The Iowa State community reacts to Las Vegas shooting


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Stephen Craig Paddock fired at concert-goers at an outdoor country music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort Sunday night, killing more than 50 and injuring over 200. 

Emily Barske and Danielle Gehr

Cole Willson, an Iowa State student born and raised in Las Vegas, stayed up until well past 4 a.m. Monday morning following the news of the Las Vegas mass shooting as it broke and continued to check in with his loved ones at home.

Sunday night a man opened fire from his hotel room on a crowd of about 22,000 people, killing 58 and injuring hundreds of others in what has been called one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.

The victims were attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert where singer Jason Aldean was performing.

One of his closest friends from high school was at the concert.

“She got out OK — she said she was within five feet of somebody who was shot,” Willson said he found out after texting her.

The suspect, Stephen Paddock, 64, was found dead in his hotel room on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino. The Associated Press reported there is no clear motive, quoting Sheriff Joseph Lombardo saying, “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.”

Willson, a junior in management, found out about the shooting on Twitter sometime after midnight. He texted his friend at 1:15 a.m. CST and had a response from her saying she was OK two minutes later. He called his parents, who hadn’t heard anything about it yet.

Willson said he’s scared he’ll see a name pop up that he knows as victims’ names get released.

“You don’t really understand the hurt until it happens in your own backyard where you’re from,” Willson said.

And he said one of the hardest things is that things just go on.

“You kind of feel like you know what’s going on there, but everything else here is going on just like daily procedures,” Willson said. “It’s like nothing’s changed. And it’s not like you can blame people for feeling that way — I have loved ones there and they don’t.”

Willson said the shooting was part of the reason he donated blood in the Iowa State blood drive Monday.

“We’ll be able to send blood over to Nevada,” said Alaina Porth, co-director of the blood drive and senior in psychology.

The Red Cross can deliver to Las Vegas. Currently, they have blood available, but the blood drive is on call and ready to send more aid if needed.

“It’s one of those things where people just need to not forget and be aware,” Willson said.

Makenna Chapman, junior in public relations, was in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel during the time of the shooting.

Chapman, her mother and her sister were attending a Cirque du Soleil show when it was announced the show would be stopped in order to monitor activity outside.

“Officers came in, they locked all the doors, and the officers came in with guns in like a sniper position,” Chapman said. 

Chapman, her family and other patrons were told to get down. A family friend covered Chapman’s sister while her mother covered her. Chapman said at one point, someone tried to open a door from the outside and she could hear machine guns in the distance.

During this time, Chapman texted her dad to let him know that she loved him, and that she was still safe. She also contacted friends at Iowa State to let them know about the situation at hand.

“I just don’t know how to feel. I feel all sorts of stuff,” Chapman said. “That was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a near death experience.”

After hours of waiting to hear what was happening, Chapman and the other patrons were escorted out of the hotel on busses. She said she saw people with shock blankets on crying and police around the scene.

“There’s no other word for it, it was just crazy,” Chapman said. 

Chapman and her sister have now returned to Iowa, and are safe. Her mom considered returning to Iowa as well, but remains in Las Vegas right now to attend a conference she was initially there to attend.

Chapman said that she’s still in shock, but is thankful to be safe thanks to first responders on scene. 

“I’m thankful the police were there,” Chapman said. “I’m thankful they did their job.”

A Daily reporter asked Iowa State students around campus for their thoughts on the recent events. Some expressed concern for the families while others touched on issues of gun control. 

Here are some of the things students had to say: 

“I hope the media doesn’t focus on the shooter and who he is. I hope they focus on the victims and how bad it was,” Aaron Martin, freshman in computer engineering, said. 

“I hope the families are fine, they’ll be the ones hurting the most,” Corey Olugbenle, junior in agronomy, said. 

“It’s really terrible what happened. We need to start rethinking our gun control laws, because there is no excuse for this,” Nicholas Guthrie, freshman in mechanical engineering, said.

“We need to make guns harder to get, not try and get rid of them completely,” Jack Wytaske, sophomore in pre-business, said. 

Isaac Carson, Mary Pautsch and Grace Ekema contributed to this story.