What began as a weekend trip to Las Vegas to take in a country music festival turned into a harrowing experience for Jon Hoese.
Hoese, who played fullback for the Gophers from 2007 to ’10, attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival with friends on Sunday night and was at the Jason Aldean concert near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino when the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history broke out.
At least 58 people were killed and 515 injured when Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., began firing an automatic weapon from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, across South Las Vegas Blvd. from the concert site.
“Honestly, it doesn’t even feel real yet,’’ said Hoese, who grew up on a farm near Glencoe but lives in Golden Valley. “It’s kind of really setting in how extreme this was.’’
Hoese said a man 10 to 15 feet in front of him was shot and a woman 10 to 15 feet behind him was struck in the arm. He was told the woman was taken to a hospital and was fine, but he didn’t have an update on the man.
“At first, we kind of heard this noise, and we assumed because it was toward the end of [Aldean’s concert] that it was fireworks or something like that,’’ said Hoese, who was toward the left side of the stage. “Then people were saying it was a shooter.’’
Hoese and his group of about 10 people took off toward a temporary building set up for the concert, which drew approximately 22,000 on Sunday.
“When we went to that temporary building, we knelt down on the ground, but there was a door to the back and people started funneling out that. At that point, we got out of there, too, and took off running down to another hotel. … No one really knew what was going on. We thought there were multiple shooters.’’
Authorities had people wait for a couple of hours, Hoese said, before they could leave the area.
“There was a guy who came in there who got shot in the arm,’’ Hoese said. “… He was saying he was fine, but he need to get that [wound] addressed.’’
Hoese, who was staying at the Luxor, which is adjacent to Mandalay Bay, eventually had a friend of friends who lived about 20 minutes away off the Strip pick them up. Monday morning, he returned to the Strip.
“It was about what you’d expect – everything locked down – ramps closed and minimal traffic on the Strip,’’ said Hoese, who rushed for 161 yards and six touchdowns in his Gophers career and spent time with the Green Bay Packers in 2011 and '12.
Hoese, who works as a loan officer in Cologne, Minn., had a Monday afternoon flight to return to the Twin Cities.
“We’re ready to get back,’’ he said.