Remembering the 59 Slain Victims of the Las Vegas Concert Massacre, 3 Years Later
Three years ago, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history claimed 58 innocent lives, with an additional victim dying two years after the attack
They came to the Las Vegas strip expecting a fun evening to cap off a fun weekend: The Route 91 Harvest Festival, an outdoor country music event, was at the end of its third day and Jason Aldean was performing the closing set — then bullets began slicing through the air.
Police said 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire that Sunday night on the crowd of more than 22,000 from his 32nd-floor hotel room at the nearby Mandalay Bay casino, where he had been staying for several days.
In total, 59 people were killed in the shooting and more than 700 others were injured, either by gunfire or in the ensuing chaos. (Paddock shot himself as authorities closed in.)
Wednesday marks the three-year anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Here is a look back at the slain victims — their hopes and dreams, how they were remembered by loved ones — based on PEOPLE's reporting and other news articles in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
A high school secretary in Gallup, New Mexico, Romero was a “happy-go-lucky person,” her cousin Ashley told the Huffington Post.
“She loved her kids and husband. And for this to happen so senselessly. It’s a heartbreaking day for us all,” Ashley said.
Romero was beloved at Miyamura High School, Louise Leslie, whose 14-year-old great-granddaughter attended the school, told the Washington Post.
“She was always telling my granddaughter to stay out of trouble and get somewhere and do the right thing — she was a good friend of hers," Leslie said, adding that on the following Monday at school "everyone was crying."
Melton, a 29-year-old registered nurse from Big Sandy, Tennessee, reportedly saved his wife's life before he was killed.
“He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back," his wife, Dr. Heather Gulish Melton, reportedly told local radio station WZTV. "I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”
Heather and Sonny worked together at Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee.
“At this point, I’m in complete disbelief and despair,” she said. "I don’t know what to say. ... He saved my life and lost his.”
McIlldoon, a resident of British Columbia, Canada, died in the arms of a festival worker.
Heather Gooze, a bartender at the festival, was holding McIlldoon's hand when his mother called. She picked up the phone and learned his name, and also learned that his girlfriend Amber, was also at the festival.
Gooze got in touch with Amber, who was heartbroken to hear that McIlldoon didn't make it.
“No, that can’t be true,” Amber said. “He’s the love of my life.”
Hatfield was an off-duty police officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and a military veteran — as well as a dedicated youth football coach.
“He was a great guy,” friend Moe Tuinei-Fiaseu told PEOPLE. “He was a great father, coach, friend and really loved his Henderson Cowboys boys," adding he was "like a father" to his players.
In July he published a memoir called “Memoirs of A Public Service,” about his personal interactions being a police officer in Las Vegas.
Troy Rhett, a close friend of Hartfield’s, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he sent him a text message late Sunday night, “hoping he would text me back.”
“I figured he was probably busy helping others,” said Rhett. “I don’t know a better man than Charles. They say it’s always the good ones we lose early. There’s no truer statement than that with Charles."
Parker, a civilian employee of the Manhattan Beach Police Department in California, attended the concert with some of her colleagues.
The 33-year-old was shot and taken to a local hospital, where she died from her injuries. One other member of her group was shot but survived, department spokesperson Officer Kristie Colombo told PEOPLE.
Parker, a Police Records Technician, was with the department for 10 years.
"We're just in shock," Colombo said. "We all just feel like we're in a daze, it's heartbreaking and surreal that this happened. So many people in so many places across the U.S either know somebody that was there and witnessed this or was injured or lost their life. It's tragic."
Parks, a mother of two, attended the concert with her husband, Bobby. Bobby was shot in the arm and survived, but Jenny was killed.
“They were high school sweethearts,” said Bobby’s uncle, Dr. Steven McCarthy. “When we met Jenny we all fall in love with her."
Jenny, who just got her masters in education in May, was teaching elementary school in Lancaster, California, where she lived with her husband and two children. Their oldest, Bryce, had just started high school and Lea was in elementary school.
Said McCarthy, "They were the perfect family."
Leah Nagyivanyi told PEOPLE that Phippen, her longtime friend, was killed Sunday night while dancing alongside his son, Travis, who is an EMT.
Travis, who was also shot but survived, tried to save his dad, but couldn’t.
“John was a great example of what a good man and a good person is,” Nagyivanyi said. “He was the last person who should have left this Earth. He was the kind of guy who always had your back and always made sure you had a beer in your hand.”
