OCSD deputies recount terror in Las Vegas: 'I had never felt that close to death before'

By Greg Hardesty

The first thing he noticed, after the shots rang out, was a man on his back, about 10 feet to his right.

Like most of the other 22,000 attendees of the outdoor country music festival, when headliner Jason Aldean was on the fourth song of his set Sunday night, Brandon Mundy had been awash in good vibes.

Before Aldean had taken the stage as the final performer on day three of the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Las Vegas Strip, the penultimate act — the duo Big & Rich — had whipped the crowd into a patriotic frenzy with a sing-along to “God Bless America.”

Recalled Mundy: “Everyone was on a huge high, singing together, waving around their phones that were all lit up.”

Then, at 10:10 p.m. Oct. 1, the pitch-black horror began to unfold.

At first, the shots sounded to Mundy to be coming from far away.

“I see the man on his back and my natural instinct is to think, ‘What’s wrong with him?’” said Mundy, an off-duty Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputy dressed for the concert in dark-grey jeans, a black cowboy hat, black leather boots and a tank top with black-and-white stars and stripes.

“I’m thinking maybe he got punched or he got too drunk and fell. So I go over to look at him, and I see he has two bullet holes in his neck, and he’s bleeding.”

Mundy didn’t know it at the time, but nearby him in the throng, about 30 feet from the stage, was his buddy from the OCSD, Deputy Garrett Eggert.

They had been at the concert all three days without bumping into each other.

Soon, they were shocked to bump into each other behind a Las Vegas Metropolitan PD vehicle during what would turn out to be the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

A picture of the two off-duty OCSD deputies and two LVMPD officers taking cover behind the patrol car while holding a perimeter has gone viral as coverage of the Las Vegas massacre continues to dominate the news.

Thursday, Oct. 5, Mundy and Eggert shared their stories about that horrific night, when 58 concertgoers were killed by a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort and casino.

“There’s always going to be that feeling,” said Mundy, who went to the concert with his girlfriend, his little sister and a family friend, “that I didn’t do enough.”

Deputy Mundy is crouching shirtless on the left, talking on a cell phone, and Deputy Eggert is on the ground on the right. Sky News Photo

***

Mundy rushed to the man on his back. He took off his tank top, balled it up and used both hands to apply pressure to the man’s neck. The man’s face was turning blue.

Another man appeared.

“Hey, I’m a medic. I’m going to start CPR.”

“Let me know when you get tired,” Mundy told the medic, “and I’ll take over.”

Just then, the medic slumped over.

“What’s wrong?” Mundy asked him.

“I got hit! I got hit! I got hit!”

The sickening realization hit Mundy:

Active shooter. Two men down next to me.

Mundy yelled at his friend to get his little sister and girlfriend out of the concert area.

As the panicked crowd began to thin, Mundy realized he had no cover.

Shots still were going off in bursts of 30 to 40 rounds, followed by pauses.

Mundy realized that during the pauses, the gunman was reloading.

“I knew I had to find cover myself or I wouldn’t be able to help anyone else.”

He ran about 30 feet toward an exit, and then hit the ground.

“I started ‘Army crawling,’” Mundy said. “I’m seeing people not moving as I’m crawling and then I realize, ‘They’ve been shot.’ There was blood everywhere.”

At first, Eggert thought the sound of loud cracks of gunfire was the sound of the huge speakers malfunctioning.

He looked to his left and saw people screaming for a paramedic, and then he saw a man on the ground bleeding from his neck — the same man, it appears, to which Mundy rendered aid.

He heard the music stop and saw Aldean being rushed offstage.

The stage went dark, and then it went light again.

Eggert was with his girlfriend and her female friend. He told them to stay down.

They were packed shoulder to shoulder with others.

“I could hear the bullets hitting around me,” Eggert said. “I could see people getting hit all around.”

Fearing a stampede, Eggert recalled a lesson from a video he saw during his academy days: Don’t step over people. Find a safe exit route rather than climb over people.

He eventually escaped the venue through a service entrance. He told his girlfriend and her friend where to safely run, and they did.

Off-duty OCSD Deputy Brandon Mundy with his girlfriend at the Las Vegas country music festival. Photo courtesy of Brandon Mundy

Eggert stayed behind.

“I don’t know what made me stay,” he said. “I had no plan.”

***

Eggert and Mundy soon found themselves behind the patrol car, watching people stream out of two exits from the concert area. They wanted to make sure the gunman or gunmen weren’t among the people leaving.

Mundy had taken off his cowboy boots because they were making him slip.

Wearing only jeans and socks, he recognized his colleague.

“Eggert? Hey dude, you safe, you OK? Your friends safe?”

Both had identified themselves as off-duty OCSD deputies to the LVMPD officers. One of them gave Eggert a shotgun after giving him a quick briefing.

“At this point,“ Eggert recalled, “I remember him telling me the shooter was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay.”

Eggert went prone at the rear left of the vehicle — the position he is in when the picture was taken.

In the photo, a shirtless Mundy can be seen kneeling and talking on a cell phone by the left front wheel.

