Scott “Scooter” Krupp, 54, of Ojai has lived in Ventura County since 1981. Krupp established Extreme Marine as an aquarium service company in 1991 and opened a pet-fish store on Palma Drive in Ventura 11 years ago, the only noncorporate fish store in West County. Krupp admits he is a busy guy, juggling his store and hosting trivia night at local bars for 12 years. But he does make time for fun.

Scott Krupp and friends at the festival on Sept. 29.

For the last several years, he said, his friends had “bragged” about the good times they had had at the Route 91 Harvest Festival; and when they asked him to join them this year, he couldn’t resist and got a ticket. And so they arrived in Las Vegas among 22,000 others for the three-day event on Friday, Sept. 29. On Oct. 1, at 6:53 p.m., he posted on Facebook a picture of himself and two of his friends: Route 91 Festival Las Vegas baby. Shortly after, as the headliner for that night, Jason Aldean, was in full swing, the shooting began. Krupp, who had just left his friends to sit down for a minute, then began the search for his friends in the mayhem. This is his story. (For audio of the FULL conversation, click here.)

VCReporter: On Sunday, you’re enjoying Aldean. And then you hear something or you see something. What happened?

I was with four of my friends. I was getting a little tired. It had been a long, long three days, great three days, but long. I said, I need to sit out for a little bit. So there was a meeting area with a bunch of hay bales; it’s not too far from the stage. I told them, I’m going to go sit there for a little while, and I’ll come back when I get my energy. So I left. And about 30 seconds after I left, I heard what I thought was fireworks or fire crackers. And then it stopped. And I thought, that was weird. Well, wait a minute — it’s Vegas. There are fireworks all the time in Vegas. And then I heard what I thought was a helicopter. But it was almost landing in the arena. They can’t land a helicopter in the arena! And then I heard more … and then that’s when someone yelled out “Gunfire! Gunfire!” And people started panicking at that point.

How long do you think that time was from the first firecracker noise to the helicopter?

Probably maybe 15-20 seconds, you know. It just … it all happened so fast, of course.

And you heard a female or male say “Gunfire”?

A male. He goes, I’m in the military! That’s gunfire! Get down! Everyone take cover! Get out!

Did you get down?

Well, at first I didn’t. I was trying to figure out what’s going on. And then …

Did you believe it was gunfire?

I did. Actually, I did because it sounded like [what] you hear in the movies or something like that. So at first I didn’t take cover, but then I realized — oh, my friends! So I started heading back. And I realized I shouldn’t do that. And then there was a very long row of mature palm trees, very thick palm trees. So I got behind one of them to take cover. It’s … sorry [his eyes tearing up]. It kept going.

When you took cover, did you get down?

I got down. It was a very wide palm tree. It was big enough to cover me, and I’m a pretty big guy. So I took cover. But I still didn’t know where the bullets were coming from. At that point we didn’t know. You hear it and hear it and you don’t know if they’re hitting you. I don’t know if they’re hitting the tree. I don’t know where they’re going. No one knows where they’re going.

Or where they’re coming from?

Yeah. And all I kept thinking about were my friends. They’re my best friends.

So you were separated?

Harvest Festival on Sept. 29 at 7:03 p.m. in full swing.

Yeah. We were separated. So it stops for a minute. I thought, OK. And it started again. And someone said, “There’s a shooter at the venue, and he’s shooting everybody … That’s when people started running and panic and … you know. That’s when I started seeing bloody arms and bloody legs ….

You’re still behind the palm tree

I’m still behind the palm tree. I didn’t want to leave ’em [his friends] … I was paralyzed. I couldn’t leave them. I was next to a little kiosk, which was set up as a bar. And the girls were hidden down. The bartenders, they just ran. They left all the alcohol, they left all the money. And they just ran. I stood behind the palm tree, hoping it would stop so I could get my friends. It stopped for just a small period of time, and then … just two seconds. Like three seconds.

Did that seem like a long time?

But then it would go on for … many, many, many seconds.

How many people do you think you saw bloody?

Oh … dozens. I mean, at that point, I saw dozens of bloody (pauses). Yeah. It was a lot. Just people were crying, frantic, every emotion you can imagine. And then this blood. There’s … the blood was just so much, I couldn’t believe it. There were people helping people, which was amazing. There were so many people that helped the others that couldn’t help themselves.

And you’re still panicked about your friends.

Yeah. So I moved a palm tree forward. Maybe two to three palm trees forward, trying to get close to them. And the gunshot would stop. And I said, this is not a good idea. So I stayed behind the last palm tree and then I started heading towards where they were rushing us out. And some lady said “STOP! The shooter is not inside the venue — he is across the street at Mandalay Bay.” So they go, “You’re safer inside the venue.” So I stay in the venue as long as I can, which I was glad to because I wanted get to my friends. All the people still kept rushing out. And other people saying, stay inside the venue; the shooter’s outside the venue. You’re safer inside the venue.

