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A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino unleashed a shower of bullets down on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 59 people and wounding at least 527 more as tens of thousands of frantic concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman opened fire across the street from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. SWAT teams quickly descended on the concert and the casino, and officers used explosives to storm the gunman’s hotel room, where they found he had killed himself, authorities said. The gunman was identified by Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo as Stephen Paddock. Assistant Clark County Sheriff Todd Fasulo says officers have found 23 firearms in the hotel room of the Las Vegas shooter and 19 firearms at his home in Mesquite, Nevada.
Paddock also had two devices that were attached to the stocks of semiautomatic guns to allow fully automatic gunfire. The bump-stock devices have attracted scrutiny in recent years from authorities. Lombardo also said that several pounds of ammonium nitrate. a material used to make explosives, was found in Paddock’s car.
Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, had checked into the hotel room on Thursday, authorities said. “What we are going to try to do as best we can is to get our first responders back on their feet and responding and conducting a proper investigation to ensure that we have the safety of this community at heart,” Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said. The shooter appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes as Las Vegas police frantically tried to locate the man in one of the Mandalay Bay hotel towers, according to radio traffic.
Nevada authorities say Paddock acted alone and had no connection to an international terrorist group, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group. In its claim of responsibility, IS said the gunman was “a soldier” who had converted to Islam months ago. But it provided no evidence and IS often claims attacks by individuals inspired by its message but with no known links to the group.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called the gunman a “crazed lunatic of hate.” No motive was yet known. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point,” Lombardo added.
Paddock owned a single-family home in Sun City Mesquite, a retirement community along the Nevada-Arizona border, Mesquite Police Chief Troy Tanner said. He lived there with Marilou Danley, 62. Police say they don’t believe she was involved.
Goodman spoke to mourners in the setting sun Monday evening outside the downtown City Hall.Religious leaders, elected officials and mourners have gathered at multiple prayer vigils in Las Vegas.
Aldean was in the middle of a song when the shots came rapidly: Pop-pop-pop-pop. Video of the shooting then showed Aldean stopping and the crowd getting quiet as if they were unsure of what had just happened. The gunman paused and then fired another volley of muzzle flashes from the gold glass casino as more victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some said they hid behind concession stands and other crawled under parked cars.
Thousands in the crowd — totaling more than 22,000 — fled as the bullets ran rampant. Monique Dumas from British Columbia, Canada, said she was at the concert, six rows from the stage when she thought she heard a bottle breaking, and then a burst of popping sounds that may have been fireworks. She said as she made her way out, it was “organized chaos” as everyone fled. “It took four to five minutes and all that time there was gunfire,” said Dumas.
Las Vegas Governor Brian Sandoval likened the scene to a “war zone” while delivering a live address on Monday morning, during which he thanked the first responders. Local authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a “family reunification center” for people to find loved ones.
Live Nation, the organizers of the concert, released a statement later on Monday about their collective heartbreak and “deepest gratitude” to the heroic first responders. “To think that anyone would want to inflict harm on a gathering of music lovers is beyond our comprehension,” read the statement in part. “And while we are stunned and grieving over this incomprehensible act of violence, we know that this is a moment when we must come together to prevent more tragedies like this from occurring. … To our Live Nation on-site employees, we cannot thank you enough for your bravery and perseverance over the past 24 hours and will ensure you have the resources and support necessary to heal from this.”
Lombardo said authorities believe this was a “lone wolf” attack. And the U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the U.S. “It’s a devastating time,” Lombardo said. “There were armored personnel vehicles, SWAT vehicles, ambulances, and at least a half-mile of police cars,” Baggett added.
The dead included at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the concert, authorities said. Two on-duty officers were wounded, one critically, police said.
While Stephen Paddock appeared to have no criminal history, his father was a notorious bank robber, Eric Paddock confirmed to The Orlando Sentinel. Benjamin Hoskins Paddock tried to run down an FBI agent with his car in Las Vegas in 1960 and wound up on the agency’s most wanted list after escaping from a federal prison in Texas in 1968, when Stephen Paddock was a teen.