Mundy’s girlfriend’s father, an Anaheim PD officer, called Mundy to tell him she was safe, along with his younger sister and family friend, inside the Tropicana.

For about 30 minutes, Mundy and Eggert helped the LVMPD officers hold the perimeter while they shielded themselves behind the car.

Several times, Mundy ventured away from the car to help fleeing concertgoers.

He had asked the LVMPD officers for a weapon, but they didn’t have one to give him.

“It was a naked feeling,” he said. “All of this (chaos) was going on, and I thought if I encountered (the shooter), what could I do?”

At one point, Mundy and another man helped carry to safety a woman who had gotten trampled and had injured her leg.

Brandon Mundy with a family friend, Gregory Copplin, at the music festival. Photo courtesy of Brandon Mundy

“Everywhere, I saw people being carried away on tables and in wheelbarrows and on the barriers that had been used as fencing,” Mundy said.

“I’m freaking out on the inside, but I knew I had to step out of myself and think, ‘How can I help these people?’” he said.

Mundy had to repeatedly identify himself to concertgoers that he was an off-duty deputy. Many people remain frozen in shock, unable to process what was going on.

“The area still wasn’t safe,” Mundy recalled. “I saw people lingering around to hug friends and loved ones who I could see were dead. I had to urge them to leave.”

Mundy eventually made it to the safety of the Tropicana, where he assisted other law enforcement officers in hand-searching people making their way into two large rooms.

A man gave him shoes to wear – Nikes, size 12.

Inside one room, his girlfriend and sister saw him. It had been about five hours since they had been separated. His family friend, who is in the U.S. Army, had stayed behind to help concertgoers.

Mundy’s girlfriend had blood on her jeans jacket, top and boots.

“At first I thought she might have been shot,” he said.

It was someone else’s blood.

OCSD Deputy Garrett Eggert with his girlfriend. Photo taken Sunday, Oct. 1. Photo courtesy of Garrett Eggert

***

After the gunfire stopped, Eggert joined four EMTs and five police officers to scour the concert grounds to make sure it was clear. He wore a yellow traffic vest that identified him as an officer. He carried a shotgun.

It was eerily empty.

Then he saw the bodies by the right side of the stage where he had been standing — more than a dozen.

Many had been covered in blankets and tarps.

The EMTs lifted the blankets and tarps to confirm the people under them were dead.

“It hit me then that that was exactly where I had been standing,” Eggert said. “When the gunfire was going off, I thought it was only a matter of time until I would get hit. It was miraculous I didn’t.”

Mundy made it to his hotel sometime around 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2.

“I sat on the end of the bed and stared into space, trying to figure out what had just happened,” he said. “I had never seen anything like that before.

“In training, they prepare you for stuff like this. You see videos or stuff on the news about a terrorist attack, but it’s a lot different from witnessing it first hand.

“I had never felt that close to death before.”

Mundy figures he slept for two hours.

Brandon Mundy with his girlfriend. Photo courtesy of Brandon Mundy

***

Four days on, the deputies still are processing what they did and saw.

Mundy was asked how he’s doing.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know,” he said.

He returned to work Tuesday. He said he knew if he stayed at home, he would constantly replay what happened.

Other than going to lunch with a friend, and going to work, he’s remained at home.

“Sleep is starting to get a little better,” he said.

Eggert said he woke up in a panic Tuesday night and is afraid to sleep out of fear it will happen again.

“That freaked me out,” he said of the panic attack.

Eggert had gone to the country festival to celebrate his birthday.

He has been a deputy for almost a year.

Mundy, 27, is approaching his second year as a deputy.

Both said they will reach out to OCSD peer support professionals to help get them through the next several days — weeks, maybe — as they move to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives.

Mundy isn’t 100-percent certain, but he believes the man who was shot in the neck that he tried to save was Brennan Stewart. He said he recognized Stewart’s face from published photos of the 58 victims.

Mundy and Eggert wish they could have saved more people.

Brandon Mundy with his sister, Arika Mundy. Photo courtesy of Brandon Mundy

“Several times,” Mundy said, “I felt helpless. I tried to save (the man shot in the neck), but I couldn’t do anything.”

Eggert said the hardest thing was not being able to help people asking for medical attention while the whereabouts of the shooter still was unknown.

“For them to ask me for help, and me not being able to help them, and for them not to be able to understand why I couldn’t help them, that was pretty difficult for me to digest,” he said.

“I felt terrible, but I knew I had to stay there with the officers and make sure there weren’t additional casualties.”

As a former CSO (community service officer) for the OCSD, Eggert has seen a lot of disturbing things, such as victims of fatal car accidents.

“But this time, it was so horrific – it was a massacre.”

Both deputies take comfort in the acts of selflessness they saw Sunday night and into Monday morning — and not just from first responders.

“There were a lot of people with no training who stayed back to help people,” Eggert said.

“And especially in the climate we’re living in now,” Mundy added, “that was awesome to see. This was such a such a tragic situation, but seeing that gives me hope.

“Seeing that makes me realize that good is triumphing over evil.”

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC