AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin saxophonist Carlos Sosa had just finished performing with the Josh Abbott Band in Las Vegas when he heard popping noises from backstage.
“Somebody said, ‘Oh there’s fireworks,’ and I turned, my back was to Mandalay [hotel], I thought it might be coming from there. So I turned around and I didn’t see anything and it was just a couple of pops,” Sosa said.
Then, he felt something whiz by.
“It hit me on the back and I looked at David Franey, the keyboard player and he felt it too. We looked at each other and I said, ‘Man, I just got hit with something’ and he said, ‘Yeah me too’ and then I heard rapid succession of pops,” Sosa said.
Still confused, Sosa didn’t think too much of it. Until the police got involved. “Then one of the security guys screamed at the top of his lungs, ‘Everybody get down!’ It was like a movie,” Sosa described.
Sosa ducked for cover and started taking video on his cell phone. At this point, he says, he thought there were multiple shooters on the ground.
“I [had] a picture in my mind of three guys in ski masks with fully automatic weapons and the gunshots were getting closer so I had a thought in my head that these guys are coming in execution style like they are probably 15 feet away from us,” Sosa said.
But it was a man on the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel raining gunfire down onto the crowd, giving tens of thousands of concert-goers few places to hide.
Sosa was able to take shelter near the tour buses behind the stage, while the sounds of terror kept coming.
“Hearing thousands and thousands of screams… I couldn’t believe it was real.”
Hours later, Sosa made his way to the airport and it was there that his emotions took over.
“I walked up to the gate and the woman, she checked me in and saw my sax and she said, ‘Did you play at the festival last night?’ and I was like ‘Yeah,’ then she leaves the desk and she hugs me super tight and I lost it and she said, ‘I’m so glad you’re alive,’ and I was like wow.”
Back home in Austin, the reality is sinking in of just how lucky he is.
“A millimeter of distance that he moved his gun, could have taken any one of us out,” Sosa said. “After the shrapnel hit all of us, I remember seeing, there were probably 6 or 7 bullets that were within two feet of me.”
With another music festival just days away, fear may keep people away. Austin City Limits organizers will issue a refunded ticket to those fans who no longer wish to attend in light of the Las Vegas shooting.
Sosa is pushing for the opposite.
“I just pray that it doesn’t change that, that nothing changes. ACL, go out to ACL and enjoy yourselves and musicians play your hearts out ya know,” Sosa said. “I think the best thing we can do is go out there and play as much as we can and play with everything we got.”