Eric described his brother as a multimillionaire and said they had business dealings and owned property together. He said he was not aware that his brother had gambling debts. “He had substantial wealth. He’d tell me when he’d win. He’d grouse when he’d lost. He never said he’d lost $4 million or something. I think he would have told me.”
The Route 91 Harvest Festival responded in a statement that they are “completely devastated” by the Sunday night tragedy.
“Our deepest sympathies go out to the injured and the deceased and their loved ones, senseless violence has claimed the souls of our fans and we have little in the way of answers. Our eternal gratitude goes out to the LVPD, Emergency services, security guards, and fans for their selfless acts of bravery while trying to help those in need,” they continued. “While we will try and move forward, we will never forget this day. We will NOT let hate win over LOVE. We will NOT be defeated by senseless violence. We WILL persevere, and hoonor the souls that were lost. Because it matters.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement: “The loss of life in Las Vegas is profoundly horrifying. Innocent people went out for an evening of fun and walked into a nightmare that defies our ability to understand or express sorrow in words. Our hearts are heavy today — and our thoughts are with the victims of this senseless attack, their loved ones, Mayor Goodman, and all of our friends in that great city. My prayer is that they find healing, recovery, and strength in this moment of indescribable pain.”
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck released a statement asking everyone in Los Angeles to remain “vigilant.” He added that the LAPD will be reviewing their own safety measures for handling future events in Los Angeles.
“While this appears to be an isolated incident with no apparent threat to the Los Angeles area, I know how troubling this can be for our community. Rest assured, the Department is communicating with all affected local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as private security partners, to identify any large public gatherings that may draw attention and we will be patrolling these events accordingly.”
The Recording Academy also tweeted a statement about the “unthinkable tragedy,” writing, “As members of the music community, we will come together as we always do in defiance of this senseless act, and provide love and support to those affected.”
— Chief Charlie Beck (@LAPDChiefBeck) October 2, 2017
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families affected by the unthinkable tragedy that occurred last night in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/wlIQHa2qjg
— Recording Academy (@RecordingAcad) October 2, 2017
President Donald Trump tweeted about the shooting early Monday. “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting,” he said. “God bless you!” First lady Melania Trump also took to Twitter to say her “heart and prayers goes out to victims, families & loved ones!” Vice President Mike Pence also offered his and wife Karen’s condolences and sympathies, adding: “To the courageous first responders, thank you for your acts of bravery.”
Later on Monday morning, Trump, who will travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday, addressed the nation in a somber, stern and spiritual speech from the White House where he credited the speed of the first responders and stressed unity among Americans.
“It was an act of pure evil,” he said. “We are joined together today in sadness, shock and grief. … Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence and though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today and always will, forever.”
Officer Aden Ocampo-Gomez said earlier in the night deputies were heading to the scene Sunday near the hotel, located on the southern part of the Las Vegas Strip.
We’re investigating reports of an active shooter near/around Mandalay Bay Casino. Asking everyone to please avoid the area. #LVMPDnews
— LVMPD (@LVMPD) October 2, 2017
Concertgoers reported seeing muzzle flashes from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay across Las Vegas Boulevard from the country music festival and the sound of what they described as automatic gun fire.
Witnesses said they saw multiple victims as they fled the gunfire raining down on the concert venue. Some later huddled in the basement of the nearby Tropicana hotel-casino.
Some officers took cover behind their vehicles while others carrying assault rifles ran into the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
On a live feed of the Las Vegas police scanner, officials said witnesses were reporting shots heard at other hotels, including New York-New York, Tropicana, Bellagio and Caesars Palace, but those turned out to be false reports. Some people took to social media to post videos in which gunfire could be heard.
Active shooter Las Vegas strip I’m ok locked in my room lights off windows closed. Shooter is directly across the street. Shots heard on vid pic.twitter.com/Z4mz3E3bmE
— Bryan Heifner (@HBryanBHHS) October 2, 2017
— RT (@RT_com) October 2, 2017
KTNV Las Vegas reported that many people headed to McCarran International Airport once the shots began. Flights in and out of the airport were temporarily halted, the airport said in a tweet. Around 1 a.m., some flights resumed.
