Big & Rich performed just hours before Jason Aldean at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas last Sunday.
The duo, John Rich and Big Kenny, had the entire crowd singing “God Bless America,” a moment now held in stark contract against what happened next.
“You think about the contrast of that, our American moment like that, as to what happened two hours later and it’s just as striking to look at,” Rich told 24-Hour News 8’s sister station WKRN via FaceTime on Tuesday.
When the shooting started, the country duo had already left the area and were at the Redneck Riviera, a bar Rich owns. And as the tragedy began unfolding, someone informed the crowd there was an active shooter at the festival.
It was then the bar went on lockdown, and the country artist loaned his gun to an off-duty police officer who stood guard over the crowd.
“This guy walks up to me and says, ‘Hey, I’m a Minneapolis police officer off duty.’ He said, ‘I’m in Las Vegas on my honeymoon. I’m unarmed. Are you armed?’” Rich recounted to News 2.
“I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m armed,’ and he said, ‘Can I take your firearm? I’m going to hold point on this front door until we get the all clear,’” Rich continued.
The country singer said he then handed his gun over to the officer, who stood guard for almost three hours, protecting everyone inside the bar.
“He stood guard at that front door as our line of defense between what was outside and what was inside,” he told WKRN.
Rich said he did get his gun back and has been in touch with that Minneapolis officer, who said he wants to remain anonymous.
The mystery man reportedly said he didn’t need any credit; he’s a police officer, and that’s what police officers do.
The country singer also told WKRN he had quite a chance encounter after his aunt asked him if a friend’s son could be a part of the group’s meet-and-greet after their performance.
“I shook his hand and I went, ‘Oh, what I nice guy,’ and he got an excited look on his face, so happy to meet Big & Rich. It was his first concert, and then we get the report later … because she got the call, and he was one of the first casualties when bullets started flying,” he explained.
He continued, “Sonny turned his back to the bullets to shield his wife from the incoming. She survived. He did not.”