LAS VEGAS – A lone gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino unleashed a hail of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below Sunday night, killing at least 50 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday.
It’s the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said some 400 people were taken to hospital at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in an outdoor area known as Las Vegas Village, across the strip from the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor hotels.
Authorities have identified the person believed to be the gunman in Sunday night’s shooting as Stephen Paddock, 64.
He said authorities believe it 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 believed Paddock checked in as a hotel guest. An earlier report suggested the gunman had been killed by police, but Lombardo said Monday morning that “we believe the individual killed himself prior to our entry.”
When asked how many weapons the shooter had, Lombardo said “we’re still going through the search warrant actively at this time, but it’s in excess of 10 rifles.”
Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, who lives in Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel: “We are completely dumbfounded. We can’t understand what happened.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, who is set to speak live, tweeted earlier Monday he was offering his “warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
‘It was chaos’
Cam (Buzz) Brainard, a country radio host who witnessed the mayhem, told CBC News Network that the shooting sparked chaos and panic as people tried to flee the crowded festival grounds.
Brainard, who initially dove under a tour bus to avoid gunfire, said he just “ran and ran” to the sound of sporadic gunfire, surrounded by a massive crowd of moving people.
“It was chaos.”
Las Vegas police said 406 people were taken to local hospitals after the shooting.
Authorities say they have also located 62-year-old Marilou Danley, who was wanted as a person of interest. Police said Monday they don’t believe Danley was involved in the shooting.
“We have located her out of the country,” Lombardo said Monday morning, adding that police believe the shooter was using some of her identification.
“We have had conversation with her, and we believe her, at this time, not to be involved,” he said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.
Police said officers have a search warrant for Paddock’s residence in Mesquite, Nev., which was being checked for explosives and then searched.
Quinn Everettof Mesquite Nevada Police called it a “unique situation” and said it was a very quiet, low-crime neighbourhood. He said there were no active threats in the area, but investigators were interviewing neighbours.
The death toll surpassed the 49 from the Orlando nightclub shooting that also left dozens wounded in June 2016, when the 29-year-old gunman was shot and killed by police.
Hours after the shooting, country singer Jason Aldean, one of the performers, posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe, and said the shooting was “beyond horrific.”
Sprint to safety
Brainard said he was in the artist area just off the stage when the shooting started.
“It was probably the closest point to Mandalay Bay of the entire festival grounds,” he said. He, too, thought the sounds were fireworks, or possibly a blown power line.
He said people wandered out of the tent, and it became clear what was going on as the panic hit.
“In that area, right next to the stage, we dove underneath the tour buses for the artists,” he said. “So we’re on the ground, and that’s when some of the dirt started kicking up around us because bullets were being fired there.”
Brainard, who was with his 19-year-old son, said he and the people around him had to cross over the stage to get away from the Mandalay Bay.
“We joined the masses of concertgoers, 30,000 people, so now you’re starting to see people that are wounded and you’re also seeing people getting trampled.”
Brainard said he eventually found safety at the Tropicana Hotel, which was locked down.
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.
Quinn Mell-Cobb and his girlfriend, Madison Milford, had travelled from Vancouver to Las Vegas for the concert. Mell-Cobb told CBC News Network’s Heather Hiscox on Monday morning that he and his girlfriend were near the back of the festival when they started hearing “pops” in quick succession. Mell-Cobb said he thought it could have been fireworks or bottle rockets.
“Then five, six seconds later, heard it again,” he said. The performer ran off the stage, the lights came up and “we just saw this rush of people” running toward them.
Mell-Cobb said that in the panic, his girlfriend fell to the ground, and he feared she may have been hit by gunfire. Milford said she fell to the ground in shock, but got up and started running after a nearby man told them there were gunshots and they needed to get out of the area.
Mell-Cobb said they couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from, and just got out as quickly as they could.
“It was honestly like a stampede. It was just crazy how many people were running in that direction,” he said.
Jose Baggett, 31, a Las Vegas resident, said he and a friend were in the lobby of the Luxor hotel-casino — directly north of the festival — when people began running. He said people were crying and as he and his friend walked away, they encountered police checkpoints where officers were carrying shotguns and assault rifles.
“There were armoured personnel vehicles, SWAT vehicles, ambulances, and at least a half-mile of police cars,” Baggett said.
Source: The Associated Press, CBC