The death toll of those from Kern County who died in a mass shooting in Las Vegas Sunday climbed to four after a substitute teacher from Taft was confirmed dead Tuesday.
A Fresno State graduate, Kelsey Meadows, 28, returned to her hometown of Taft in 2012 to become a regular substitute teacher, according to a Taft Union High School District statement.
“Kelsey was smart, compassionate and kind. She had a sweet spirit and a love for children,” TUHS Principal Mary Alice Finn said in a statement. “Words cannot adequately capture the sorrow felt by her students, colleagues and friends in learning of her passing.”
Family members and friends initially thought Meadows was missing. They plastered Meadows’ photo on Facebook posts, pleading for people to share it so they could find her.
“So it is with an absolutely shattered heart that I let everyone know that Kelsey did not survive this tragic event,” Meadows’ brother, Brad, posted Tuesday morning.
TUHSD will host a vigil for Meadows 7 p.m. Wednesday at Taft High, 701 Wildcat Way.
Meadows' death marks the fourth to touch Kern County in the aftermath of a mass shooting Sunday in Las Vegas when a gunman rained a barrage of bullets on a crowd of 22,000 country music concert-goers from the 32nd story of a nearby hotel. He killed at least 58 and injured more than 525.
It should come as no surprise that scores of residents from Bakersfield – home to country music icons Merle Haggard and Buck Owens – attended the Route 91 Harvest Festival. As one survivor put it, "it's a country music-loving city."
Others who died were 20-year-old Bailey Schweitzer, a receptionist who volunteered her time at her parents' race track, Bakersfield Speedway; 55-year-old Victor Link, who was born and raised in Shafter before moving to Aliso Viejo; and 54-year-old Jack Beaton, who shielded his wife from gunfire when he caught a bullet.
And as more people return home from Las Vegas, stories of those victims become clearer. Michalynn Brown, who attended the festival and escaped unharmed, said that Schweitzer was at the concert with her mother – who was her best friend – and another girlfriend.
Brown heard from a friend Sunday night that Schweitzer had been shot, but was conscious. Her mother called her the next day to ask if she had heard the news. Brown still had thought Schweitzer survived.
"Honey, she died," her mother told her.
"I just lost it," Brown said.
After Schweitzer was shot, she got separated from her mother, Crissy, Brown said.
"She had to go find her at the hospital," Brown said.
Another woman with Bakersfield ties who died, Melissa Ramirez, was a Cal State Bakersfield graduate who lived in Little Rock, an unincorporated community east of Palmdale.
“We are terribly saddened to learn that we lost a member of our CSUB family in this senseless act of violence,” CSUB President Horace Mitchell said in a statement. “Our entire CSUB campus community is heartbroken, and we send our deepest sympathies to Melissa Ramirez’s family and friends.”
CSUB lowered its flags this week in honor of Ramirez and other victims of the attacks in Las Vegas.
And those injured from Kern County continue to recover.
Rachel Sheppard of Tehachapi is recovering from a second surgery after being shot three times – with at least one bullet striking her abdomen, Cliff Suazo, owner of the Doghouse Saloon and Savannah's Old Town Saloon, said after speaking to Sheppard's aunt early Tuesday morning.
A barbecue and auction will be held 11 a.m. Saturday at the Doghouse Saloon with proceeds benefitting Sheppard and her family. A candlelight vigil will follow at 9 p.m.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Sheppard, and donation jars are available at both of Suazo's saloons.
Sheppard has been employed at Don Perico's Restaurant for the past four years. The restaurant plans to hold a separate fundraiser on Saturday. Details will be shared when they become available.
Bakersfield Police Department Officer Aaron Mundhenke, who was shot in the hip, remains in a Las Vegas hospital recovering from surgery and is expected to survive, BPD Sgt. Ryan Kroeker said.
Lost Hills-based Gabby's Restaurant owner Angelica Soto and her friend Carmen Alegria have both been released from the hospital and are recovering, according to acting Gabby's manager Romero Hernandez.
Joseph Luiz of The Californian and Darla Baker of the Tehachapi News contributed to this story.