Following the Las Vegas shooting, the Carson City District Attorney’s Office has been looking at how it can better provide support and services should a major disaster happen close to home.
The DA’s Office sent Frankee Haynes and Suzanne Crawford, the office’s Victim Witness administrator and coordinator, down to Las Vegas in the days immediately after the shooting, where they worked with the National Organization for Victim Assistance to aid in support and services for those impacted by the shooting. “The two traveled to Las Vegas as NOVA crisis responders where they counseled victims, families and employees, helped with services and support with the ordeal,” said District Attorney Jason Woodbury. “We couldn’t be more proud of how they stepped up. All reports back to us were strong, which isn’t surprising to anyone in this office.”
Haynes and Crawford work with victims in the Carson City justice system to provide resources and support while they’re going through traumatic experiences. Because of their work, they have both earned their credentials to be a part of NOVA and help travel the state providing those same victim support services to those involved in mass tragedies. “(You earn your credentials) through exposure, and workload and the hours exposed to a crime,” Haynes said. “There is DUI/homicide, homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault and child molestation and you have to put thousands of hours into each category to obtain your advanced certification.”
They’re no stranger to mass tragedies. The women have responded to help with situations after the IHOP shooting in 2011, the Sparks Middle School shooting in 2013 and more. But, it never gets easier.
“It was hard, after you are with each victim you have to take a break and process because it is a lot to take in, not just for them, but for you too,” Crawford said.
The two worked with the Red Cross, FBI and local law enforcement, as well as eight other NOVA members from across the country, while in Vegas — from returning victim’s possessions from the concert, to providing families with shelter while they were in the city, to offering support.
“We had to return nearly 39,000 pieces of property people had left behind while they were fleeing the concert,” Haynes said. “We also assisted with mental health services, there was just a range of services we offered to victims and families. A team of 10 of us served 3,000 victims down there in a few days.”
One of the difficulties the women faced was the sheer force of the aftermath of the shooting.
“There weren’t many of us out there so we would be helping from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and that isn’t a safe setup for us,” Haynes said. “And you could feel it, it was the little things.”
Haynes said one memory that stuck with her was returning a green backpack to the parents of one of the deceased. Haynes had a People magazine in the room at the time, that happened to have a photo of the girl who owned the backpack at the concert right before the shooting.
“It was just that there. This person was here and now I am giving the backpack to her parents and she’s gone,” Haynes said.
“Even though we deal with victims every day, it is a lot knowing people are still fresh and raw from it and there were a lot of people who hadn’t even come out of their homes yet since the shooting but they came out for support and help and that meant a lot,” Crawford said.
To have the two women so experienced in handling this type of situation is vital for both the District Attorney’s Office as well as the city because now the citizens of Carson have people who are skilled in handing post-situation trauma.
“It was important for them to be there to help and this is now an opportunity for us in an event like that,” Woodbury said. “The Sheriff’s Office has their protocol if something happens, the city has theirs and often what can fall through the gaps is how are we going to help the people impacted by that.”
Woodbury said they will now work with the Sheriff’s Office and the City Manager to build a protocol to address victim needs should a mass tragedy arise again in Carson City. The benefit is the plans won’t just include criminal events like a shooting, but any tragedy where a number of people are impacted, and Woodbury said they now feel better prepared to continue to help following any future situation that may arise.