Las Vegas Strip shooting survivor shares reaction to Highland Park shooting

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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Nearly five years later, the memories of the Las Vegas shooting are still vivid in Mike Dempsey's mind as he reflects on Monday's killings near Chicago.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Nearly five years later, the memories of the Las Vegas shooting are still vivid in Mike Dempsey's mind.

"Just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would be like a Forrest Gump coincidence. Not knowing they were shots what I heard, I thought was fireworks. I heard (someone say) sniper. Ran back into the Mandalay Bay because we were outside," said Dempsey.

On Monday, he learned his friend was forced to escape the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, in which seven people were killed and more than two dozen others injured in a mass shooting.

"My friend Warren Fried, he has two twin boys. They were a block away from the shooting. Heard it all. Ran," Dempsey said.

He's been sharing advice with Fried on how to process the tragic event.

"One of his sons had really bad nightmares last night. I said the mental-health aspects, you need to get trauma support, counseling, peer support, which is something I can do because I've been through two horrific tragedies, but he needs people also connected to that tragedy that can help and have been through the same shared experience, and I think the untold victims are the people who are survivors as well," said Dempsey, who is also a 9/11 survivor.

The attack is the latest mass shooting in the United States, following high-profile attacks in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa.

"We want to make change. We don't want others to join this community that keeps growing and growing and growing," Dempsey said.

Authorities are still working to determine a motive stemming from Monday's shooting, looking into the suspect's social media posts. Fred Burton, a former federal law enforcement official who serves as the Executive Director at the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence, urged people to flag threatening online activity.

"I think it's all of our civic responsibility to be able to do that of just being a good citizen. Look, I know it's tough, especially if it's a family member or a loved one that's struggling with these kinds of issues but you have to report this kind of behavior," said Burton.

For public events, Burton suggested coming up with an exit plan, which can include choosing a place to meet up if you become separated from your group. He also stressed the importance of acting quickly.

"You have to have that attack recognition. Something that you have to think about, and then be cognizant about, and the moment you hear something don't sit there and say 'I wonder if that's a gunshot.' You need to move right then," Burton noted, explaining the importance of finding cover, whether ducked behind a brick wall, or in the back of a locked store, out of the line of sight of the shooter.

"It's a different age we're in right now. These things are happening every day. And unfortunately, it's too much. Something's got to happen soon to change what we're living in this kind of world where we don't feel safe," Dempsey added.