Did you believe it was true?

I did believe it. They were the people who worked there.

Do you think it’s true now?

It’s hard to say. I’ve been hearing a lot of things since then. At first I thought, there’s one shooter out there. But … things you’re hearing outside the news that make you think … otherwise. … I don’t know if I should take the news at face value or not. Because it just seems like that’s a lot of gunshot for one person. It just seems like a lot of gunshot for one person.

Do you believe there could be truth to one person doing that?

It’s possible. … I’m not an expert on ballistics and things like that. I believe it is possible for it to be one person. Like the news is telling us.

Does it scare you that one person could do that?

Yeah, it does scare me. One person can do that much damage. That’s very scary. Yeah. It’s very scary.

You’re still behind the palm tree. It’s too dangerous to even try [to leave}?

I slowly started going towards the exit, stood by different kiosks, which had some protections. I just tried to keep something in front of me at some point. So if the bullets started coming my way I’d be behind something the bullet couldn’t penetrate. I came upon a big truck that was used for the event and there was probably eight to 10 people packed inside the cab of the truck looking for shelter. They didn’t own the truck, they just got in the cab of the truck.

People were just frantic. Women especially were just out of control. You know. Especially the older ones were the most hysterical. And that’s probably because they had children or had, you know, a lot of loved ones they really care about.

Now you’re out? Are you outside?

Not yet. I’m still waiting. And so then, they said, Everyone out! Out! Out! Everyone out! You have no choice. So I stood right outside the gate, and I stood behind a big, giant telephone pole — again, I just tried to be safe as I could, waiting for my friends. And they never showed up. They never showed. I didn’t know what to do. I called my … we have a mutual friend in Newbury Park and I asked, did you hear from them? One of them didn’t bring her phone with her, and the other one only had 10 percent battery life as the concert was going. I tried calling 911 when the gunfire first started and I couldn’t get my calls out.

So there was no service?

Very, very poor service. … Friday I had decent service. But Saturday and Sunday, I had no service. I couldn’t get anything to work. … that’s a bad feeling. There needs to be some way to call 911. It needs to be thought about.

There was no police presence at this point. It was all either people who work there or the security that was working there. I did see some police presence [later]; they stayed close to where most the bodies were hit, most of the people were hit.

How many bodies do you remember seeing?

I probably saw about eight to 10.

And they were … gone?

They were gone. One of the guys … one of our friends, he is a fireman. His instinct was to go help people. So after the fire stopped (I found this out afterward) he went to assist people, and came across two bodies, lifeless, immediately. But then he ran into an undercover cop. And the undercover cop asked him to help with other bodies. There was a triage center … a makeshift triage center. And he went there. And it was almost useless, because the people that were hit were hit pretty severely, you know. But my other friends, I eventually got in contact with them.

How long did it take?

About three hours before I knew they were OK. Yeah … it was pretty bad. When I realized they weren’t coming out, and they’re starting to clear the streets, I realized I really have to use the restroom. So I went to the Tropicana Hotel, which is the next hotel over.

There are cops, of course.

There were a bunch. And they had closed the casino as far as drinking and gaming, so it was very quiet. There was no music. None of the gambling was operational. They had their white emergency lights that said the Tropicana. So I was there for a while, looking for my friends, hoping they would come there, because that’s where they were directing everybody, to the Tropicana. Couldn’t get ahold of them, couldn’t get ahold of them. Hoping they would call me from someone’s phone. I didn’t hear from them.

At one time we used to memorize phone numbers.

They know mine, thank goodness. But I don’t know theirs. Luckily [my phone] was still operational. I knew she didn’t have her phone, I knew his wasn’t operational, it went straight to voicemail when I tried to call him.

Then about three hours later I got a call from their eldest daughter here in town. She started crying when she heard my voice. She got a text from her mom from a strange phone saying, “We can’t find Scooter.” So she called me. So they didn’t know I was OK, but I finally knew they were OK. They had gotten to the Tropicana but into a ballroom with about 30 other people; and when they got in that ballroom they took napkins and tablecloths and tied the doors together and put all the chairs in front of the doors, because they heard there’s another shooter out there.

They were worried that this was more than one?

Right. And then … I didn’t know about that until later. But that’s where they were at that point. Then the SWAT team came in with guns and made us put our hands up. And they said, this hotel is under lockdown. No one is allowed to leave or come in. All elevators are shut down. They held us there in the casino area for a while.

How long?

An hour and a half.

And you had made contact with your friends?

No, just their daughter. So the daughter knew I was OK, and I knew they were OK. But they didn’t know about me yet. And … you know … it was very … it was a hard, hard three hours to go through that. I didn’t know if anybody cared or not.

