ShareThis Page

'The forgotten ones' Vegas security guards helped save lives

| Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, 11:29 a.m.
Jay Purves, the vice president of Contemporary Services Corporation, or CSC, Las Vegas branch, walks among concert goers on his first day back at a large event since he worked during last Sunday's mass shooting Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Purves and his colleagues at a private security firm manning the Route 91 Harvest music festival Sunday night in Las Vegas were a force of 200 unarmed first responders who helped people exit amid the panic. Despite the fresh trauma and losing one of their own, many of the company's guards are returning to work events for the first time again this weekend.
Jay Purves, the vice president of Contemporary Services Corporation, or CSC, Las Vegas branch, walks among concert goers on his first day back at a large event since he worked during last Sunday's mass shooting Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Purves and his colleagues at a private security firm manning the Route 91 Harvest music festival Sunday night in Las Vegas were a force of 200 unarmed first responders who helped people exit amid the panic. Despite the fresh trauma and losing one of their own, many of the company's guards are returning to work events for the first time again this weekend.
Security guard Jose Sanchez checks concert goers on his first day back at a large event since he worked during last Sunday's mass shooting Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Security guard Jose Sanchez checks concert goers on his first day back at a large event since he worked during last Sunday's mass shooting Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of security guard Erick Silva, who was killed in the mass shooting, reaches out to Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's shooting at a music festival, as he arrives to the Silva house, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas. Silva was among the dozens of people killed in the attack. Bachman and another guard were injured.
Angelica Silva, the mother of security guard Erick Silva, who was killed in the mass shooting, reaches out to Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's shooting at a music festival, as he arrives to the Silva house, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas. Silva was among the dozens of people killed in the attack. Bachman and another guard were injured.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva, leads Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's mass shooting, past a candle-lit memorial with photos of Erick and flowers to honor him at his home Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva, leads Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's mass shooting, past a candle-lit memorial with photos of Erick and flowers to honor him at his home Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva, hugs Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's mass shooting, at Silva's house Friday, Oct. 6, 2017,  in Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva, hugs Jeff Bachman, a fellow security guard who was shot in the leg during last Sunday's mass shooting, at Silva's house Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva sits in front of a candle-lit memorial with photos of Erick and flowers to honor her son during a meal for friends and family at their home Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Angelica Silva, the mother of mass shooting victim and security guard Erick Silva sits in front of a candle-lit memorial with photos of Erick and flowers to honor her son during a meal for friends and family at their home Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Photographs of security guard Erick Silva surround a candle-lit memorial to honor him in the front of his home as family and friends have a meal Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas. Silva was among the dozens of people killed in Sunday's mass shooting at a country music festival.
Photographs of security guard Erick Silva surround a candle-lit memorial to honor him in the front of his home as family and friends have a meal Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Las Vegas. Silva was among the dozens of people killed in Sunday's mass shooting at a country music festival.
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 file photo, police officers stand along the Las Vegas Strip near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino during a shooting at a country music festival, in Las Vegas.
FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017 file photo, police officers stand along the Las Vegas Strip near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino during a shooting at a country music festival, in Las Vegas.
This undated file photo shows Erick Silva, one of the people killed in Las Vegas after a gunman opened fire on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at a country music festival.
This undated file photo shows Erick Silva, one of the people killed in Las Vegas after a gunman opened fire on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at a country music festival.

LAS VEGAS — When Air Force veteran Jay Purves first heard the pop-pop-pop at the Las Vegas country music festival, he knew immediately it was gunfire.

Purves was among a force of 200 unarmed private security guards manning the Route 91 Harvest festival Sunday night who jumped into action — lifting people over barriers, hiding them behind pillars and under the stage, and funneling them to exits amid the panic.

One of the Contemporary Services Corporation guards died and two were wounded when a gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel casino opened fire on the outdoor festival, killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500 others.

Now, despite the fresh trauma and losing one of their own, many of the company's guards — “the yellow shirts,” Purves calls them — are returning to work security this weekend at major events in Las Vegas, where they will once again be keeping a watchful eye as they stand among throngs of people.

Supervisor Cheryl Metzler put on her uniform Friday to work a UFC weigh-in, her first event since the shooting. She was anxious but stayed composed until it came time to thank other CSC guards who came in from out of state to help.

“I kind of broke down a little bit,” she said.

Purves, the vice president of CSC's Las Vegas branch, said private security guards are not always taken seriously because they aren't law enforcement.

“We're the ones often in the background, in the shadows, but we were actually the ones right there in the thick of it all,” he said.

The staff was already unsettled before the shooting because a drunken attendee had punched one of their guards in the face Saturday.

Metzler was working Sunday in a command center that resembles a shipping container, watching the concert on seven large surveillance monitors, when someone called to ask if there were supposed to be pyrotechnics at the show.

“We thought fireworks,” she said of the popping sound. “But then it kept going.”

As people began to flee, the guards fanned out across the venue, coaxing shell-shocked concertgoers too frightened to move to head to a safer spot.

Early in the chaos, Purves got a call on his radio: “Erick's been hit and is down,” referring to 21-year-old employee Erick Silva.

Silva, assigned to the front of the stage, off to the side where the soundboard was kept, was shot in the head while helping people climb over a barricade.

Purves started running to him. On the way, he got another call on the radio. A second guard, Jeff Bachman, who was moving Silva away from the stampeding crowd, was shot in the leg.

As the gunfire continued, Purves and the other guards got hold of a bicycle rack, flipped it on its side and used it as a gurney to carry Silva, who was gasping for air. They carried him out to emergency responders before running back in to continue the evacuation of 22,000 people.

“It was complete carnage and chaos,” Purves said.

Metzler and others were trapped inside the command post, watching the screens in horror as more shots rang out.

“What I had seen on those TVs — no one should ever see in their life. But I wish everybody could have seen what I'd seen with our people,” she said. “Our people, they didn't run.”

Another guard, Daniel Rascon, was shot in the arm while trying to get people in wheelchairs off a ramp.

“It was hard, seeing my people out there, not being able to help them,” Metzler said. “But then they knew I was in there and they would call me on the radio and I was trying to comfort them.”

The guards are still shaken, Purves said.

Purves credits police, firefighters and other first responders with helping save lives Sunday. But the private security guards, “they're the forgotten ones,” he said.

“These are working men and women who make 10, 11, 12 bucks an hour, who are in the thick of everything and have to deal with intoxication, evictions, fake tickets, complaints that the beer is too hot and the hot dogs too cold,” Purves said. “The yellow shirts are the ones people go to for help.”

Silva, who worked for CSC for three years and dreamed of becoming a police officer, will be buried Thursday.

The company is offering counseling to its employees and helping Silva's family with the funeral.

Some guards are taking a break to deal with the trauma.

But others, like Metzler, wanted to be back on the job. She considers her co-workers family.

“I want to be with my people to talk about it. If I'm just sitting home, I'm watching the TV and I don't turn it off,” she said. “So this is the best therapy and the biggest reason I wanted to come back.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.