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Thief River Falls man was floors below Las Vegas shooter as gunshots broke out

Jake Weber, general manager of Thief River Falls Radio (Submitted Photo)

Jake Weber was floors below Stephen Paddock when the shooter began to unleash a barrage of bullets on the Las Vegas Strip.

Like others, the general manager of Thief River Falls Radio thought the constant stream of pops were from fireworks being ignited at the Route 91 Harvest Festival as Jason Aldean wrapped up his concert. But the popping sounds kept going and going.

"After 30 seconds, it was pretty obvious that they weren't fireworks," Weber said. "But at that point, it was still not obvious where they were coming from. I was almost directly below him."

Weber was covering the three-day country music event when the Las Vegas shooting broke out Sunday night. Investigators say Paddock positioned himself in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino before his gunfire killed at least 58 people and injured more than 500.

Weber said he had returned Sunday night to his room on the 10th floor of the Mandalay Bay to retrieve batteries for recording the Aldean concert.

"When I got outside, you could see all of the police cars, sirens going, people screaming and running," he said, adding the popping sound was nonstop. "Then it just got really crazy."

He described mass confusion and a feeling of disorientation. He eventually was ushered with a group of people to the Michael Jackson Theater, where 800 people already had taken cover. He would spend 4½ hours in the theater with 1,000 people before he was allowed to leave.

He and his media team, who were at the staging area when the gunshots began, all found each other unharmed. There still was a heavy law enforcement presence along the Strip as of Monday afternoon, but the usually packed streets and sidewalks were closed and empty, he said.

Weber said the shooting made him realize something like what happened in Las Vegas can happen to any event.

"What happened last night has completely changed our state of security or feelings of being secure at any place or anytime," he said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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