LA VERNE, California, October 3, 2017 — When a gunman opened fire on the crowd that had come to watch Jason Aldean perform at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, several people with La Verne or Bonita High School connections were there in what has now become the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 others.
Among those Bearcats at the concert, Jordyn Rivera (’13) died, Michael Gracia (’11) and Jason Plowman (’09) were injured and Jason McClellan (’05) escaped without harm. Here’s some information gleaned from press releases and our LaVerneOnline interviews:
Jordyn Rivera, Bonita Class of 2013
Jordyn’s loss is being mourned by her parents, friends and her Bonita High School and Cal State San Bernardino families.
Cal State San Bernardino President Tomas Morales was given the heart-breaking task of informing the students on his campus that Jordyn died in the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
“This is a devastating loss for the entire CSUSB family,” he said. “In this time of grief, our thoughts and prayers are with Jordyn’s family, friends and all who knew her. I personally got a chance to know her when we spent time together last summer in London during the summer abroad program. As one of her faculty members noted, we will remember and treasure her for her warmth, optimism, energy, and kindness.”
After Bonita, Jordyn went on to excel in CSUSB’s Health Care Management program, where she was a fourth-year student. She was also a member of CSUSB’s chapter of Eta Sigma Gamma, the national health education honor society.
Her friend Mike Schrader created a GoFundMe page for Jordyn with the goal of raising money to assist the family. “Their daughter Jordyn just turned 21 years old a couple months ago and was at the Vegas concert when the shooting happened,” Schrader said. “She passed away so young and she had everything going for her.”
Michael Gracia, Bonita Class of 2011
Michael Gracia, Bonita class of 2011, was shot in the head during the shooting spree and underwent surgery on Monday, according to Sgt. Jeff Higbee of the Ontario Police Department, where Michael is a police officer.
Michael’s fiancee also was shot when she tried to shield him from the gunfire, but her wounds were not considered life-threatening.
Michael’s friend, Jesse Rivera, who also attended Bonita, has started a GoFundMe for Michael at https://www.gofundme.com/michael-gracia-and-summer. Jesse said Michael’s surgery was successful, but added that his Bearcat buddy’s recovery will be a “long road.”
Jason Plowman, Bonita Class of 2009
It was meant to be a fun, hang-loose weekend spent with family and friends. The three-day Harvest 91 Musical Fest was their way to welcome the fall.
Jason Plowman and his girlfriend wanted to be close to the stage, but his mom Connie and her friend Cathy Mistone, on the last day of the festival, thought they’d stand in the back, where they wouldn’t feel the crush of the crowd that was building. Standing shoulder to shoulder with people you don’t know is an intimate experience in your 20s and 30s, not so much in your 40s and 50s.
So in between musical sets while Jason had slipped off to the lounge to buy a beer, Connie and Cathy started their tactical retreat. They’d call Jason from the back of the venue, but the cell phone coverage turned out to be spotty. Connie’s calls kept being dropped.
“I tried to call Jason to let him know we had left,” Connie said. “I didn’t want him to worry.”
Little did she know that she would soon be the one going out of her mind with a world of worry.
Back at the casino, Connie still couldn’t get through to Jason. Then Jason rang her: “Mom, I’ve been hit,” he told her, and then the call fell silent.
As Connie tried to make sense of her son’s words, the world started to warp. People started running, but instead of breaking into a full sprint, they ran more like they were late to a Cirque du Soleil show. They weren’t running people over, they were just moving quickly.
Meanwhile, on her last day in Vegas, Cathy wanted to try her luck one more time at the craps tables. But before she could put down any real money in the Come box, the stickman was telling her to literally scoop up her chips and run. “Take your money, run, run!”
Then Connie turned to Cathy and repeated what she had had heart seconds earlier, “Jason just said he got shot.”
The statement still didn’t process.
Cathy asked, “What does that mean?”
Ty knew, but he had the advantage of being in his room, far from the madness on the chaotic ground floor where shots were ringing out in rapid fire. He called to tell her to get to their room quickly.
In the room, Ty said he received a call from a woman who said she had their son. Jason had been shot in his left elbow and right thumb, blood-soaked wounds that the woman tried to stanch with a shirt. This was before any of the local channels were carrying breaking news of the shooting. It was all so surreal. Next they learned that Jason was being hauled away to a hospital in a Marine’s truck.
“This was a random stranger driving his pickup truck,” said Connie, still barely able to comprehend the madness of the nation’s largest mass shooting history some 48 hours after the event. “There must have been a dozen people in this truck. Jason said there was a guy who had his leg shot up.
