Brian Wills, one of more than 500 people wounded when a gunman opened fire into a crowd of more than 22,000 people Sunday evening in Las Vegas, remained hospitalized Wednesday recovering after surgery.
Brian Wills, one of more than 500 people wounded when a gunman opened fire into a crowd of more than 22,000 people Sunday evening in Las Vegas, remained hospitalized Wednesday recovering after surgery. It is unknown whether Brian, 46, was shot once or twice, but he suffered two holes in his left leg and has a broken fibula. Tuesday’s surgery involved placing a rod through his leg bone where he was struck by a bullet. Wills and his family – including wife, Cindy, and sons Braden (now in the 10th grade) and Eli (an eighth-grader) – lived in Chillicothe from 2008 until 2014. They currently reside in Brandon, S.D., and maintain friendships in Chillicothe. Brian and Cindy were among six couples traveling from Brandon to enjoy a weekend in Las Vegas, spending a few hours each day at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, a three-day event that began Friday and continued through Sunday. The group was especially intent on taking in the main acts in the evenings. Among festival performers were Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean. The group had been planning the trip since June. They arrived Friday afternoon and attended concerts throughout the weekend. It was easy to move in and out of the concert area, Brian said in a telephone interview with the Constitution-Tribune Wednesday morning. “The trip was wonderful,” he said. “We were having a great time with friends and the concerts were fun.” Then came Sunday evening. Brian and a few of the guys he was with stayed toward the middle of the concert grounds, near a sound and light tower, while Cindy and the women she was with moved closer to the stage area. Jason Aldean was performing when a sound similar to firecrackers exploding could be heard. “The band was going then all of a sudden, people started moving and the band shut off,” Brian said from his hospital room. “Then, it became obvious that what we were hearing was an automatic weapon firing. At that point, we knew we were in danger and needed to get out.” “You could hear the bullets hitting the ground... going past you, hitting the metal of the tower,” he told the C-T. “At some point, we made the decision as to where we were going and I felt a shot into my left leg.” Brian was on the ground. His buddies picked him up and ran to the exit. “There was a pickup truck taking injured people,” Brian recalled. “They threw me into that and we were off to the hospital.” All the while, Brian had not had contact with Cindy. “Communications were down and phones were dying,” he said. “It was scary.” It was until after being in the hospital for several hours that the two met up with each other. How they finally made connection remained a mystery as of Wednesday morning. Cindy still finds it difficult to talk about events of Sunday night. Brian was treated at a Las Vegas hospital and then was flown via a charter plane to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls. “The people of Sanford Hospital were extremely kind and flew out a private plane to bring me back,” he said. “I’m extremely fortunate and grateful for them doing that.” Brian said that he also feels fortunate to have made it back home alive. Many people were not as fortunate. What took place Sunday evening became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Police say that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, shot down at the crowd from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. By the time the shooting rampage had come to an end, at least 59 people had been killed and an estimated 527 people wounded. “We were extremely fortunate,” Brian said. “We saw an awful lot when we were there.” The former Chillicothe resident said he appreciated the support he and his family have received. “We are very thankful for friends who have reached out to us from Chillicothe and everywhere we have been,” he said. The Wills family moved to Chillicothe in October 2008 when Brian accepted the manager’s position at Hy-Vee Food Store. They moved from the area in November 2014. Wills is currently employed as a financial advisor with Edward Jones.