John leaves six children behind. “Now, he will be everyone’s angel,” Nagyivanyi said.
Murfitt, 35, a commercial fisherman born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, loved country music.
"He was a big country music fan and he would always walk around singing country songs and he had a beautiful voice," his sister, Shannon Gothard, told PEOPLE. "He decided to treat himself for a good [fishing] season with a trip to Las Vegas and the concert."
A few weeks before the festival, Murfitt bought tickets for him and a friend, Brian MacKennon.
"His friends and family always came first. I mean, if he had 20 bucks, 10 of it was yours. He’s always like that. He goes so far out of his way to make other people happy," MacKennon said.
According to MacKennon, Murfitt was shot in the neck and died in his arms. His family says they are still in shock but are thankful their loved one was with a friend.
"I'm going to miss him every day, every minute," Gothard said. "I'm just glad he was there and had somebody there who loved him."
Smith was well known and loved in her community.
The 53-year-old had worked for the Simi Valley Unified School District for 16 years and was a member of the PTA while her two children were in school, according to school officials.
The last three years, Smith was office manager of Visty Elementary School, where she was "the center of the school," Jake Finch, district spokeswoman told PEOPLE.
"She was the one kids would go to when they're sick, she's helping to make sure all supplies are in place, all the schedules are set ... there are so many parts to her job," Finch said.
As her colleagues learned of her death, counselors were on hand to speak with both teachers and students, who made cards for her family and left flowers at her desk.
"It was a very somber day," Finch said. "No hugs were off limits.”
When she wasn't teaching at Manhattan Beach Middle School, Casey could be found out with friends, traveling with her fiancé or playing on her local women's soccer team.
"She was so positive," teammate Jenny Williamson-Pagan told PEOPLE. "She was in such a good place in her life."
Casey was a special education teacher at the California middle school for nine years and hailed from Vermont, Williamson-Pagan said.
She lived with her fiancé in Redondo Beach and loved being outside whether it be hiking or going to the beach. The couple traveled often, most recently to Scotland, Williams-Pagan said.
"[Casey] is loved by students and colleagues alike and will be remembered for her sense of humor, her passion for her work, her devotion to her students, and her commitment to continuing her own learning and to taking on whatever new projects came her way," Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Michael Matthews said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
Barnette was "beloved by her friends and colleagues" at Disneyland's California Adventure in Anaheim, California, according to Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who sent a company-wide email informing cast members of Barnette's death.
The 34-year-old, who was a native of Riverside, California, and a graduate of Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California, worked at Flo's V-8 Cafe in Cars Land.
"Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the tragic events in Las Vegas — the victims of violence, the witnesses, and the friends and families mourning loved ones," Iger said in his statement to employees.
"A loving sister daughter aunt and friend was taken away far too early during the Las Vegas massacre a family is never prepared for a tragedy like this," read a description with an online fundraiser to help pay for her funeral expenses.
Barnette's cousin, Janice Chambers, spoke with The Arizona Republic, describing her as the "life of the party."
"We are in shock and devastated. She was a beautiful soul," Chambers said. "She lived her life to the fullest, adored her family niece and new nephew. She was a beauty inside and out, loved life and making others smile. She was very adventurous, loved to travel. Heaven gained a beautiful angel."
Hannah Lassette Ahlers, 35, was a mother of three from Beaumont, Calif.
“She was a sweet soul who could light up a room the moment she walked in,” her family said in a statement.
Father-in-law Dave Ahlers told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Ahlers came to the festival with her husband Brian and three other couples, Dave said. She and Brian had three children, ages 3, 11 and 14.
Dave described Hannah as a “loving, caring and devoted mother,” and said she’d always make time to help family and friends in difficult times, describing her as a “young Mary Tyler Moore.”
Her friend, Sunni Almond, told the Los Angeles Times that she “was possibly one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, with a heart to match.”
Tonks was a mom of three boys, according to a GoFundMe page created in her honor.
Her former church counselor Tracy Downey described her to the Las Vegas Review-Journal as "a very nice woman who was full of life and energy."
According to the Los Angeles Times, she worked for Technologoent, a technology company based in Irvine, California.
A company employee wrote on the GoFundMe page that Tonks was "a great mother, colleague and friend."
THOMAS DAY JR.
A devoted father, 54-year-old Day Jr., attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival with all four of his adult children Sunday night.
