From the October 5, 2017 print edition
A trio of Ferndale residents are back home after a harrowing trip to Las Vegas where they witnessed Sunday’s slaughter of 58 people attending a country music festival.
Dustin Del Biaggio, a Humboldt County Sheriff Deputy; his girlfriend, Ferndale Police Officer Tierra Shumard, as well as Ferndale resident Beth Coppini were all at the concert at Mandalay Bay on Sunday evening. None of the three responded to requests for interviews.
The Humboldt Deputy Sheriff’s Organization issued a press release on Wednesday morning which included Del Biaggo’s thoughts and recollections of the events.
Del Biaggio and his girlfriend, Officer Shumard — who has been a member of the FPD since December — were near the front of the crowd at the mass shooting.
“It was during the last performer of the night. We got to the show early, so we had made our way to the front of the stage,” said Del Biaggio. “At one point, we heard what sounded like firecrackers, that’s what the audience thought it was. Shortly after that, they started again, and we started to see people drop in front of us.
“Time doesn’t really add up, but we dropped to the ground and I covered up Tierra. We waited until the gunfire stopped and started to run towards the back. As we were running, there was another burst of gunfire as we were about halfway to the exit. People were calling to ‘cover up the women,’ and a few people jumped on us to shield us from the gunfire.
“When it stopped again, we made our way to the back of the venue where some people had already pushed out the back wall of a bar.
“Around this time we ran into a LVPD officer who told us, ‘Mandalay Bay, 15th floor.’ “In retrospect, this information [on the presumed location of the shooter] was key in keeping us safe, since we avoided the line of fire from that point on.
“We came out of the building in a strange parking lot full of semi-trucks. This was when I had a chance to pull up a map on my phone of the surrounding area to get my bearings.
“This is when we finally had a chance to call our parents, to let them know we were OK and find out what was happening.
“The community was amazing. Uber and Lyft drivers were just picking people up. We saw a girl in shock whose father had been shot and went with her to the hospital in an Uber that stopped for us. There was no selfishness, everyone was helping.
“I can honestly say that tunnel vision kicked in, the stress response was incredible. I can’t remember the emotion on people’s faces, screams, any of that. I can only remember gunfire, and the silence when it wasn’t there.
“I really think that my Law Enforcement Officer training was instrumental in the whole thing. When it happened, I really felt that the training came back, the feeling of take cover, all the things they teach you made a difference. It was a tough feeling being in the civilian role, not able to help, but looking back our training helped to keep us safe.
“We are doing OK, but I definitely have pangs of shock, disbelief, confusion and especially sadness for the victims, people that can’t come home.” Meanwhile,
Ferndale’s Beth Coppini returned to Ferndale on Monday. Her fiance, local dairyman Tom Ghidinelli said he was supposed to accompany Coppini to the concern but went to a wedding instead.
“She is pretty shook up,” said Ghidinelli, adding that Coppini’s son “got pretty cut up jumping over a fence and hiding in a bunker at the airport. “Pretty traumatic for her. She saw people get shot and go down.” Ghidinelli said that his girlfriend told him that “people really helped out” during the attack and in the aftermath. “It’s going to take awhile to get over it.”
Meanwhile, Ferndale Police Chief Bret Smith said that officer Shumard attended a debriefing on Tuesday regarding the shooting.