On Sunday, in what is now being called the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a shooter opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. Hundreds of people were injured in the attack, and 59 people have lost their lives so far.
Among the fallen was 29-year-old Sonny Melton.
When the gunman began shooting, Sonny’s first instincts drove him to shield his wife. Thanks to Sonny’s bravery, Heather Gulish Melton walked away unharmed. Sonny was not so lucky. Heather recalled to NBC News:
“He grabbed me and started running when I felt him get shot in the back.”
“I want everyone to know what a kindhearted, loving man he was, but at this point I can barely breathe.”
Sonny gave his life to save Heather’s. In the wake of this tragedy, Sonny’s father, James Warren Melton, took to Facebook to express his emotions on his son’s untimely departure. In a post made public by Melton’s friend Terry Hudson, the grieving father explained that up until October 1, he never hated anyone.
However, when a phone call delivered the tragic news, Melton had both a “hated day and a hated person.” He wrote:
I prayed to be sleep stupid, drunk, having a nightmare or crazy. But, as they say, it is what it is. James Sonny, my youngest son at 29 years of age, was dead. Bullets in his back as he lay over his wife, protecting her as best he could with all he had available, his body. Shot by some sick bastard too cowardly to even look him in his eyes as he snuffed the life out my child. Oh No, this guy did it from 32 floors up and 300 yards away.
He proudly continued on to write that Sonny was a hero until the end, “until the bullets pierced his back and lungs and he couldn’t go on.”
Melton was quick to acknowledge the other heroes involved. He wrote about when his son’s wife was yards away from a concrete barrier, she stayed behind with Sonny. Melton wrote:
Bullets hitting the concrete so near that the resulting dust irritated her eyes. 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.
Melton continued on to acknowledge the two young concertgoers who “braved the hell of that killing field” to pick up Sonny and carry him to their pickup truck. While one drove the victims, the other helped Heather give CPR to Sonny. Melton wrote:
We don’t even know these guys names, they asked for no praise or reward. They just said they were sorry they couldn’t have gotten to Sonny quicker.
While Melton took the time to point out the “good people everywhere,” he made sure to condemn the cowardly shooter. He continued:
My hatred of the shooter may diminish given enough time, again I’m not the first to bare this burden. 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.
The emotionally drained father concluded his letter:
The grief has us now firmly in its relentless grip and this evil day has lasted way too long. 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.
Click here to read Melton’s open letter in full.