Country music star John Rich was at a Las Vegas bar Sunday that went on lockdown when the shooting started.
Big & Rich had performed at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival and then the duo, which includes Big Kenny, went to the Redneck Riviera, a bar owned by Rich. That’s when the worst shooting spree in U.S. history began to unfold.
Rich related his experiences in an interview with WKRN News 2. He spoke of the striking contrast between the uplifting moments when Big & Rich led the festival crowd in singing “God Bless America” with the horror that followed a couple hours later.
When people at the bar learned there was an active shooter at the festival, Rich, who has a concealed weapons permit, retrieved his gun from his tour bus and then loaned it to an off-duty police officer.
“This guy walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, I’m a Minneapolis police officer off duty.’ He said, ‘I’m in Las Vegas on my honeymoon. I’m unarmed. Are you armed?’” Rich told WKRN.
“I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m armed,’ and he said, ‘Can I take your firearm? I’m going to hold point on this front door until we get the all clear.’”
Rich said he handed over his gun and the officer protected everyone inside the bar for almost three hours. The officer didn’t want his name released because he felt he was just doing his job, Rich said.
Rich also described a chance encounter with Sonny Melton, the 29-year-old West Tennessee man who was killed at the festival while shielding his wife, who survived. Because of connections he had with Rich’s family, Melton was able to be included in a meet-and-greet after Big & Rich performed.
“I shook his hand and I went, ‘Oh, what I nice guy,’ and he got an excited look on his face, so happy to meet Big & Rich,” Rich recalled. “It was his first concert, and then we get the report later…he was one of the first casualties when bullets started flying.”
Melton lived in Big Sandy and was a registered nurse at Henry County Medical Center. He graduated from Union University’s accelerated nursing degree program in 2015 and was president of his class.
“You know how when you met someone and you just know that they’re good and kind? That was Sonny,” said Christy Davis, an assistant professor of nursing, on Facebook. “He just had a sweet, kind spirit about him.”