"His kids are with me right now. They're crushed," Day's father, Thomas Day Sr., told the Los Angeles Times.
The elder Day told the Times he received a phone call around 11 p.m. Sunday night alerting him that his son was among those killed at the concert.
Day Jr. lived in Riverside, California, and worked as a home builder, according to the Orange County Register.
"He was the best dad," Day Sr. told the Times. "That's why his kids were with him."
Gardner, of Grand Terrace, California, traveled to the Harvest Festival with one of her daughters, her boss, Bob Dutton, told the Los Angeles Times.
Initially wounded in the gunfire, Gardner's daughter traveled with her mother in the ambulance to a local trauma center. Her colleagues learned of her death the following morning.
"You never think it's going to be someone you know until it is," Dutton told the Times.
Gardner worked under Dutton as deputy recorder-clerk in San Bernadino County, California, which was the site of another mass shooting in December 2015 that left 14 dead and 22 wounded.
"She was one of my go-to people," Dutton said. "If you needed advice or questions came up, she had the answer. She was my go-to person."
Dutton told the San Bernardino Sun that he was told Gardner was shot once in the chest and once in the arm.
"Everybody here is still in shock, Dutton told the Sun. "They're waiting for her to walk through the door."
The 34-year-old mother of four from northern Alberta, Canada, worked as an educational assistant, librarian and bus driver at a local Catholic school her kids attended.
"She leaves to mourn four children who all attend St. Stephen's and her new husband," Betty Turpin, superintendent of the Holy Family Catholic Regional Division, said in a message to trustees, per the CBC. "She has been an employee of HFCRD for four years. Please keep the staff and students of St. Stephen's and her family in your prayers."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Klymchuk was in Las Vegas with her new husband, Brent Irla, when gunfire broke out. A family friend told the outlet that Irla was by her side when she died Monday morning.
Rev. Abraham Joseph of St. Rita's Catholic Church told the CBC Klymchuk “was loved by the kids" and described her as a "lovely person" who was popular at the school.
"All the teachers were crying" in the staff room when they were told what happened, Joseph said.
He also told the CBC students gathered in the school gym the Monday after the shooting and were informed of the tragedy.
"It was really a shock to the kids,” he said.
Denise and Tony Burditus were sweethearts at Hedgesvill High School in Berkeley County, West Virginia. The couple married and started a family while Tony had a career in the Army.
Denise, a mom of two, was an avid Seattle Seahawks fan who seemed to dote on her four grandchildren in her social media photos.
After her death, Tony’s shared his grief on Facebook.
“It saddens me to say that I lost my wife of 32 years, a mother of two, soon to be grandmother of five this evening in the Las Vegas shooting,” Tony Burditus wrote. “Denise passed in my arms. I LOVE YOU BABE.”
The 20-year-old graduated from California's Riverside Poly High School in 2015, where she was remembered as a "fun-loving young lady with a great sense of humor," the school district wrote on its Facebook page while confirming her death.
"Angie was a hard-worker who always challenged herself academically, and after graduation she went on to attend classes at Riverside Community College. Angie was a loyal friend who loved her family and will be forever missed by all who knew her," the district also wrote in its post.
A friend started a GoFundMe page and said Gomez was part of the Poly Cheer Squad.
"She was a cheerful young lady with a warm heart and loving spirit. Angie's life was cut short when she succumbed to injuries sustained in the Las Vegas Route 91 shooting. This senseless act of violence has rocked our Poly Cheer and Song family."
JENNIFER TOPAZ IRVINE
A friend of the 42-year-old San Diego attorney wrote on Facebook that Irvine was “holding hands with her girlfriends singing and dancing to country music when she was shot in the head.”
The friend, Kyle Kraska, also told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Irving "was like a little sister. I just adore Jen."
In addition to owning her own law practice, Irvine reportedly earned a black belt in Taekwondo and her interests included yoga and snowboarding.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Thomas Slattery, a fellow attorney, wrote on his Facebook page: “My good friend, colleague, and business partner Jennifer Irvine was killed by a madman at the festival in Las Vegas. A tragic loss of a kind, generous, and beautiful lady. She will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Topaz.”
Roybal, a 29-year-old military veteran who served in Afghanistan, met his mom, Debby Allen, at the show but the two were on opposite sides of the stage when the gunfire began.
Allen — who was in Las Vegas to celebrate Roybal’s upcoming 29th birthday — arrived separately to the concert from her son because he had taken a nap.
