As a blizzard of bullets rained down on the Route 91 music festival, Bradley Sugars lay prostrate, holding tight to the leg of Lauren Sugars, his wife of five years and mother of two of his children.
Along with eight friends, they had booked space in the three-story Coca Cola Suite near the east side of the venue facing the stage. Intended to provide concertgoers respite from the sun during the day, these huts were the farthest away from the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the shooter was located.
Sugars and around 30 others now cowered on the floor as bullets zipped through the aluminum walls and past their heads.
People were praying, and all Sugars could think about was his love. In the chaos, he tried to shield her with his body.
The couple had met seven years ago at a ditch-Friday pool party at the nearby Palms Hotel. She was a model working in New York, and since then these country music festivals have been one of their favorite escapes.
“Country music people are the most fun people on the planet.” said Sugars, a 46-year-old native of Australia who has lived in Las Vegas for 11 years. “We go to them all and have a great old time.”
For three or four minutes they stayed inside the building as bullets came through the windows. Sugars could see people falling to the ground out on the field. At first, he thought they had tripped or been trampled.
When the shooter stopped to reload, Sugars watched a man pull the enclosure’s door open and scream: “Get out! get out!”
Lauren, 28, ran out first. Bradley shepherded some friends through the door and followed quickly after.
But where had his wife gone? In this haze and confusion, he knew he needed to keep moving, but where was Lauren?
Bradley ran through a hole in the fence and found shelter across Giles Street behind a concrete barrier.
Everyone was yelling in panic and running toward Reno Avenue and away from the gunfire. Blood was everywhere, he said. For three or four minutes, he sat there behind the barrier trying to call his wife—but the calls wouldn’t go through.
He reached his friend Marshall Nisbett, 37, who had been at the show as well.
“‘Marshall, I gotta find Lauren,’” Nisbett recalled Bradley saying to him.
Bradley ran through a parking lot and finally got through to Lauren, and could hear the gunfire on her end of the phone as well.
“No one could tell where anyone was. It was so confusing. No one knew what was going on. That’s the only way to describe it,” he said.
Lauren told him she was under a car in a parking lot across the street from the venue. Bradley took cover behind a police car at Haven Street and East Reno—moving farther away from the Mandalay Bay.
Bullets kept taking people down, and police wouldn’t let him track back to find his wife. They had set up a perimeter. So he began handing out tourniquets from the trunk of the squad car. The guy next to him was shot through the hand. A girl was shot in the chest. As Bradley assisted, he kept trying to call, but there was no answer.
After several tries, Bradley got his wife on the phone again. She had moved but wasn’t sure exactly where she was. She told him she was with a group taking cover in a housing complex.
He would only later realize just how near they were to each other. But at this point, he had no clue. Then it dawned on him: Why not use the “Find my iPhone” feature on his phone?
“I have two teenage daughters,” said Bradley, “and If i ever need to find them or pick them up I just use this app.”
He set off on a third of a mile sprint, which was made more difficult by the cowboy boots he was wearing.
He found Lauren at Koval Lane and East Reno Avenue, right by the boundary of McCarran International Airport. She was hiding behind an electrical transformer with around 30 other people.
“I grabbed her by the hand and we began to run,” he said.
After they had sprinted another half mile, Nisbett scooped them up in his Cadillac sedan and drove them home.
“Lauren was in the back seat and you could see in her face that this took a toll on her,” said Nisbett.
“They both had that blank expression on their faces that you have when something terrible happened that you’re not expecting.”
When the couple got home, Brad’s eldest daughter Coby was still awake.They decided not to tell her anything. It was too much for them to even process.
Brad then poured a vodka for his wife and a rum for himself and turned on the news.
“At first we just sat there in total silence,” he said.
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