Young Las Vegas Woman, Like Others, Ran To Escape Shooter

16 hours ago
Originally published on October 3, 2017 10:56 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep in Las Vegas. A little less than 24 hours after the mass shooting here, we drove to a street on the west side of the city - a little neighborhood of Spanish-style homes with the red tile roofs. And in open garage, we met Debra Ruffino.

Hi, there.

DEBRA RUFFINO: Hi.

INSKEEP: We're here to see Nicole.

Who along with her husband was helping their daughter Nicole move in...

D. RUFFINO: And this is our only baby.

INSKEEP: Nicole pulled up in the driveway as we were talking.

NICOLE RUFFINO: Hi.

INSKEEP: Hey, there.

N. RUFFINO: Hello.

D. RUFFINO: We had her after 15 years of marriage.

INSKEEP: We walked together inside the high-ceilinged house, which is Nicole Ruffino's first. She'll be sharing it with roommates. She's 24, works in the radiology department of a hospital. We'd come to visit because she went to the concert with friends on Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip.

The statistics from shooting after shooting can leave you numb, so we just wanted to hear one person's experience. The couch had just been moved into place amid the boxes in the new house, so we sat there to talk about Sunday night. She was a big fan of Jason Aldean.

Do you remember which song was playing when things started to change?

N. RUFFINO: I - yeah, I believe it was the end of "Any Ol' Barstool."

INSKEEP: Were you in that mass of people right in front of the stage?

N. RUFFINO: Yes.

INSKEEP: OK. What was the first thing you noticed that seemed wrong?

N. RUFFINO: You know, I heard something that sounded like fireworks. And I remember turning to my friends. I literally turned all the way around. I said, who has fireworks here? Like, that doesn't make any sense. And then I started to turn back around, and then the second round went off, and I realized those weren't fireworks.

INSKEEP: She was with a man and a woman in the crowd. They tried to run together, and in that crowd, tried not to fall.

N. RUFFINO: Because the girls right in front of us, when we started to run, just fell. And then everyone else started to fall because everyone was just trampling over each other, trying to get away.

INSKEEP: Where did you go?

N. RUFFINO: When we started running, we found this tent. We ran past the tent - under the tent and past it - and found this little back area, but we couldn't escape that back area because the fences were so high. You couldn't climb them, and there was no opening. So we were literally trapped between, like, this tent and the fence, and there was just a mass of people right there.

And we saw this huge refrigerated, like, trailer truck sitting there. And it was open, and there were people saying, come on, get in, get in. So the three of us jumped in, and we got a bunch of other people in with us. And, you know, at that point, we were just still hearing gunshots and really not - were - we were just so confused. We didn't understand.

After about 20 minutes, the gunfire ceased, or at least we thought it did. And we just knew we had to get out of there. So that's when we opened the door, ran out of the truck, jumped off. And there were some people that were with us that brought the ramp of the truck onto the fence to try to climb up the ramp and over the fence. So when we were trying to get up this ramp, we were slipping, slipping, slipping all the way down.

We could not get up this ramp. And so we knew we had to find another way out. And we ran around to another area, finally found a way out the gate, and I just remember running past people on the floor that had been shot. One man was doing CPR on a guy that was laying on the ground, shot. And Brian (ph) just kept saying, just keep running, just keep running. And we ran about a mile to the Hooters casino.

INSKEEP: Nicole Ruffino didn't know, at that uncertain moment, if the shooting was over. So she called her mom and dad and asked them to come and get her.

What exactly was it like when you found your mom and dad or they found you? It's OK.

N. RUFFINO: It was just really emotional.

INSKEEP: Do you need a...

N. RUFFINO: I was actually - the whole time, I was more worried about how they felt than my own safety because I knew they were going to be so upset, especially if something happened to me. So I was more worried about getting out of there for them than for myself.

INSKEEP: Nicole Ruffino was unhurt when we met her, still unpacking boxes with her parents' help. It was supposed to be a normal day - her move-in day - a milestone in a life that, unlike those of so many others at that concert, will go on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.