“They were just pulling people into the vehicle on the way.”
Meanwhile, Connie and Ty made their way down to the MGM lobby where the hotel had set up a triage station. They had come down to meet Jason’s girlfriend who had become separated from Jason after he had been hit.
While trying to calm her, somebody yelled, “Shooter,” throwing the casino back into chaos.
“Everybody started running and Ty grabbed me and we rolled on the marble floor out the back door and we hid behind a huge dumpster for over an hour. “We all feared a random shooter was on the loose,” she said.
After an hour of hiding, Ty felt it was safe enough to go back to the room. There waiting for them were about a half-dozen strangers who like them were seeking a safe place to hide.
“They were just random people in our room, trying to figure out, just like us, where to go and what to do.”
When the news finally came that the shooter had taken his own life in his Mandalay hotel room on the 32nd floor, everyone felt they could breathe again. Meanwhile Jason was receiving six staples in his elbow and six stitches in his thumb.
It wasn’t until 5 a.m. on Monday that Connie and Ty were able to see their son in the hospital. A woman in a gown was sitting next to him, wearing his Kansas City hat and comforting him.
“Thank you,” Connie told the Good Samaritan. “Then she got up and said I’m going to return this phone charger to the nurse, and we said okay. Ty followed her, but then lost her. She didn’t go out the front door, she didn’t go out the nurse’s station. She just literally disappeared.
“She was our angel.””
Jason is now back home in La Verne recovering from his injuries.
Jason McClellan, Bonita Class of 2005
Jason McClellan, Bonita class of 2005, and his girlfriend managed to flee to safety despite a gunman raining down a hail of bullets on the crowd from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
“One moment you’re at a concert watching country music singers and everyone is happy, and the next thing you know it’s absolute chaos,” Jason said.
Like so many in the crowd, Jason first thought the noise was fireworks, and then after the continuing “pop, pop, pop,” perhaps an exchange of gunfire at ground level. “You have that thought that maybe someone smuggled in a handgun,” he said.
“You just didn’t know where it was coming from. At first, you can’t see anything, it’s dark.”
But he had the presence of mind to keep moving toward the venue’s exits.
“Initially, I told my girlfriend to get down and ‘move, move, move,’ because she didn’t know what was going on at the time,” Jason said. “More rounds started going off and then she understood why I was pushing her away.”
It was only when he and his girlfriend neared one of the venue’s exits that he began to realize what they were facing. “When we began to hear the rapid fire of the rounds coming, I knew it was more than a one-on-one going on with a couple of people.”
Every time the gunman changed magazines, creating an eerie lull over the venue, Jason and his girlfriend would bolt to a new location.
“After the third or fourth magazine of ammunition was being fired off, it dawned on me that it was coming from above because somebody in that venue would not be able to get off that many rounds without being taken out,” Jason said. “Somebody, the Metro Police, would have found the person by then. I mean the security around the place was locked down. Metro had officers on every corner.
“That’s when I realized the noise was coming from above. But there was really nothing anybody could do. Really, the only thing you could do was get behind cover.”
Eventually, Jason and his girlfriend found that cover among a cluster of RVs and big rigs outside the venue.
“I didn’t know if the singers were staying there, but it was a parking lot of big motor homes, so that’s where we got down and waited for a couple of minutes,” Jason said. During this time, Jason called home to tell his parents, Cathy and Greg, that he loved them and would try to call back in an hour or so when he felt more safe.
That’s because, even located where they were, they didn’t feel they were completely out of the woods.
“The gunfire was getting louder, making you think there was a person heading in our direction,” Jason said.
So every time there was a lull in the firing, Jason and his girlfriend tried to get farther away from the venue, finally reaching Mccarran Airport and running onto a runway.
“I was on the runway, Jason said. “I could see a plane coming, but it was an open field, and being there seemed like the right choice at the time.”
Eventually, Jason and his girlfriend, as well as others who had followed them, gathered in an airplane hangar for safety. Later they were transported to the Hard Rock Cafe, where they slept on the floor for a couple of hours.
Las Vegas Boulevard, normally a swarm of activity, had been all but abandoned.
“They shut down the whole strip,” Jason said. “You saw officers and security guards blocking off the roads.”
And Jason saw something else, strangers showing care and concern for others. “It was nice to see everyone helping each other out.”
Finally, Jason made that second call to his parents.
“That hour felt like a year,” his father Greg said.