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Harrowing film tells of Las Vegas shooting and its aftermath

By David Bauder

AP Media Writer

NEW YORK — A pair of cowboy boots that Ashley Hoff never thought she would see again helped unlock a powerful story about the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The resulting film, “11 Minutes,” is an inside account of the 2017 massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas and, more importantly, about how it reverberated in the lives of those who were there. More than three hours long, the four-part documentary debuts Tuesday on the Paramount+ streaming service.

“I’ve never felt more useful or more like the universe put me exactly where I was supposed to be,” said Hoff, an executive producer of “11 Minutes.”

It seems like a strange sentiment given that Hoff was at the show on Oct. 1, 2017, four rows from the stage as Jason Aldean sang “Any Ol’ Barstool.” Hoff heard popping sounds that she and her husband, Shaun, first dismissed as fireworks — not the work of a gunman firing from a nearby hotel window.

She turned to look at her husband and saw someone just behind him struck in the face by a bullet. They alternated ducking to the ground for cover and running away, depending on when they could hear the gunshots.

At one point, she kicked off her cowboy boots because it was too slippery to run in them, eventually escaping the killing field where 58 people died that night, and two more later of their injuries. More than 850 people were hurt before the gunfire stopped.

Nine months later, an FBI agent was at Hoff’s door with her boots — part of a little-known unit that returns property left behind by people caught in these incidents.

Hoff, already in the film business, thought that made an intriguing subject. She was encouraged to broaden her focus through her experience with fellow survivors and the involvement of director Jeff Zimbalist and veteran producers Susan Zirinsky and Terence Wrong.

Many survivors, like herself, were unhappy with media coverage of the massacre, believing there was too much focus on the gunman and that it was forgotten too soon.

“We all went back to our corners to suffer in silence,” she said.

The film takes you vividly inside the event with cellphone and police body-cam footage. The cooperation of Las Vegas police was key, bringing footage like the race to hospitals with survivors and the moment when a tactical unit burst into the casino hotel room where the gunman had barricaded himself.

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