Neighbors remember Tennessee man killed in Las Vegas shooting as a hero

(Photo courtesy Melton family)

A Tennessee man killed in the mass shooting at a country concert in Las Vegas was remembered as a hero in his hometown on Monday.

In a town of about 550 people, every loss is a big one. On Monday, friends and family in Big Sandy, Tennessee, honored Sonny Melton who died protecting his wife.

"He's just a hero," said Michelle Cook . "His life showed that every single day."

Melton died shielding his wife Heather from the gunfire that killed at least 59 people and injured at least 327 people on Sunday in Las Vegas.

"That's Sonny," Benton County Sheriff Kenny Christopher said. "He done it for his wife. He would've done it for a total stranger"

Sheriff Christopher said he has known Sonny all his life.

"He was a small town, good ol' boy, real likable, and if something was going on they needed any help with, you could count on Sonny to be there," Christopher said.

Bryant Allen said Sonny grew up with his sons.

"It's like losing one of my own. It really is," Allen said. "The way he went didn't surprise me. He was a hero to all of us by him saving Heather. I just saw them not too long ago on their property fishing where they built their new home. That's love. I remember seeing the way they talked and interacted with each other. They were in love."

The couple worked at the Henry County Medical Center where flags flew at half staff Monday. They went to Las Vegas to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, a coworker told Fox 17 News.

"They were newlyweds," said Tom Gee, hospital CEO. "Only a year or two married just seem to really be connecting. This is just a real tragedy."

On Sunday night, Sonny and Heather stood in the crowd of a Jason Aldean concert, where dozens of bullets from an unseen gunman rained down around them. Stephen Paddick, 64, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel, investigators said.

"This really brings it home to us," Gee said. "We heard the tragedy and thought what a horrible thing that was, but then it just hit us like a ton of bricks when we found out one of her own people was involved."

Sonny worked as a nurse in the ER. Loretta Richardson said Sonny took care of her veteran husband.

"He was trying to make me feel better because my husband was so sick," Richardson said. "So it wasn't just taking care of my husband, it was taking care of me."

Heather worked as an orthopedic surgeon, and team doctor for nearby Henry County High School.

"[She is] a well-known knee surgeon and just a great person as well," Gee said.

The pair worked in different departments at the hospital, but planned on working together after returning from their trip. Instead the hospital seems like a much emptier place, Gee said.

"It'll just be very difficult and will take a while for us to cope with it," Gee said.

The community held two vigils Monday outside Big Sandy City Hall.

"His Dad and mother are very dear friends of mine," Bryant Allen said. "We hurt for them. We really do."

"I love that kid," Sheriff Kenny Christopher. "I think his whole community loves him."

Daryl Lewis, pastor of Big Sandy First Baptist said the church is raising money to help an neighbor visit his son Jason McMillan, who suffered two gunshot wounds and is in stable condition at a Las Vegas hospital.

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