Just two days after Valencia football was chasing a lead in a competitive game against Calabasas, special teams coach Brian Malette found himself in a situation infinitely more intense on Sunday night.
Malette was in attendance for the Jason Aldean performance in Las Vegas that turned into a mass shooting.
He recognized the sound of the initial gunshots but brushed it off, thinking it was an altercation taking place outside the venue.
“But then people around me started hitting the deck and a couple had been hit,” he said. “That’s when I kind of figured ‘Oh this is serious now.’”
The coach was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas with his girlfriend and one of her friends, where a gunman identified as Stephen Paddock shot and killed at least 59 people and wounded 527 others. None of the three were harmed in the event.
They stood on asphalt a few rows behind the stage’s pit.
“We were out in the open,” he said. “Right in the middle of the firing range. We were right in the middle.”
As people around him fell to the ground, Malette said he ducked down and tried to cover as many people as he could during the first onslaught of shots. There was silence shortly after as the band fled, he said, then a second round of shooting began.
“I decided that at that point, if I had lived through that second barrage, that we were going to get out of there,” Malette said.
He grabbed the hands of his girlfriend and her friend and the trio broke through the disposable fences surrounding the area, making a break for Bally’s Hotel Las Vegas, where the group was staying.
Upon reaching safety, they shut the blinds, turned out the lights and turned on the news. The group returned to Southern California Monday at 12:30 p.m.
Malette said he was in awe of the bravery of the off-duty police officers and military at the scene and added that the experience changed his perspective when it comes to going to a crowded concert or sporting event.
“You like to think that the security and things at a venue will keep you safe but you never can tell,” he said. “You always have to have an action plan just in case something happens. If anything, that’s the biggest thing I got out of it.”