Some flights destined for @LASairport were diverted due to police incident. Please check with your air carrier if flying/picking up tonight.
— McCarran Airport (@LASairport) October 2, 2017
UPDATE: Flights in and out of @LASairport have been temporarily halted in response to reported shooting incident on Las Vegas Strip.
— McCarran Airport (@LASairport) October 2, 2017
At around 11:25 p.m., police were saying on the scanner that they had a suspect down on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. Just before midnight, they confirmed via Twitter: “Confirming that one suspect is down. This is an active investigation. Again, please do not head down to the Strip at this time.” No further details were given.
Confirming that one suspect is down. This is an active investigation. Again, please do not head down to the Strip at this time.
— LVMPD (@LVMPD) October 2, 2017
About an hour later, LVPMD tweeted: “At this time we do not believe there are any more shooters.”
At this time we do not believe there are any more shooters. More information to come shortly from @Sheriff_LVMPD.
— LVMPD (@LVMPD) October 2, 2017
Around 1:30 a.m. local time, police said more than 20 had been killed and 100-plus injured. They also confirmed the gunman was dead and was a local man, but they didn’t identify him right away.
The alleged shooter’s brother told the Orlando Sentinel that the family is shocked and has no answers.
“We are completely dumbfounded,” Eric Paddock, Stephen Paddock’s brother, told the newspaper. “We can’t understand what happened. We have no idea. We’re horrified. We’re bewildered and our condolences go out to the victims,” Paddock said. “We have no idea in the world.”
Among those playing the Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday night were Aldean, Jake Owen, Luke Combs, Dylan Scott and Big & Rich. Scott, Owen and Combs all tweeted that they were safe (see below). And Aldean, who was playing when gunfire rang out, later posted on Instagram about the incident.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean wrote. “I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate.”
Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said he and his girlfriend were watching Aldean’s performance when he heard what sounded like fireworks. The music stopped temporarily and started up again before another round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage. Thousands fled as bursts of gunfire could be heard for more than five minutes, Yazzie said.
“It was the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Yazzie said. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash- flash- flash- flash.”
Two members of the Los Angeles Fire Department attending the concent as citizens were struck by gunfire, according to the department. They are expected to survive. Two Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies, attending the concert as civilians, were also shot. One remains in critical condition and the other is in stable condition, said Sheriff Jim McDonnell.
Another eyewitness told CNN that Aldean ran off the stage once the gunfire started and that he heard about 50-60 gunshots. He added that people began climbing through the fences and destroying barricades to get out before a stampede to escape started.
— David Schuman (@david_schuman) October 2, 2017
The Route 91 Harvest festival began in 2014 as a co-production between Live Nation and MGM Resorts International. Among the acts who have played the outdoor festival in the past are Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line. The three-day festival is held at the MGM Resorts Village, just steps away from Mandalay Bay and The Luxor. More than 20,000 people attended the inaugural festival.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said shortly after the shooting that President Trump had been “briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas.” Sanders said that “we are monitoring the situation closely and offer our full support to state and local officials. All of those affected are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Around 8 a.m. Monday, Mandalay Bay announced security lifted all restrictions on access to property and guests could return to their room. Hours later, the resort put out a plea for certified trauma counselors.
The shooting at the sold-out Route 91 Harvest festival was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman opened fire at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. Sunday’s shooting came more than four months after a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, that killed 22 people. Almost 90 people were killed by gunmen inspired by Islamic State at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal in November 2015.
Gun shots!!! Vegas. Pray to god. Love you guys. Love you Pearl.
— Jake Owen (@jakeowen) October 2, 2017
Praying for everyone here in Vegas. I witnessed the most unimaginable event tonight. We are okay. Others arent. Please pray.
— Jake Owen (@jakeowen) October 2, 2017
Active shooter at @Route91Harvest in Vegas. We’re safe. Love you guys.
— Luke Combs (@LukeCombsMusic) October 2, 2017
Prayers to everyone at @Route91Harvest in Las Vegas. We are ok, had literally just left for the airport. What is wrong with this world!!
— Dylan Scott (@DylanScottCntry) October 2, 2017
Melinda Newman of Billboard contributed to this report.
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