When she arrived she texted to meet up. "Baby, where are you? Send me your location,” she wrote him, according to the New York Daily News. Allen never got a response and soon heard the gunfire.
“I was trying to run towards wherever I thought he might be,” she told the newspaper. “This man wouldn’t let me — he kept pulling me away saying, ‘You can’t run towards the gunfire.’”
A few hours later, she heard from her daughter that a firefighter — who was near Roybal — saw him fall to the ground after being shot.
"He said he rendered first aid but saw the life go out of my son," she said. "I feel like I'm living in a nightmare, I want to wake up so badly."
LeRocque was attending the Jason Aldean concert with her husband, father-in-law and young daughter when shots rang out, according to her family.
“She had a very gentle voice. When she spoke she spoke very gently, [never] angry,” relative Chrissy Welch told PEOPLE. “[Rhonda] always came through like an angel.”
Welch said LeRocque was celebrating her 21st wedding anniversary with a family trip to Las Vegas.
LeRocque worked for IDEO, a Cambridge design firm, and was a devout Jehovah’s Witness.
“She was very devoted to her family and her husband,” Welch said. “She always wanted to know how you were doing, what was going on, if there was anything she could help with.”
Robbins' aunt, Kilee Wells Sanders, also confirmed his death on Facebook: "With an incredibly heavy heart. My sweetest nephew has passed away. He was the most kind and loving soul. Everyone who met him, loved him. His contagious laugh and smile. He was truly an amazing person. He will be missed by so many, he is loved by so many."
The recent high school graduate worked with the city of Henderson as a lead recreational assistant, the Review-Journal reported.
Cousin Felicia Walker also set up a GoFundMe page in his honor, writing, "He had a beautiful soul filled with a radiating light. That light was shared with everyone he came in contact with. He had a this contagious laugh and a wonderful smile that he was always quick to give. He also was a man of many talents. He excelled at so much in life. Everyone who met him, loved him."
Colleagues of 20-year-old Schweitzer, who worked for Infinity Communications, placed a single candle on her reception desk after learning about her death, according to the Bakersfield Californian.
"She was everything to us," Amie Campbell, who hired Schweitzer, told the outlet.
Colleague and friend Katelynn Cleveland said Schweitzer was an avid country music fan who was looking forwards to attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival for weeks to hear Luke Combs play — and was already planning her 21st birthday bash in Vegas next April.
“Bailey was always the ray of sunshine in our office on a cloudy day,” said Infinity Communications Chief Executive Fred Brakeman told the Los Angeles Times. “No one could possibly have a bad day when Bailey was around.
ROCIO GUILLEN ROCHA
Her sons described Rocha, of Eastvale, California, as a “loving” woman “who did everything she could for anyone who needed help.”
The 40-year-old mother of 4 died in a hail of gunfire Sunday night during the concert massacre in Las Vegas. Her son, Marcus, 18, told PEOPLE Rocha was a “fighter” who spent a year learning to walk again after the birth of his little brother, Christopher, 13, left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Rocha, a runner who regularly completed half-marathons, also reveled in watching her sons’ basketball, football and baseball games and often called out the referees and umpired whenever she felt as if they botched a call.
AUSTIN COOPER MEYER
Meyer, from Marina, California, was celebrating his 24th birthday with his girlfriend in Las Vegas when he was shot and killed.
“Austin was attending the festival with his girlfriend, Dana, as a surprise celebrating his 24th birthday and upcoming anniversary,” his sister, Veronica, told TV station KSBW.
“[He] was a joy to be around,” Veronica added. “He always had a smile on his face, was [witty] and was always making people laugh. He was passionate about cars, loved sports, basketball in particular, and his favorite team [was] the Boston Celtics.”
Meyer had moved to Reno, Nevada, to study at Truckee Meadows Community College, according to KSBW. He was working at a Costco in Sparks, Nevada, according to a GoFundMe page set up by a coworker.
He was hoping to earn a degree in transportation technologies.
STACEE ANN ETCHEBER
Etcheber, a mom and hair stylist in Novato, California, was the wife of a San Francisco police officer.
“With heavy hearts, the San Francisco Police Department today mourns the passing of Stacee Etcheber,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said in a statement on Tuesday morning, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Stacee was taken in a senseless act of violence as her husband, SFPD Officer Vinnie Etcheber, heroically rushed to aid shooting victims in Las Vegas on Sunday.”
