County native recalls experience from Las Vegas shooting

Published 11:25 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Tragedy struck Las Vegas Sunday night after a 64-year-old gunman opened fire on thousands during an outdoor concert for the Harvest Festival near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. 

According to national reports of the incident, being classified as the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, 58 attendees were killed with over 500 injured in the barrage of bullets that took place during a set by country music star Jason Aldean. 

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, was discovered in a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and in possession of multiple guns. 

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Of the thousands in attendance, Carter County native Joe Cosey took in the concert from a suite balcony from the Mandalay Bay. 

Initial gunfire was speculated as fireworks, according to witnesses. Cosey indicated the caliber and speed of rounds led him to believe that it was semi-automatic gunfire. 

“I’ve never served in the military, but I was lucky enough to have a pappaw that taught me a lot and how to keep my mind clear in a situation like that,” Cosey said in a phone interview with the Elizabethton Star Monday afternoon. 

The county native indicated that the incident lasted roughly 20 to 25 minutes and that from his vantage point that gunfire could be seen from a window from the hotel. 

Cosey and his party of 15-to-20 friends were able to make it back to their suite after the initial round of gunfire. With the lights out in the room, Cosey exited the suite to help where he could and find a way out of the concert venue for his group. 

After coming across a young woman who was deceased, Cosey and another gentleman worked to help an elderly woman. Cosey added the woman was indicating she was a nurse and was asking to stay at her location due to a collapsed lung. 

With the suite roughly 100 to 150 yards away from main stage, Cosey was able to get a closer look at the aftermath. 

“I looked over at the main concert area and there were just bodies stacked,” Cosey said. “I couldn’t see anybody trying to get out or see anyone yelling. So I was able to find an exit, made my way back to the suite to let people know there was a way out.” 

Finding a way out was the attitude Cosey and others looked to encompass following the incident.

“I would rather die with my kids knowing I did what I could instead of just sitting around,” Cosey said. “And that’s the way everyone else was. It’s like today, the atmosphere here is that people are speechless. But then you see people lined up around the corner wanting to donate blood. They announced on the radio that Allegiant Air is offering free flights for people’s families. It’s a community coming together from tragedy. There’s no segregation, no politics; it’s people coming together.”  

After reports of the incidents, Rep. Phil Roe (R–TN) issued a statement to the Elizabethton Star Monday afternoon about the attack. 

“I am heartbroken by the senseless and horrific shooting in Las Vegas. I am praying for the innocent victims, their families and the city of Las Vegas. I’m grateful to the Las Vegas Police Department, first responders and local authorities who responded quickly – they are true heroes. Clarinda and I echo the sentiments expressed by President Trump this morning and join the nation in praying for the quick recovery of the injured, for unity and for peace,” the statement read.