Mystery Solved: Owner of Iconic LV Boots Comes Forward With Tale of Survival

It was a viral image that became emblematic of Sunday night’s nightmare in Las Vegas: A pair of American-flag cowboy boots, left in the gutter by a concert-goer during the chaos after Stephen Paddock started the slaughter at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Sad, forlorn and mysterious, the origin of the boots became a social media mystery.

Now, we know that while the owner of the boots was one of the individuals shot in the attack, he’s going to be OK — and he’s sharing the story behind the symbolic footwear.

Stephen Vicelja, the owner of the boots, is now home recuperating in Redondo Beach, California, after being released from the hospital. He told KCBS-TV he didn’t know that the sounds he was hearing were gunshots at first.

“It’s fireworks or something, we didn’t think it was real,” Vicelja said. Until, that is, he was hit in the leg. “I’m hit, run … and I just took off and started running.”


When he managed to make it out of the crowd, a stranger started bandaging him up on the street, taking off the boots in the process.

“It was pretty amazing to see how many people were helping all those people sitting on the curb,” Vicelja said.

“That’s that curb I was sitting at and you can see kind of the bandages that people used to wrap me up, and those are definitely my boots,” Vicelja said. He says he wants to get them back “in remembrance of all the people there and the fact that I was able to make it out alive.”

Unfortunately, one of Vicelja’s high school classmates wasn’t as lucky as he was: Christiana Duarte, who went to South Torrence High School with Vicelija, died in the shooting.

“We were all kind of praying for her and hoping she got found but we heard the worst news,” Vicelja said.

H/T Rare

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