Jennifer and Michael Morrison, who own Encompass Print Solutions in Seattle, were among the Washington state residents who survived the shooting in Las Vegas.
Once Jennifer and Michael Morrison, of Maple Valley, realized it was gunfire unleashed on them — and not fireworks as some around them first claimed — they crawled to the street, then started running.
And then the King County couple couldn’t stop.
Even after they’d run off the Las Vegas Strip and down alleys and streets to the airport; even after they’d lunged through the hangar door pried open with desperate hands; even after they surged onto the tarmac.
“We couldn’t stop moving. We couldn’t tell where the shooting was coming from,” said Jennifer Morrison. “It sounded like it was right behind us, like it was following us; we were literally running to save our lives.”
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The Morrisons, who own Encompass Print Solutions in Seattle, were among Washington state residents known on Monday to have survived the massacre that claimed the lives of at least 59 people and left more than 500 wounded at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Those wounded in the attack included Melinda “Mia” Brockie, said Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.
“It is definitely a terrible, tragic event, and everyone is very concerned,” said Ballew II. “They were able to report as of this morning at 5:30 that she is in a stable condition and in recovery. Unfortunately, we also heard that recovery is probably going to take some time. Our hearts and prayers are with her and her family.”
Among those killed was Rachael Parker, 33, a Cheney High School graduate. She worked the past decade for the Manhattan Beach Police Department, first in parking enforcement and later as a records technician, according to a news release issued Monday by the Police Department 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles and reporting by KXLY 4 News in Spokane.
The Morrisons felt like celebrating when they headed for Vegas with Jennifer Morrison’s brother, John McCormick, and his wife, Ashlei McCormick, also of Washington. The start of a new school year had gone off well for both couples and their packs of three kids each. Meanwhile, Jennifer and John Morrison’s parents had set off for Ireland, and Wednesday was Michael’s 44th birthday.
“We were there to relax,” Jennifer Morrison said in a telephone interview.
Her brother and his wife had gone back to their room on the eighth floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, and she and her husband were at a rooftop bar overlooking the concert when they heard three to five shots.
“Then he just unleashed on us,” she said. “It was rapid fire, and he didn’t stop.”
They crawled off the deck, then ran down stairs, into the street and to the end of a fence, she said. They came to the end of an alley but still heard the gunfire.
People were pushing, falling, screaming and crying. Jennifer Morrison said she fell, but her husband helped her up. He kept saying, “Stay with me, stay with me,” and she did. They ran “down streets, down alleys, through gates and passed fences,” she said, always looking for cover, of which there was little.
When they got to the airport and found themselves blocked, a group of people pried a hangar door open with their hands while someone in a truck tore open an airport security fence. The Morrisons and others surged through.
Once they were in the light, they found people among them who were shot and bloody. “It was chaos, mayhem,” she said.
Even when the shooting finally stopped, the Morrisons and the others with them didn’t yet know it was over. If anything, the sight of the blood told their bodies again to “keep moving,” Jennifer Morrison said.
An airport-security guard told them to stay on the runway and stay “to the left,” Jennifer Morrison said. They ran out onto the tarmac and just kept running.
On Monday, she said, “I just feel completely numb, like ‘What just happened?’ ”
“It was a beautiful night. Then all hell breaks loose.”
Nine friends from the Bellingham area also narrowly escaped the gunfire.
Jeff Bannerman, of Ferndale, Whatcom County, who took cover with his wife beneath concert bleachers, said no one in their group was seriously hurt.
Bannerman said the mood Sunday night was festive and “everybody was having a great time” before gunfire tore into the crowd.
“Jason Aldean was playing. It was a beautiful night,” he said. “Then all hell breaks loose.”
At first it sounded like firecrackers, he said.
“Well, it wasn’t firecrackers, it was some sort of assault rifle,” he said. “It was so fast.”
He took cover with his wife, Deanna, under some bleachers. A police officer dived underneath the bleachers near them, he said, along with a gunshot victim.
“We were underneath the bleachers for 20 to 25 minutes,” Bannerman said. “There was human matter and blood all over the ground.”
He called his children, who are 20 and 22, from beneath the bleachers.
“My wife and I had to say goodbye to my kids,” Bannerman said. “Oh my god. My wife’s just beside herself. You tell your kids you love them, take care of yourself and your sister — what parent wants to do that?”
During a break in the gunfire, Bannerman and his wife fled the concert grounds.
“We were running and I see these people laying out in the middle (of the concert area),” Bannerman said.
He attempted CPR on a woman.
“This guy comes up to me and says, ‘Dude, don’t waste your time, she’s gone.’ And I said, ‘I can’t leave her.’ I had to just walk away and I left her there,” Bannerman said, his voice breaking over the phone.
He and his wife worked their way back to the MGM Grand Hotel, where they were staying.
“It took us an hour or so to get back to the MGM, and our cellphones are going nuts,” he said, with messages from family and friends wanting to know if they were OK.
“We had nine people in our group, and one of the girls had some scratches and bruises on her legs from crawling underneath bleachers. Other than that, everybody’s fine,” he said.
“We’re fortunate we made it out. I don’t know what the death toll is at now … I feel for all of those people who didn’t make it.”
Bannerman said he managed only an hour of sleep Sunday night. He took a walk near the hotel Monday morning in a daze, he said.
He and his wife were flying home later Monday.
Before he returned to the Pacific Northwest, though, he had a task to complete.
Last night, Bannerman collected a few cellphones strewn in the streets. Some of the phones, he believes, belong to victims of the shooting.
“I just threw them in my pocket thinking they’d get discarded,” he said.
He plans to return them to victims, or if that’s not possible, their families.
Daughter was “brilliant and had a heart of gold”
In Spokane, television station KXLY interviewed the mother of the Cheney High graduate, Rachael Parker, on Monday afternoon before the mother flew to Las Vegas.
Robin Monter said her daughter, who did volunteer work with the elderly and homeless, was “brilliant and had a heart of gold,” KXLY reported.
Parker and three others off-duty from the Manhattan Beach police attended the concert, where Parker and a sworn officer were shot, according to a news release by Manhattan Beach police. The officer suffered minor injuries, but Parker “ultimately lost her life in the hospital,” the release said.
“She was employed with the Manhattan Beach Police Department for 10 years and will be greatly missed,” said the release.