An Arizona State University student’s father died Sunday night after draping his body over his wife’s to protect her from a barrage of bullets at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, family members and friends said.
Jack and Laurie Beaton, of Bakersfield, California, were celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary Sunday night at the outdoor concert near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where the shootings took place, Jerry Cook, Laurie’s father, said in an interview with The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.
The death toll from the shooting now stands at 59, with more than 500 injured.
Cook said his daughter called him shortly after the fusillade subsided and told this story:
Jack and Laurie were near the front of the stage with two other couples when they heard what sounded like fireworks.
“It’s just fireworks, don’t worry,” Jack told Laurie.
They quickly realized bullets were flying through the air.
Jack told Laurie to get down and covered her with his body, Cook said.
He was hit while shielding her and began bleeding profusely. He was able to tell his wife he loved her.
“I love you, too. I’ll see you in heaven,” Laurie responded, according to Cook.
Bullets kept landing, hitting all around, said Scot Watkins, who attended the concert with his wife, Michelle, and the Beatons.
Watkins told The Arizona Republic he knew they were “sitting ducks” and had to get out of there.
Jack couldn’t move, and they were unable to carry him out.
But Laurie didn’t want to leave him.
“I said, ‘We’ll come back for him. We’ve got to get you safe,’ ” Watkins recalled telling her.
They ran during a break in the gunfire. The bullets started up again. Watkins could see people fall as bullets hit them. Others lay motionless, dying or dead. He would drag the women down and shield them with his body when the shooting started. They would run again when the shooting stopped.
Watkins said they returned later when the shooting had subsided to look for Jack, but they couldn’t find him. They held onto the hope that maybe Jack was still alive and had been taken to get medical help.
Laurie began checking area hospitals the next day and learned that her husband had died.
Cook said Jack’s behavior that night was typical for the 54-year-old roofer. He was a hands-on guy who made friends easily and had the ability to draw out the best in everyone.
“Him covering Laurie to protect her — that’s Jack — Jack would have covered anybody to protect them, especially Laurie.”
The couple have two children, Jake and Delaney. Delaney is a student at ASU. After the shooting, Cook said Laurie flew to Phoenix to pick up Delaney and then flew back to Las Vegas.
Now, family members are back in Bakersfield and reeling from their loss. They are making arrangements to bring Jack home.
Jake Beaton paid tribute to his father on Facebook, saying: “Lost my best friend. I love you so much more than you could ever imagine. Please watch over our family. You will forever be remembered as our hero!”
Cook’s voice broke as he talked about his son-in-law.
“Both kids and Laurie will miss Jack so much,” he said. “He was in every part of their lives.”
Watkins said his friend is going to be greatly missed.
“He died protecting his wife, and his wife is back home with their children because of him. He was a hero,” Watkins said.
He is struggling to comprehend what happened.
One minute, they were having a great time and making great memories.
“In one second, it’s the total opposite,” Watkins said. “You go from fun and happiness to terror and tragedy.”
Reach the reporter at 602-444-8072 or [email protected]
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