More Street Stories

The Lonely Wheelchair

October 1, 2017 will always be remembered as Las Vegas’ day of infamy. Death and injury rained down on country music lovers from the heights of the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, stealing the lives of fifty-eight people and causing injury to more than five hundred others.

By Keith Bettinger, Retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police

Keith’s first Just the Facts, Ma’am post about the shooting was here on October 9th, 2017.

View_from_the_Foundation_Room_(24089601122)October 1, 2017 will always be remembered as Las Vegas’ day of infamy. Death and injury rained down on country music lovers from the heights of the thirty-second floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, stealing the lives of fifty-eight people and causing injury to more than five hundred others.
Survival instincts and fear gripped the attendees and performers and people began running away from the scene onto Las Vegas Boulevard as well as through the open fields being used for parking.

People ran for blocks seeking shelter in other casinos. Some broke through fences and then broke the windows of ground floor offices seeking shelter within from the bullets raining down on them. For those that kept running, many wound up on the McCarran Airport runways, taking cover in the adjacent rain channels. Others attempted to hide at the scene under bleachers or under canvas canopies, hoping out of sight also meant out of the assassin’s mind.

Aerial view of Las Vegas, focusing on the Luxor Hotel "pyramid."The murderer killed himself. The shooting stopped, and the sun eventually rose that Sunday morning. All anyone could see were the remnants of the carnage that covered an extremely large crime scene; the likes of which few law enforcement officers had ever seen.

It would take weeks to photograph, recover, inventory, process and eventually return items to either the rightful owner or their surviving family members.
The hard-packed dirt field just east of the stage and audience area was filled with cars, tractor and trailers, buses and motor homes. The cars belonged to the concert attendees. The trucks, buses and motor homes belonged to the performers and their crews.
For days these vehicles did not move as evidence technicians processed the overwhelming crime scene. Eventually the evidence was gathered, and the vehicles were released. Some were driven from the scene. Others were towed back to the rental agencies by a caravan of tow trucks since the lessees had left town. As they left the field, you could see the shot-out windows, doors and fenders. The performers’ vehicles didn’t fare any better. They too had to wait days until they were allowed to leave what should have been a wonderful evening’s entertainment instead of a night of terror and carnage.


When the field was emptied of cars and trucks and the blood was disinfected and cleansed from the ground, just one thing remained; an empty and overturned wheelchair.

Looking at the wheelchair in its lonely state left one wondering trying to answer so many questions. Who was the occupant? Did the person make it this far on his own only to topple over? Was someone pushing him? Did someone carry him to safety? Was he pulled to safety behind a parked car? Did people, terrified and fleeing, leave him to fend for himself?

Eventually the wheelchair was not alone. Two evidence technicians walked across the field, righted the wheelchair and pushed it into the evidence processing facility.
The wheelchair was no longer alone. It joined the other evidence waiting to be processed.

But it left one important question unanswered – WHY?

About Keith Bettinger:

Keith Bettinger is a retired Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Officer. He’s been writing for law enforcement publications for more than 25 years and has received 19 awards for his articles, stories, poems, and books. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Relations with a major in Clinical Counseling. During his career he received the department’s Bravery Medal, Silver Shield Award, Meritorious Police Service Award, Special Service Award, Professionalization Award, Department Recognition Award, five Headquarters commendations and six Precinct commendations. He also was a field training officer and an instructor on Post Shooting Trauma and Critical Incidents. Keith has written three books, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME “DAY AND LENNY, END OF WATCH AND MURDER IN McHENRY. He has also contributed stories to the following anthologies: I Pledge Allegiance, Cop Tales 2000, Charity, True Blue, To Protect and Serve, and Dad’s Bow Tie. He also shares with Jack Miller, the screenplay Master Cheat. Keith lives in Las Vegas with his wife Lynn.
It is my pleasure to host my good friend, Keith Bettinger. In addition to the things mentioned in his bio, he was also at the 9/11 Ground Zero. Being the author who reviewed the manuscript for my first book, “We Are Different Now – a grandparents journey through grief”, he had a big impact on my first becoming a published author. We hope you’ll leave a comment to let us know you stopped by to enjoy his article.

By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

7 replies on “The Lonely Wheelchair”

I had the privilege of hearing Keith talk about how he and other Las Vegas residents helped those who worked his horrendous crime scene by feeding them and keeping them hydrated. Thank you, Keith, for all that you did, and this moving story.

KEITH; You can’t leave us hanging, we need a follow up as to the status of the wheelchairs owner.

Why, indeed. Senseless carnage. Glad you were safe. My former son-in-law was a sheriff’s deputy. He wasn’t good about expressing himself and the horror he lived with, tried to “protect” us from it. People tend to implode when that happens. Thanks for sharing.

Welcome to Thonie's world!

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