Attorney Brian Claypool recalls surviving Las Vegas massacre

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Attorney Brian Claypool was in Las Vegas celebrating his birthday over the weekend and was only supposed to attend the country music festival Saturday. 

But Sunday afternoon, looking out of his 24th floor room at the Mandalay Bay, eight floors below where the shooter would later open fire, he noticed the beauty of Vegas, and decided to stay Sunday night. He changed his 7:55 p.m. flight to Monday.

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Who knew that that decision to stay would turn into a series of life and death decisions?

Claypool, who is Dalia Dippolito’s attorney, was in the VIP section at the concert’s last act, Jason Aldean.

“He cupped his guitar under his right arm and sprinted off stage. When I knew something was wrong,” he told me over the phone Tuesday from Pasadena, California, where he lives.

This was the first moment Claypool thought he was going to die.

“I felt the strength of the bullets. Like you could feel it. So close. So, when I was laying there, I was ready to give in, I was just like, man what’s like to get hit by a bullet?  I’m like, what’s this going to feel like.  I was waiting for it,” he said.

At this point, with bullets flying, Claypool took shelter inside a production room, with others, including a group of girls in their 20s.

“Most people thought the shooter was in the venue. We didn’t know,” he said. “It’s the most helpless feeling in the world.”

It was the second time he thought he was going to die, but then a break in the 9 minutes of shooting. 

“Run north now,” a police officer told them, he recalls.

They ran into a bottle neck of people. The third time.

“We had to go one by one to get out. The one thing really…I have guilt now because I didn’t do enough, you know?  To help those that were shot.  Help the girls. Did I do enough?”

Refuge still hours away.

“That is what people don’t get. Four and a half hours,” until the threat was realized over.

 Two hotels he ran into both had reported shooters.

“Emotional torture. It was Russian roulette. Every move you made could have made the difference between life and death.  That’s what I am going to remember most about this. Every move.  Do I take a right?  Do I go left? Do I go to that direction? Somebody was killed 20 feet in front of us in the general admission area, right?  What if I had gone, that’s what I remember the most, the what if’s. What if I was there, what if I was there, what if I had did that and then panic. Just the utter panic that I saw on the faces of everybody that makes me feel bad that I might not had done enough.”

“You have this inner conflict. I’ve got to live, to survive to see my (11-year-old) daughter.  Think about it, I wasn’t even supposed to be there Sunday night. So, imagine I’m going to die…I’m going to die when I shouldn’t had been there. That’s how my daughter is going to remember me.”

“No question about it, I am going to need a mental health intervention. There’s just no question. I will need help. I keep crying.  I’m crying off and on all day. The guilt part.”

He added that law enforcement did an excellent job.

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