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'I felt him get shot in the back': Victims identified in Las Vegas shooting

Monday - 02/10/2017 20:06
A Tennessee man died while shielding his wife from bullets during the mass shooting in Las Vegas. USA TODAY

When the bullets started raining down on the crowd at a Las Vegas country music festival on Sunday, Sonny Melton's first reaction was to protect his wife.

"He saved my life," Heather Melton said. "He grabbed me from behind and started running when I felt him get shot in the back."

Sonny Melton, 29, a registered nurse from Tennessee, was soon pronounced dead, one of 59 people who were killed during the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night. 

Dozens of families are going through their own version of agony as Las Vegas officials process the massive crime scene and notify next of kin. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday that nearly 60 people were dead and another 527 injured.

"It's a long, laborious process to identify the victims and reunite them with family members to advise them of their situation," Lombardo said. 

Here is a look at some of the victims.

Sonny Melton, 29, Tennessee

Melton lived in Big Sandy, Tenn., and was a registered nurse at Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tenn. Heather Melton, his wife, is an orthopedic surgeon there, and officials from the center said they will provide counselors to staff who are struggling to deal with this "horrible incident."

"The thoughts and prayers of the entire HCMC family are with Sonny and Heather’s families," the center's CEO, Thomas Gee, said in a statement

The couple married in June 2016, according to the wedding website The Knot. 

"We were the couple that never should have met, fallen in love or had a future together....but life is funny and we believe God brought us together as soul mates," read their wedding page. "We have shared amazing times together and nearly unbearable heartaches but through it all we have grown stronger in our love for each other and our families."

On Monday, Heather Gulish Melton said she was not yet ready to open up about what she went through.

"I want everyone to know what a kind hearted loving man he was but at this point I can barely breathe," she wrote to USA TODAY.

Adrian Murfitt, 35, Alaska

Adrian Murfitt, 35, a commercial
fisherman from Anchorage,
seen here with his West Siberian
Laika named Paxson,
was one of the victims
of the shooting in Las Vegas
on Oct. 1, 2017.
 (Photo: Courtesy of Shannon Gothard)

For Adrian Murfitt, the country music festival was a group celebration after a successful fishing season off the Alaskan coast.

His sister, Shannon Gothard, said Murfitt was every bit the Anchorage native — he played hockey "since he was just a little tot" and would spend months at sea as a commercial fisherman. Gothard said her brother was even talking about going in with a friend to buy their own boat.

That all came to an end Sunday night when a man opened fire and Murfitt, 35, was shot in the neck while he stood near the stage. Gothard said the family was reeling, and she struggled to describe the kind of person he was.

"He was my brother, so of course I thought he was an arrogant little cuss," she said, struggling to laugh. "But only I can say that cause he's my brother. He had this big, jovial, goofy laugh. He'd always try to do the right thing. He had a big heart."

Sandra Casey, California

Sandra Casey, a special
education teacher at
Manhattan Beach Middle School,
was shot and killed during
a country music festival in
Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.
 (Photo: Courtesy of
Manhattan Beach Unified School District)

Teachers at Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Middle School started their day Monday delivering tragic news to their students: one of their own died in the Las Vegas shooting.

Sandra Casey, a special education teacher at the school for the past nine years, was among those killed, according to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. She was part of a group of school officials who attended the music festival.

The school informed students Monday morning, and had counselors on call to help students, and Casey's colleagues, as they struggled to make sense of her death.

The district released a statement saying Casey will be remembered for her sense of humor, her own continuing education, and, above all, her dedication to her students.

"We lost a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students," said district superintendent Michael Matthews.

Susan Smith, 53, California

Susan Smith, an office manager
at Vista Elementary
School in Simi Valley, Calif.,
was one of the victims
of the shooting in Las Vegas on
Oct. 1, 2017.
 (Photo: Courtesy ofSimi Valley Unified School District)

Within hours of learning about the shooting, visitors started dropping off flowers outside Vista Elementary School, where Susan Smith was a popular office manager.

"She's the hub...really the heart of the school," said Jake Finch, a spokesperson for the Simi Valley Unified School District. 

Smith, an ardent country music fan who was married with two adult children, attended the music festival with two friends from the school district. By Monday morning, the front office at Visa Elementary was filled with red-eyed parents and employees broken up over her death.

Crisis teams visited each classroom to share the news in an "age-appropriate way," Finch said. Some classes made sympathy cards for Smith's family.

"She was wonderful," Finch said. "She had a great sense of humor. She's patient and kind."

Jordan McIldoon, 23, Canada

McIldoon was attending the country music festival with his girlfriend when he was shot and killed. His parents, Al and Angela McIldoon, told CBC News that he was scheduled to return home Monday night.

"We only had one child," they told the Canadian broadcast network. "We just don't know what to do."

They said McIldoon was a heavy-duty mechanic apprentice and was preparing to start trade school in the Okanagan region of the Canadian province directly north of Washington state. They couple said they were working through the Canadian consulate to figure out the next steps.

Rachael Parker, 33, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Rachael Parker,
a records technician
at the Manhattan Beach
(Calif.) Police Department,
was shot and killed during a country
music festival in
Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.
 (Photo: Courtesy of Manhattan Beach Police Department)

The first person anybody walking into the Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Police Department saw was Rachael Parker, a civilian employee of the department who served as a records technician and the front desk clerk.

"She was one of the faces of the department," said Kristie Colombo, the department's community affairs officer. "She was always funny and smart and bubbly and always had a smile on her face."

Parker was attending the music festival with three other department employees. One was an off-duty police officer who was shot — Colombo said he's expected to recover. Parker died after being transported to a local hospital.

Colombo said the department was still in shock on Monday. The police chief went to Las Vegas to assist in the cleanup, and those those that remained struggled to cope with their loss.

"She knew and touched a lot of people's lives over the years," Colombo said.

Contributing: Josh Susong, Arizona Republic; April McCullum, Burlington Free Press; Wendy Leung, Ventura County Star.

More: What we know about what happened at Las Vegas shooting

More: Who is shooter Stephen Paddock?

More: Las Vegas shooting now tops list of worst mass shootings in U.S. history

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