The first shots sounded like fireworks, Chris Bethel remembered, because what else could they have been.
There was a country music festival across the street, so Bethel, a Fort Worth resident staying on the 30th floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas on Sunday night, stepped to his window for a view of the show.
What he saw instead was horrific: panicked concertgoers below scattered across the lot, taking cover or running for their lives.
Then Bethel, 36, saw the flash of gunfire and noticed the walls of his room shaking.
The shooter was two floors above him.
“I saw the police lights — they were all going to the concert,” Bethel, who flew home Monday, told the Star-Telegram in an interview Tuesday. “I think they thought he was across the street, but he wasn’t.”
The mass shooting was the deadliest in U.S. history, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 others at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. The gunman, Stephen Paddock, fired into the crowd from a 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay, authorities said.
Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo on Tuesday credited Mandalay Bay guests who called 911 and hotel security with providing critical information on Paddock’s location.
“We would not have engaged this individual in the time lapse that we did without their assistance,” Lombardo said in a news conference. “We received information via [the Mandalay Bay] call center from individuals staying at the Mandalay Bay that helped us locate where [Paddock] was sequestered.”
Bethel, who was in town for a work conference, initially called 911 and the front desk of the hotel but couldn’t get through. He called his father in Fort Worth and asked him to try to reach Las Vegas police.
Then he called the front desk of the nearby Luxor hotel, which transferred him to Mandalay Bay security.
The whole time, the gunshots continued. Lombardo on Tuesday said Paddock fired shots for about nine minutes.
“He’s shooting, and I’m like, ‘Please answer the phone, please answer the phone,’ ” Bethel said.
When he finally did get through, he told the call taker that he believed the shooter was on the 30th floor and she yelled the information to another person in the call center.
Bethel, an Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2004, said he heard the shots switch from fully-automatic fire to single, sniper-style shots. When he heard a pause, he went to the front door and looked out the peephole, hoping to identify the shooter if he walked by.
“I felt helpless,” Bethel said. “I was just trying to do as much as I could from where I was at.”
About 15 minutes later, he heard a single shot, which he believed was the shooter killing himself. Another 15 minutes passed and he heard the explosion of police breaching the gunman’s door.
“I was in Iraq and experienced mortars and rockets coming over walls,” Bethel said. “But [Sunday] was — it was just hard to process everything.”
Bethel stayed in his room through the night. In the morning, he rode the elevator with other guests to the lobby. It was silent.
“I don’t think anybody wanted to talk about it,” he said.
Before leaving for the airport, Bethel had to give a witness statement to a Las Vegas police detective.
“My friend was murdered last night,” the detective told him as they walked outside the Mandalay Bay.
Glass covered the ground, and Bethel looked up at the towering gold-colored hotel, where curtains covering two busted-out windows of Paddock’s room flapped in the wind.