Las Vegas police are crediting Iraq War veteran Chris Bethel with helping them find the room where gunman Stephen Paddock was shooting into a crowd of more than 22,000 people.
The Fort Worth resident, who was in Vegas for an IT conference, described to CBSDFW in two separate interviews — one in Las Vegas and one in front of his home in Fort Worth — what he saw during the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
He said that even his experience fighting in war zones had not prepared him for what transpired Sunday night.
“None of your training you experience could ever prepare you for something like this,” Bethel said, back at his home in Fort Worth.
Paddock was just two floors below Bethel’s Mandalay Bay hotel room when the shooting began.
“I could just hear the gun shots. Continuously. Just full automatic,” said Bethel in his first interview after the shooting. “There’s explosions going off. I was like, a bomb just went off, man. And then there were gun shots.”
Bethel, whose emotions were still raw, continued, “I could just see everybody running… and I kept looking at the windows to see if I could see any kind of muzzle flash to see if I could see where the shooter was. I crouched by my front door, in hopes that I might get the opportunity to see the shooter if he ran by and I could identify him.”
Choking back tears, he continued, “I feel like I didn’t do enough. I feel like I couldn’t get ahold of somebody quick enough to let them know … and it felt like it took them too long to get over there to take him out.”
The war vet added: “It’s actually eating me up inside. I just need to go home. That’s my thing. I need to go home to my family, and just process all of this.”
Bethel had called the police to let them know that the shooter was at the Mandalay Bay hotel because he could see that they were responding to the wrong venue. The hotel was four football fields away from the Route 91 Harvest Festival, where thousands of frantic people were running from gunfire.
“He’s not over there, he’s over here,” he said he told the police when he finally got through.
“About 10 minutes later, the Las Vegas Police Department called me to let me know that the shooter was on the 32nd floor, Room 135, and that they had gotten him,” said Bethel.
Back at home in Fort Worth, he said, “Seconds are going by, minutes are going by, and the rounds are continuously going — changing weapons, changing calibers….” He explained that he could tell that Paddock was using multiple rifles from the sound of the gunfire.
Bethel continued to be distressed about misfortunes that were out of his control.
“The hardest part about it for me is feeling like I couldn’t do — I couldn’t get ahold of somebody fast enough,” he said.
Bethel told CBSDFW that he was having a hard time decompressing because he couldn’t stop thinking “about those victims, their families and the unbelievable pain so many people are enduring.”
At least 59 people were killed and 527 injured in the deadly massacre.