Sunday night in Las Vegas, around 22,000 people were gathered to watch some of country music's brightest stars. After a gunman opened fire, at least 58 of those people lost their lives. One of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting was Sonny Melton, a native of Big Sandy, Tennessee, and a registered emergency room nurse. Melton died while shielding his wife from the gunfire, and likely thanks to his actions, she did end up surviving the attack.
Melton was the first victim to be identified following the attacks, when his wife, Dr. Heather Gulish Melton, confirmed that she had lost him. "I want everyone to know what a kind-hearted loving man he was but at this point I can barely breathe," she told USA Today. The same paper reports that the couple was married in June 2016.
Dr. Melton also spoke to a local TV station, at which point she felt able to share a bit more of her experience. "At this point, I'm in complete disbelief and despair. I don't know what to say. Sonny was the most kind-hearted, loving man I have ever met. He saved my life and lost his," she told Fox 17 News in a statement.
Dr. Melton, who works as an orthopedic surgeon at the same hospital where her husband was employed, wrote in a Facebook post that Sonny was her “true love and knight in shining armor,” and implored her friends for time to process what happened. Sonny's last Facebook post was when he checked in to the country music festival with his wife. Now, his Facebook post has become a space for friends, family, and complete strangers to express their condolences.
According to one of Sonny's best friends, the Sonny and his wife were working on building a house together on Kentucky Lake, a large lake near their hometown of Paris, Kentucky. “He’s been my best friend since I was three. His mom is like a second mother to me,” said Melton's best friend Jeremy Butler, to the Paris Post-Intelligencer.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam sent his sympathies to all the victims, with a special nod to Melton. He put out a statement, which read as follows:
I am praying for the many people affected by the senseless act of violence in Las Vegas. In particular, Crissy and I extend our condolences and prayers to the family of Sonny Melton from West Tennessee who was among those killed in this tragedy.
The fact that Sonny Melton's death has been confirmed means that the long and arduous process of identifying victims and informing their family members has now begun. While BuzzFeed reports that the Las Vegas Clark County Coroner's Office is not officially confirming victims' names to the media yet, Sonny Melton is one of the rare cases so far where someone in the victim's close circle has publicly confirmed a victim's identity. This process could take a long time, as current reports say that at least 58 people have died and at least 500 others were injured.
There are many ways that you can help the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and their loved ones, like Dr. Melton. A GoFundMe campaign run by Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo has already garnered over $703,000 in only four hours, and all of the money will be given to the victims and their families. Dr. Melton and the hundreds of other people who are now in mourning are facing something unimaginably difficult now, and money is only money — but if a donation can take any additional worry off their chests, then it's worth it.