Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham was watching a show at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas Sunday night when a gunman unleashed a hail bullets from the 32nd floor of the building, killing at least 58 people.
Cunningham, who represents San Luis Obispo County in the state Legislature, was in Vegas to give a presentation at a conference on bail reform Monday, he said. He and his wife flew in Sunday and decided to go see Michael Jackson ONE, a Cirque du Soleil show, Cunningham said.
“They just sort of interrupted the show with a really vague message, it was kind of odd,” Cunningham said over the phone from Vegas. “One of those things people say when they’re trying not to panic anybody.”
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He said the first message that came over the intercom was a recording thanking the audience for their patience. The second message was from a live person and that’s when Cunningham got on his phone, checked Twitter, and saw the first reports of the shooting.
He and his wife went to the exit door to take a look and see if it was safe to go outside.
“They’d shut down the Strip,” he said. “We could hear a bunch of sirens in the direction of the concert, and in the other direction we could see police cars.”
They closed the doors and stayed inside. Police entered the theater as they searched the hotel for more shooters, Cunningham said.
“It was kind of a barricade situation for part of it,” Cunningham said, adding that it was a “high-anxiety situation.”
“Police had guns trained on all the doors. At one point, someone tried to get in from outside and they ordered everyone to hit the ground. Five hundred people got down as fast as you can blink.”
Cunningham described the demeanor inside the theater as “eerily quiet.”
“People were looking at their phones, kind of consoling each other, some people were texting or talking to their kids, telling them they were OK,” he said.
After 3 a.m., the theater attendees were bused to a safe spot on the UNLV campus, Cunningham said.
“Police handled the situation expertly, and incredibly an entire theater of people remained calm and orderly throughout,” Cunningham wrote on Facebook. He added during a phone conversation that when the buses came, attendees let the elderly, children and those with medical conditions get on first.
He asked for prayers for the victims and their families and urged those who can donate blood to do so.
“The tragedy is unspeakable,” Cunningham said. “For the life of me, I can’t put my head around what would cause someone to do something so evil.”