Did it feel like three hours?

It felt like three days. It was just … (sighs) … you feel so helpless, and you want to do something, but you can’t. And you don’t know. You don’t know. You don’t know what happened to them. So I decided to … You have to cooperate. I decided to just go. They told us to move, all of us, from that casino to the other side of the hotel to this bridge, this covered bridge.

Were you scared [to get to that bridge]?

Well, we weren’t out — it was a covered bridge, but it crosses the pool area. There’s windows on both side, so yes — we were terrified. I came across this one lady. She got a phone call. It was from the hospital. She just found out her son had died from … cause she got separated from her son.

It was just … So she was in hysterics. Understandably so. She just couldn’t contain herself. They drug her off. Then they did a body search for all of us. There’s about 800 to 900 of us, crossing this bridge, and at the end of the bridge, we had to go to a full search. Make sure we didn’t have any weapons on us, make sure we weren’t the other gunman they were looking for, if there was one. They put us in a ballroom and then I got a call and from this lady and she says, “Hey, I have your brother on line.” And I say, “My brother?” It was my friend. He’s not my brother, but he’s like a brother. He said that so he could use her phone.

He borrowed a woman’s phone to get to you?

And he told the woman that he was my brother so she would let him use the phone. So … finally, he knew I was OK. And he was with his wife, and he explained to her … And about 15 minutes later, we were all set to meet. And … it was the longest hug I ever had. It was so good to see them. And survive it all, when so many people didn’t.

Do you feel bad about that?

No. No, I don’t feel bad about surviving.

Some people do.

No. No. Not at all. I’m OK with that, you know. I still wear the wristbands for them. And you know … as a reminder. I’m the lucky one.

Do you feel compelled to do something about this? What do you feel now?

I don’t know what I feel. I’m still taking it in. At the time it was happening, it was tragic. But at the same time, I felt like it was almost like a movie or something on TV. It didn’t sink in when it was happening. It wasn’t until yesterday morning when I woke up and it was on the news. How tragic, you know, it really is. This was a slaughter. And it just, there was no reason for it. So, yeah. I don’t know if I have had a chance to think about what to do about it. I probably will. One last reason I want to do this interview is to let people know … how lucky they are not to have been there, and not to have experienced that.

Were you surprised when you saw who it was?

Who the media is saying it is? Yes, I’m very surprised. He doesn’t have a criminal history, his father was a bank robber apparently, he himself, he bought a lot of weapons in his lifetime, apparently he amassed large gambling debts, maybe that was the reason? It doesn’t matter the reason, there’s no good reason for what he did. Yes, I was surprised to see who it was.

Do you believe that’s who it was?

For the most part. If it wasn’t him at least he was involved.

Is it hard to let that sink in, if you truly believe it’s him? He doesn’t fit the stereotype.

64-year-old man who seems OK in life.

We all have debts, we have our own problems.

It had to have been planned for days, if not weeks. You don’t amass that amount of weapons in a short period of time.

We have a 10-day waiting rule in CA.

You can’t get those type of weapons in 10 days; there’s a one-year waiting list for those type of weapons. Handguns are one thing but automatic assault rifles. Why are they even available to anybody?

And you think about where he was positioned, how does that make you feel, knowing that he was so far removed from everybody else? Did that surprise you? We hear about people walking into the nightclub, but you see even if, I’m just curious about we think that you can’t prepare for something like that.

I was telling my sister this morning. I said, if you’re at war and you’re caught in the battlefield you expect gunfire, gunshots. Yes, you’re still terrified [but] at least you’re expecting that. When you’re at a venue like I was on Sunday, that’s the last thing on your mind, that’s the last thing you’re prepared for. Again, it happened, I still don’t believe it happened., I thought it was firecrackers, I thought it was a helicopter, it took someone yelling out that this is gunfire.

Do you feel scared now?

No, I don’t. The friends I was with said they won’t go back next year. I said, I want to go back, I don’t want to let any coward like the shooter scare me from doing something I enjoy. I think, anytime, any given time you’re vulnerable anywhere, it doesn’t have to be a concert like that, I just feel … I’m not going to let something like that stop me from doing what I love.

What do you think your biggest struggle has been? I know this is premature to get into a long time of trying to cope with this; what do you find is the struggle? Is it surreal?

Yeah, well, still grasping it, I don’t know if I 100 percent grasp it yet. Getting to bed last night I envisioned blood. Of course, there was no blood.

Where?

On my sheets. I pulled out my blanket on my bedspread and I thought there was blood there, and there wasn’t.

Do you think you understand now more about what PTSD is?

