LAS VEGAS – One was a nurse who died protecting his wife. Another devoted her life to teaching children with special needs. They were people from different walks of life who had gathered to enjoy a country music festival in the glimmering heart of the Las Vegas Strip.
A shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday night left at least 59 people dead and more than 527 injured, making it the deadliest shooting in modern American history.
Here are some of their stories.
Sonny Melton, 29, a registered nurse from Tennessee, was shot and killed in Las Vegas on Sunday night, according to his place of employment, Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee.
His wife, Heather Melton, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Innovative Orthopedics, survived the mass shooting, the statement reads.
In an interview with CNN affiliate WSMV, Heather Melton said her husband saved her life amid the gunfire.
“He saved my life. He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back,” she said. “I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted, loving man he was, but at this point, I can barely breathe.”
Sonny Melton graduated from Union University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Accelerated degree and was president of his BSNA class, according to the university.
“You know how when you met someone and you just know that they’re good and kind? That was Sonny,” said Christy Davis, assistant professor of nursing at Union. “He just had a sweet, kind spirit about him.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam tweeted that he was praying for those affected by the shooting, including Melton’s family.
“In particular, Crissy and I extend our condolences and prayers to the family of Sonny Melton from West Tennessee who was among those killed in this tragedy,” Haslam said. “We know other Tennesseans were in attendance or performing at the event, and my thoughts go out to them as we grieve and process the enormity of this attack. Tennessee stands with Las Vegas during this difficult time.”
Rachael Parker, a 33-year-old records technician for the police department in Manhattan Beach, California, was shot in Las Vegas and later died at the hospital, Manhattan Beach Police Department said.
Parker had been employed with the police for 10 years, and “will be greatly missed,” the department said.
She was one of four Manhattan Beach police employees who were off-duty and attended the country music concert in Las Vegas where the shooting occurred. Another police employee, a sworn officer, was shot and suffered minor injuries, the department said.
Angela “Angie” Gomez, who died in the shooting, was a “fun-loving, sweet young lady with a great sense of humor” who loved the stage, the Riverside Unified School District said in a statement.
Gomez attended Riverside Polytechnic High School in California and was a member of the class of 2015. She acted on stage with the Riverside Children’s Theater, was involved in the middle and high school choir, and was a cheerleader for the high school, the school district said.
She challenged herself academically with honors and Advanced Placement courses, the school district said. And she “was always seen with a smile on her face whenever she was on campus.”
“Angie was a loyal friend who loved her family and will be forever missed by all those who knew her,” the district said.
Her English teacher and cheer coach Lupe Avila said the school was “deeply saddened by the loss of a wonderful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her.”
Sandra Casey, a special education teacher at Manhattan Beach Middle School, was fatally wounded in the shooting, according to Mike Matthews, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent.
Casey had taught there for the past nine years and will be remembered for her sense of humor, passion for her work, devotion to her students, and her commitment to continuing her own learning and to taking on whatever new projects came her way, Matthews said.
“Our students, employees, and parents are devastated by Sandy Casey’s death. We lost a spectacular teacher who devoted her life to helping some of our most needy students,” Matthews said.
Several other members of the Manhattan Beach Unified School district attended the music festival as well but were unharmed, the school district said.
Jenny Parks, a kindergarten teacher for the Lancaster School District in California, was killed in the Vegas shooting, according to Steven McCarthy, her husband’s uncle.
“She was truly one of the most loving people you could ever hope to meet,” McCarthy said. “She always went out of her way to help anybody.”
He said that he never saw her upset, and never saw her sad.
Her husband, Bobby Parks, is currently in surgery after the bullet injured his arm and finger, McCarthy said. He said that Bobby Parks is responsive and aware that his wife passed away.
Jenny Parks has two brothers who lived in Las Vegas, and the couple was visiting them.
Neysa Tonks, a Las Vegas resident and mother of three, lost her life in the Las Vegas shooting, her employer Technologent confirmed. Tonks leaves behind three sons — Kaden, Braxton and Greysen.
“Neysa has brought so much joy, fun and laughter to Technologent — she will be greatly missed by all!”
Technologent has established a GoFundMe page on behalf of Neysa’s family. The effort has already raised more than $60,000.
Susan Smith, a 53-year-old mother who was the office manager for Vista Elementary School in California, was killed in the shooting, according to Jake Finch, the Simi Valley Unified School District’s media relations coordinator.
Smith, who had been with the school district for 16 years, was a “big country music fan” and had gone to Las Vegas with a couple of friends for the music festival, Finch said.
She was “always so welcoming,” Finch said, and served as the “right hand to the principal.”
Smith was married with two young-adult children, Finch said. Her own kids were once a part of the school district and she was very active as a parent, Finch said.
“Everybody knew her,” he added. “She touched a lot of lives.”
The PTA at Vista Fundamental Elementary School posted condolences for Smith on Facebook, saying “she was a wonderful woman, an advocate for our children, and a friend.”
Smith’s daughter, Mallorie Burditus, also posted a message on Facebook thanking everyone for their “thoughts and prayers, messages and calls,” and added that her “family appreciates everyone’s kind words during this extremely difficult time.”
Lisa Romero-Muniz, a secretary for Gallup-McKinley County Schools in western New Mexico, was killed in the shooting, school district superintendent Mike Hyatt said.
She had worked for the school district since 2003 at three different schools and specifically worked as a discipline secretary, acting as an advocate for students during times of discipline.
“As many students have mentioned in some Facebook posts and to many of us, she was there for them and she respected them and tried to work with them as much as she could,” Hyatt said.
He said Romero-Muniz was outgoing, kind, and considerate of all those she worked with.
“We cannot express enough the loss that our organization feels at this time, and the heartache we feel for Lisa’s husband, children, grandchildren and family,” Hyatt said.
Rhonda LeRocque of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was one of the victims in the shooting, her family said.
Her mother, Priscilla Champagne, told CNN that LeRocque was a “beautiful woman inside and out.”
“A truly great mother, daughter, wife, aunt, sister, worker, and a good, kindhearted friend. She had a great faith in Jehovah God, and had a wonderful family life. She loved Hawaii, Disney, and country music.” she said.
“She was the best of the best. She was the hostess with the mostess … the glue who kept our family gatherings together. She will be greatly missed by us all.”
Her sister, Korina Champagne, said in a Facebook post on Monday that her heart was broken.
“My Beautiful Sister Rhonda LeRocque lost her life in the Las Vegas mass shooting,” Korina Champagne posted. “My heart is broken, I’m numb, I feel paralyzed. This doesn’t seem real. All I can do is turn to God’s Word for comfort, just as she would want me to. May she rest now until her name is called and she is awakened in paradise.”
She added a Bible passage to the end of her Facebook post, “Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”