Oct 2, 2017

El Paso official shares account of Las Vegas massacre; suspect's father escaped from La Tuna in 1968

El Pasoans Norma Favela and husband Jaime Barceleau
El Paso official's harrowing experience of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas, Nevada

Suspect's father escaped from La Tuna in 1968

Plus: Tips for survivors

By Diana Washington Valdez
The Digie Zone Network
Oct. 2, 2017

El Paso County District Clerk Norma Favela Barceleau was staying at a hotel near the scene of last night’s shooting spree that killed and injured hundreds of people.

Authorities identified a 64-year-old accountant as the sole suspect in the numbing attack.

Officials said Stephen Paddock fired from the 32nd floor of his hotel at people who were gathered below on the main strip for an outdoor music festival. What followed was sheer panic and mayhem.

“Oh my God! Although we weren’t at the Mandalay/Luxor, it was sheer panic and pandemonium throughout the strip,” Favela, who was still shaking from the terroristic attack, said today in an interview. 

Las Vegas returns to life after the shooting.
“People suddenly started screaming and running frantically to exit the Paris Hotel casino, and toward the elevators that lead to the hotel rooms. At first, Jaime held on to me, and to an elderly lady who passing by, behind a huge slot machine. Then, Jaime and I got separated on the casino floor as we were trying to make our way to the back of the casino.”

Favela was in Las Vegas accompanying her husband, Jaime Barceleau, who was attending a conference. Favela and Barceleau checked in early today on Facebook to let friends and family know that they were safe.

(Photos of Las Vegas today by Norma Favela)

Las Vegas returned to normal today

“I ran back and found Jaime,” Favel said, “with another elderly lady with a cane who could barely walk and was unable to run. He was walking with her, protecting her, afraid that she might get trampled by the panicked people running throughout the casino.”

“A few hundred of us ended up being herded through hallways until they locked us in a ballroom of the hotel for about 3 to 3-1/2 hours.”

Favela said the hotel staff shut down the elevators, locked her hotel as well as Bally’s, which connected next door.

“Security personnel were running us through what seemed hall after hall to a safe area,” Favela continued, “as SWAT members brandishing automatic weapons instructed us to keep our hands up in the air and to move quickly. This was difficult considering that Jaime and I were carefully ‘fast-walking’ our elderly companion through the halls, concerned that she might suffer a medical emergency.”

President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the families of victims during a news conference this morning. Officials said they believe that the suspect, Paddock, who liked to gamble and held a pilot’s license, acted alone.

The suspect's father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, had escaped in 1968 from La Tuna prison in Anthony, Texas, while serving a 20-year sentence for bank robbery, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, in Orlando, Florida, where Paddock's mother and brother live. The father made the FBI's Most Wanted list and was captured 10 years later.

Favela said it was apparent that her hotel and others like it were unprepared to handle such a large-scale emergency.

“We were held in a hotel ballroom without cooling, water or access to restrooms until Jaime urged a security member to provide these basics,” Favela said. “We got the elderly lady, Kelara Younan, who was brave and spoke little English, to her room on the 20th floor, and then we got to our room on the 28th floor.”

“It was utter chaos all around,” Favela said. “Traffic was blocked from entering the strip last night. Guests of the Mandalay, Luxor and other surrounding hotels, including the Paris Hotel, were not allowed back in until (hour later). I’m sure the crime scene was huge.”

News videos showed the festival area was filled with dead and injured people who were piled up on top of each other.

“I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I just tossed and turned,” Favela said.

Las Vegas post-massacre

She and her husband hunkered down early today in their room, still in shock as they listened to the constant news coverage of the shooting attacks.

After listening to other witness accounts, she said, “We were very lucky.”

As of 1 p.m. (MT) today, authorities in Las Vegas reported that 58 people were confirmed dead and about 515 others were injured.

Officials said they do not know what motivated Paddock to fatally shoot people, and said he used at least one or more assault weapons for the attack. Officials said he shot himself to death in his hotel room before officers could arrest him.

He was described as a white male, divorced, who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. His mother and a brother live in Orlando, Florida.

Video of hotel lock-down Las Vegas hotel lockdown 


* Prepare for the unexpected. 
* Notify family, friends of travel plans, where and how long you expect to be gone.
* Keep smartphone battery charged when away from hotel, vehicle.
* In case you survive an attack or natural catastrophe, use social media to notify of your status, where you are, what hospital you're in, who else is with you, etc.
* When possible, help others around you to also notify their contacts.
* Make note of details in case law enforcement wants to interview you later.
* Consider professional counseling after witnessing or living through a traumatic event.