More than half of those killed in Las Vegas Sunday night are reportedly from California -- KQED has confirmed at least 32 either lived in the state or were native Californians. Of those, a majority called Southern California home.
Rocky Shaw, lead supervising deputy coroner investigator for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, was in touch with Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg in Las Vegas just over an hour after the shooting began Sunday.
By early Monday morning, a four-person coroner investigator team was en route from San Bernardino to Las Vegas.
“They take DNA samples, get everything pertinent to body descriptions; any scars, any tattoos, what kind of jewelry, just all of those things just that help make that identification,” says Shaw.
Three of the investigators are also members of the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team that specializes in mass casualty events, both natural and man-made. One team member recently returned from Texas after assisting in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Members of the team were also part of the response to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino in 2015.
Shaw says they are uniquely skilled in arguably the toughest job of all -- delivering the worst news imaginable to a spouse, sibling or parent: a confirmation of death.
“They are very well-versed in that, they do that almost every day,” says Shaw. “So they're very good at it, they truly are. They are very compassionate people, in addition to being excellent investigators.”
Because of Nevada’s close proximity to San Bernardino County, authorities on both sides of the border often work together on everything from illegal fireworks smuggling to murder investigations.
And now, the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history. At least 58 people were killed, excluding the gunman, who also died.
The San Bernardino County coroner investigators are working out of a 24-hour family assistance center at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It’s where relatives go if they still can’t find a loved one who attended Sunday’s Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Shaw says he’s been checking in with San Bernardino County team members daily. His colleagues are the only out-of-state coroner team called upon to assist the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
Shaw spoke with team leader Jon Kroeker Wednesday as he worked at the family assistance center.
“He felt overwhelmed a bit by the sheer number of people that had come in inquiring,” says Shaw. "And I understand that because looking back at 9/11, which was my first large mass casualty incident, we had a family assistance center for weeks and it seems like it never ended.”