Former sheriff recounts moment daughter told him about shooting at Route 91 concert

Local News

There were people of all races, creeds, and backgrounds who attended the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017.  But one man experienced the night through at least three perspectives: Personal, professional, and strategic.

Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young says he’s been amazed and inspired by how locals came together after the tragedy, along with how the community has responded to 1 October within the last year.

Young said in an interview with the I-Team that he was prepared to take desperate, drastic actions that terrible night he received a frantic call from his daughter.

“She’s screaming ‘daddy, daddy!’ ‘Come get us; somebody is shooting at us.’  “Just a panic beyond terrified voice she had,” Young said.

Former Sheriff Young had just pulled into his driveway on the night of October 1st when he received a panicked phone call from his daughter  Cara, who was at a music festival with a group of close friends.  He said it took him a minute to make sense of what she was trying to say.

“But then I could hear that pop, pop, pop, in the background and realized within seconds this was no joke,” he said. “The tone and pitch of her voice; this was an active shooter situation.”

Cara and her friends were hunkered down near the stage, surrounded by others who were already dead or wounded. Young told his daughter to grab the hands of her friends and run like hell.

“I screamed at her, ‘you gotta call me as soon as you get somewhere safe. Call my cell phone. I’m on my way,’ and I was,” Young said. “I ran in, grabbed a couple of guns, my old sheriff’s badge, jumped in my Shelby Mustang and went about 160 miles an hour, 140 on the freeway. I had the Highway patrol chasing me. I didn’t stop for them. They were real upset until they realized where I was going.”

As Young merged onto the I-15 northbound section of the highway, he says,  from every direction he saw the flashing red lights of first responders, all converging on Mandalay Bay.  During his high-speed drive, he had phoned his friend Sheriff Joe Lombardo. Young’s call was the first notification Lombardo received that something big was unfolding on the Strip. Young said he was terrified for his daughter but knew what he wanted to do.

“I was going to get there and kill the guy if I could find him,” he said.

However, an ocean of blocked traffic prevented Young for achieving his goal. 

After 20 excruciating minutes, his daughter called to say their group had made it out alive.  But like so many others, they saw things they will never forget. The emotional damage lingered.

“She was very withdrawn for months and months,” Young said. “She wouldn’t go outside, certainly not to any concerts.”

Young’s perspective on 1 October is multi-faceted because he is the parent of someone who was there, bu he’s also a security chief for a major resort company. Not to mention he served as Clark County Sheriff, and was elected one year after the Sept. 11th terror attacks. 

From the start, he used his position to warn that Las Vegas was a tempting target for terrorist violence, and like all sheriff’s since he fought for heightened security measures and federal funds so that Las Vegas could prepare for a day that many said was inevitable.

“I’ve been saying it since 9/11; 2002: It’s not the last time we’re going to be facing terrorists in this country. Las Vegas is a prime target. People got tired of listening to me when I was Clark County Sheriff. Unfortunately, I was correct.”

But the attack wasn’t by foreign terrorists as Young expected. Instead, it came from a homegrown lone wolf named Stephen Paddock.  On the morning after 1 October, Young and other casino security chiefs were called to a meeting with Sheriff Lombardo to start the process of implementing new security measures and long-term strategies. Las Vegas is a safer place than it was a year ago, but the reality is, there are no guarantees when it comes to heavily armed, unhinged lone wolves.

“It’s the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States,” Young said.  “This phenomenon of guns; this fetish of guns that some people have that have no business, in my view. It’s a controversial statement, I get it.  How many dozens have we had in this country and world of similar events where people get a firearm and for unknown reasons just decide to go in and start spraying bullets and kill as many people as they could?

Former sheriff Young is not anti-gun. He says he is a lifelong gun owner and hunter but thinks, at a minimum, there should be reasonable background checks before people can buy certain kinds of weapons.

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