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A Tennessee man who lost his son in the Las Vegas massacre recently shared an emotional, open letter about his grief over the “hero” his family lost and his anger over the “coward” who killed him.
James Melton described getting the phone call that everyone, “especially a parent,” fears getting, just hours after a lone gunman opened fire Sunday night from the 32nd floor of his Las Vegas hotel room and onto a crowd of thousands attending the Route 91 Harvey Music Festival.
“He stood the final test," his father wrote on Facebook. "He was just a good guy, doing what good guys do. He was a hero.”
Melton said that as the couple ran for cover, Sonny “always kept his own body between the danger and his wife. A running human shield. Heather says he had his hands on her shoulders and she felt him get hit and start to fall.”
Melton said that’s when his daughter-in-law stopped, too, “even though she was only a few yards from the safety of a concrete retaining wall.”
Heather, a surgeon, quickly examined her husband and yelled for help as dozens of others fell around them.
“Bullets hitting the concrete so near that the resulting dust irritated her eyes," Melton wrote. "But she stayed right there and started CPR there out in the open on the cold ground in a last ditch chance to save her husband. Don't you see, Heather is a hero also. Protected by nothing more than the grace of God's invisible hands, she stayed with him and I'm comforted now knowing my son didn't have to die alone.”
Sonny was an emergency room nurse who often worked with his wife and once told his father he chose his profession to help save lives.
“Well, he lived up to that high standard until the very bitter end,” Melton wrote.
The post was shared publicly by a longtime friend of Melton and shared by TODAY with Melton’s permission.
In his Facebook post, Melton also thanked the two strangers who helped Sonny and Heather in “that killing field that must have resembled the Marines landing on Omaha Beach." The two men ended up driving the couple to a nearby hospital.
"One guy driving, the other helping Heather give CPR to Sonny. We don’t even know these guys names, they asked for no praise or reward," he wrote. "They just said they were sorry they couldn’t have gotten to Sonny quicker. They are heroes!"
Authorities have identified 64-year-old Stephen Paddock as the gunman who killed at least 59 people and injured about 500 others before killing himself inside his hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
"My hatred of the shooter may diminish given enough time," Melton wrote. "But right now, that’s not an option. As an ex-cop, I share the frustration of the SWAT officer we heard about who was crying because the shooter killed himself before the cops could breach the door and take care of that ugly business themselves. Like I said, a coward."
Melton said his family is overwhelmed but “appreciated beyond belief” the prayers being said for his family.
"The grief has us now firmly in its relentless grip and this evil day has lasted way too long," he wrote. "Once again my prayer is to just be sleep stupid and have this sadness go away, even for just a few hours till I wake to my new, changed and darker world. Sonny was a hero."