of Ararat, to tell them she loved them, and ask them to take care of her children, Wall said of Makenzie, 7 years old, and Adelyne, who is 5.  “I thought I was going die” Wall said.

While talking to her mother, Wall said she heard her dad in the background directing her to ‘get behind something. Get behind something.”

As she and Sizemore ran, “a lot of people were falling down, laying down, ducking. We ran right through a first aid station” and as they approached a parking lot, Wall said, adding the two looked for a safe haven.

“We ran in the front doors” to an open elevator in the MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, she said. “A ton of us flew into that elevator” and were thankful when someone who was staying at that hotel offered them sanctuary. Wall said the hotel was later put on lockdown. She and Sizemore spent the night there with 10 strangers. “We left there about 5:30 the next morning to go to our hotel” and prepare for the flight home.

“I am thankful, thankful to be home and safe and to hug my kids,” she said. “I was so thankful to see them,” she said. She also said she is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, friends and family.

Although the incident changed the way she views some things, Wall said she still believes in humanity, mainly due to acts of heroism she saw behind the scenes.

“There were a lot of true heroes that helped that day,” Wall said. “There’s still kindness in the world.”

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