In the midst of the gunfire, Etcheber, 50, told her husband to run as he stayed behind to help the wounded. The next day, her brother-in-law Al Etcheber and some of his brother’s colleagues went to Las Vegas to search hospitals hoping they’d find her alive.
“Please pray for our family during this difficult time,” Al posted on Facebook. “She leaves behind two adoring beautiful children and an amazing husband.”
Galvan, 31, loved raising her three children.
“She lived and breathed being a mother,” a close friend told PEOPLE. “Her family is her entire world.”
Galvan attended the festival with her husband and friends, her sister Lindsey Poole wrote on a GoFundMe page launched to help pay for funeral expenses.
She left behind her three kid, ages 10, 4, and 2, as well as her husband, her sister and her parents.
“[They’re] just trying to pick up the pieces and take care of the kids as best they can,” the friend said.
A recent graduate of the University of Arizona, Duarte had just started her career in marketing landing her dream job with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.
Duarte, 22, was also a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority, an organization which shared a photo of her on Monday and asked anyone with information on her whereabouts to contact them. Sadly she was later confirmed to one the 58 killed Sunday.
A statement released by the University of Arizona on Tuesday to all students and alumni confirmed the news of her death and expressing their condolences.
“This attack is a terrible tragedy for hundreds of families, and it is a shocking and horrific event for all of us. I know I speak for the UA community in expressing our deepest condolences for Christiana’s family and in asking for their privacy to be respected,” the statement read.
She is survived by her family, which includes her father, L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Michael Duarte, and brother Mikey Duarte, a Chicago White Sox minor league baseball player.
A GoFundMe page for her family was created by a family friend, describing her as “a bright beautiful young woman, full of life and energy.”
JACK REGINALD BEATON
Beaton and his wife, Laurie, were celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary listening to live country music while drinking beers with their friends before bullets rained down on them.
The 54-year-old Bakersfield, California, native protected his wife by putting his own body on top of hers amidst the chaos of gunfire.
“He told me, ‘Get down, get down, get down,’ ” Laurie told the Associated Press. “He told me, ‘I love you, Laurie,’ and his arms were around me and his body just went heavy on me.”
Laurie opened up to the AP about her husband’s death with the purpose of wanting people to hear how he had protected her, just as he always had done. “I knew every day that he would protect me and take care of me and love me unconditionally, and what he did is no surprise to me, and he is my hero,” she said.
He is survived by his wife Laurie, son Jake and a daughter.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy paid tribute to Jack during a news conference. “Jack Beaton is a father of two and he was celebrating his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife. When the shots rang out, he jumped in front of his wife and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for the one he loved,” McCarthy said.
KURT ALLEN VON TILLOW
Von Tillow’s brother-in-law, Mark Carson, told told TV station KCRA, “My brother-in-law was the most patriotic person you’ve ever met.” Carson added, “Guarantee you, he was covered in red, white and blue, with a Coors Light in his hand, smiling with his family and listening to some music.”
Von Tillow, 55, was from Cameron Park, California, and friends and family remembered him at the Cameron Park Country Club — where he was a member — with a large procession of golf carts going from the club to his home, according to the news station.
“He loved to golf, loved his club, loved his family, loved his country,” Carson said. “He’ll be really missed.”
ANDREA LEE ANNA CASTILLA
The weeklong trip to Las Vegas to spend time with her boyfriend and visit her sister was a 28th birthday present to herself, but there was one thing still ahead that Castilla didn’t know about when a sniper’s bullet ended her life: Her boyfriend planned to propose marriage.
“He told me after she had passed,” her sister told PEOPLE of her conversation with Derek Miller.
Miller and Castilla had dated for seven months and lived together in Huntington Beach, California.
“[Miller] told me, ‘I was planning on asking her this weekend with you guys. … We talked about spending the rest of our lives together.’ ”
BRENNAN LEE STEWART
In a statement to PEOPLE, Stewart's family said the 30-year-old “was the kind of guy who always put others before himself; including up to the moment he lost his life, Brennan shielded his girlfriend and helped others to safety.
“Las Vegas was his hometown, his love for country music was shown through the songs that he wrote, and the music he played on his guitar. Brennan rarely missed an opportunity to attend a country concert.
“Brennan made close friends quickly; was loved and will be missed greatly by family and friends, but his memory will live on.”