MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A top cop from the Twin Cities is in Las Vegas helping the victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, along with family and friends in law enforcement, visited the city for an annual vacation. He said his group is staying at the Flamingo, just down the strip from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where investigators say Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers from his hotel window. Nearly 60 people were reported to have been killed and hundreds injured.

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Chief Axtell said he was asleep at the time of the shooting but woke up to a phone call about what was happening.

“The first instinct was making sure the rest of our group was safe and certainly my son who is down here with us,” he said.

Once everyone was accounted for, Chief Axtell said he made his way down the strip to survey the scene.

“All the casinos and resort areas were locked down with heavy, heavy security,” he said.

Monday morning, Chief Axtell said the mood around the typically fun and relaxed city changed significantly.

“It’s very somber, it’s very contemplative and just not the same for sure,” he said.

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(credit: SPPD Chief Todd Axtell/Facebook

Instead of walking along the strip Monday, Chief Axtell went to a nearby blood donation center. He said he waited in line for several hours and was pleased to see the effort from volunteers to keep prospective donors hydrated and fed as they stood in the sun. He said people in line ranged from tourists to locals who drove several hours to help.

(credit: SPPD Chief Todd Axtell/Facebook)

“It’s really, really encouraging that wherever we are in this country how quickly communities come together to serve during times of tragic events,” he said.

Based on conversations he has had and from watching the news, Chief Axtell said the response from law enforcement and other first responders was impressive. He said despite training and experience, much of the work they did to save lives likely happened from instinct.

(credit: SPPD Chief Todd Axtell/Facebook)

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“It’s just a great day to pause and give thanks to medical and police personnel, dispatchers that do this every day and hope that something like this doesn’t occur,” he said.

Jeff Wagner