Oh, yeah; god, yeah. I consider myself a pretty strong-minded person but still, I don’t care how strong you are, I didn’t see the worst of it, the worst I saw was a pickup truck full of eight or nine bodies drive by the street and they did not look alive.

This is a festival.

It’s supposed to be a country music fun festival, and it was an amazing event until the firing started.

It’s really hard to wrap your head around.

Why? What possible reason? These people were here for fun; they weren’t rallying against something. They were having fun enjoying music.

I think we’re in a hostile state in our country about sharing our opinions, and when the opinions don’t match we have this fear; but now we’re in a festival and that was terrorized and you aren’t afraid to go back; but justifiably others would be, and whoever wanted to go might not go, either. So there’s been a debate about when is the right time to talk about it. You were there, can you tell me when?

When’s the right time to talk about it? I’m open to talk about it. If I can’t, I would let you know. Certain things need to be said.

Can you understand why people who weren’t there don’t want to talk about it right now?

Each mind is different; I can understand that.

Why do you feel that is?

We’re all created differently. On my way home, I was a passenger; a lot of people were calling me, and as I repeated the story it got harder and harder to talk about without crying and getting emotional.

Do you feel that it’s wrong to cry?

Not at all.

Do you think some people feel it is?

I’m sure that there’s some manly men who think that, …. some men who don’t want to put their guard down.

There is also an expectation of women to be upset, so there’s the polarized view of how men should handle it. Do you think that talking about gun violence is a political thing we should not talk about now that you’ve seen this?

There’s no reason not to talk about gun violence anytime;, this is a good time to bring it up to discuss what was used. Are they weapons that were easily acquired or not? Weapons like that shouldn’t be acquired at all by the general public.

I’m hearing that we’re at a point where we can manufacture these things in our home. We have 3-D printers that allow us to [make guns]. I don’t know to what extent, but I have heard this and seen some things online that reveal that we can make them in our home; and I think that the issue with the automatic rifle is that it only has 10 rounds but we can create the capacity for 20 or 30.

As terrifying as it is, I believe it is terrifying. If someone wants to kill a large amount of people they’ll find a way no matter what kind of restrictions there are. There are people who have poisoned minds and want to do harm to innocent people.

Do you feel it’s fair to equate mass murderers with someone with a mental illness?

Not always, but it’s a good thing to consider. There’s stable people who want to do bad things.

What do we do now?

What do we do now? Just hope that it’s not going to happen again, that doesn’t do much.

How could we have reached this point?

There’s gonna be someone else who wants to top this in the future and it’ll probably happen. You can’t live your life in fear; I understand people who do, but I don’t. I think when it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. I’m not going to put myself in harm’s way.

Seems silly that harm’s way is at a festival. We volunteer to go into the military, volunteer to be a police officer, but you paid to enjoy yourself and then things went crazy. What do you suggest when we hear about a mass shooting? And I don’t think this is the end of them. What if one happened right now, how would you handle it mentally, for other people who are struggling to process it?

I haven’t asked myself that question yet…

We see the blood donations.

That’s something positive that comes out of it. I cannot believe how many people stepped up to help complete strangers in their time of need; they’re making stretchers out of anything possible to carry injured people out of harm’s way.

Were you confused about what you should be doing?

I couldn’t get to the trauma center, I didn’t know what I could do, I didn’t think of anything I could do.

Do you feel now more compelled to help in any situation? Not saying that you didn’t before.

No, I didn’t help.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad; it was a crazy scene. I’m thinking of how we do this in the future and how we help, I’m thinking there needs to be a better plan and understanding of that; I don’t think it’s done. I’m hoping it’ll stop for a long time.

If anything, a plan, understanding, preparation of events like this; we all need to be aware and ready for events like this. They can happen anywhere.

There’s plans for schools.

Big event like that, there’s not.

So vulnerable in an event like that, full exposure, the only thing I feel is that for you it’s not to be scared, but to keep going and enjoying yourself.

That’s exactly what I’m going to keep doing. I’m not scared; I’m traumatized because knowing it is real and past events you see on TV you think, oh, awful, but when you live through it it’s more than awful. It’s mind-blowing, completely innocent people you’re killing, why would you do that? You have no idea who those people were.

What’s the best thing someone can say to you right now about this?

Most comforting thing I’ve heard is, glad you’re alive, glad you made it. I’ve been hearing it a lot and it’s very comforting.

Does it help, listening to you now?

It does help, it’s good to tell the story.

I think we need to be sharing more in general because we stop talking to each other. What you experienced was the most traumatic thing, I think, because it was shocking. It’s not military, you’re not trained for it, and now you’re here and I hope from this that maybe we can start talking.

Everyone should be able to talk about this; why it’s hushed I don’t know. Things need to be said and discussed so this doesn’t happen again.

Well I appreciate this.

To reach Krupp, email michael@vcreporter.com for more information.