Crime & Justice

Las Vegas Strip shooting: High-rise gunman kills 59, more than 500 injured

People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gunfire was heard on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas.
People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gunfire was heard on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas.
David Becker/Getty Images

Updated 8:32 p.m. PT

A gunman holed up in a hotel room high above the Las Vegas Strip fired down upon 22,000 people attending a country music festival Sunday night, in a brutal attack blamed for at least 59 deaths, according to law enforcement. In the mass shooting and panic that ensued, 527 people were injured.

At least one of the dead is an off-duty police officer who was attending the concert. The suspect is also dead. Police say they're still trying to learn what could have motivated such an attack. 

Las Vegas victims from Southern California: Who they were

The sound of gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest festival concert was reported around 10:08 p.m. local time Sunday, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said at a news briefing. He identified the shooter as Stephen Paddock — a 64-year-old white male who resides in Nevada — and said the suspect was acting as a "lone wolf."

Paddock fired down at the crowd from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, according to the Las Vegas police department. He shot one security guard outside his room, Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo said. A SWAT team used an explosive to breach the room, Lombardo said, and when police entered, they "found the suspect dead."

Paddock had 23 firearms — some of them rifles with scopes — in his hotel room, Lombardo said. Information suggests the suspect had been in the hotel room since Thursday.

Source: Staff reports, Google Earth
Source: Staff reports, Google Earth
Brittany Mayes, Katie Park and Matthew Zhang/NPR

The violence is now being called the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and the tragic death toll seems likely to rise. Forty-nine victims were killed in the June 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Several Southern California residents were killed or injured in the attack

Las Vegas is a popular destination for Southern Californians, and many locals were reportedly among those injured, including a number of off-duty police and fire personnel. Some of the dead also included SoCal residents.

Steven Armstrong of El Monte was attending the festival. Armstrong told KPCC he was 80 feet from the stage during Jason Aldean’s performance when he heard 30 to 40 pops, which initially confused concertgoers.
 
It wasn’t until a second barrage that Armstrong hit the ground. Armstrong said he was afraid not just of being shot, but of he or a friend being trampled by the crowd.
 
Sprinting away from the scene, they saw bodies covered in blood lying on the ground. “It was just scary not knowing where the bullets were coming from,” he said. Armstrong and his friends were unharmed.

Las Vegas felt “unreal” Monday morning, Armstrong said, with streets cordoned off and still blood visible on the ground. “It just doesn’t feel real. You never think of this happening.”

Concertgoers fled into casinos and crammed into cars to get away from the shooting.

Barbara Magro of Orange County said, “[People] were getting into people’s trucks. I saw one with about 20 people in the back.”

Jason Sorenson of Newport Beach said he realized something was wrong when musicians left the stage.

He ran and said, "We saw people with blood all over their shirts.”

Two employees of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department who were attending the music festival were among those hit by gunfire in the attack. Officials say 80 people from their department were in Las Vegas as concertgoers.

Nancy Dahring confirmed that Sheriff's Sgt. Andy Dahring, who works as a liaison between the L.A. Sheriff's Department and the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, was among those shot at the concert.

"There's a bullet lodged in his shoulder," she said. "We're in Vegas, he's being treated here. He's doing well, he's just trying to recover."

According to Dahring's mother Janet Mitchell, who lives in the Seattle area, as of Monday afternoon doctors were waiting  to perform surgery until they see where the bullet fragments are. 

His wife and other members of the Sheriff's Department drove out to stay with him in the hospital. He's been with the department since 1996.

"He's always wanted to help people, he's always had that nature about him," Mitchell said. "He has an outstanding record and several commendations."

She found out about the shooting at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday night, when Dahring's wife called her.

"We haven't slept since," Mitchell said. "We're just hoping for a good recovery and successful surgery for him. And peace for Nancy, his wife. We're really thrilled that his friends are there and that fellow officers drove there to be with him."

Manhattan Beach Police Department civilian employee Rachael Parker was among those killed, while a sworn officer was also shot and injured.

At least one LAPD officer was injured in the violence, and other off-duty officers were in attendance. The L.A. Fire Department said two of its members were also shot, but their wounds were not life-threatening.  Those injured also include members of the Ontario PD and an Orange County Sheriff's deputy.

The scene from the ground

Images and video from the Las Vegas Strip are harrowing. They show masses of people screaming and trying to seek safety as torrents of gunshots echo through the area of Las Vegas Village, an outdoor venue across the street from the Luxor Hotel and northwest of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

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Witnesses said that at first they thought the gunshots were the sounds of fireworks. After the danger became clear, several said, they were still unsure where to run — because they couldn’t see where the bullets were coming from.

“Obviously this is a tragic incident, and one that we’ve never experienced in this valley,” Lombardo said. One goal now, he said, was to “get our first responders back on their feet” and conducting a full investigation.

Video

A Jason Aldean concert was underway at the time of the shooting. On social media, Aldean said he and his crew are safe. In an Instagram post he called the shooting “beyond horrific.”

The mass shooting prompted panic and a lockdown at hotels along the Strip, as the barrage of gunfire rained down on the crowd.

Musician Jake Owen, who played on the same stage as Aldean earlier Sunday night, told CBS News that the stream of gunfire seemed to go on for at least six minutes and possibly as many as 10. He took shelter behind a car with a crowd of other people, he said.

Concert-goers reported seeing muzzle flashes from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino 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.

This video, showing a SWAT team entering the Tropicana hotel following the shooting, was provided to KPCC and filmed by Jay Paloma of Cerritos:

SWAT team enters Tropicana hotel following Vegas shooting

Tens of thousands of people attended the weekend-long Route 91 Harvest country music festival. Aldean was headlining the final night of the three-day concert; he had been scheduled to go on stage just before 10 p.m.

Sheriff Lombardo said Monday morning that police at the Las Vegas Village concert venue across the street from the Mandalay Bay hotel face a "long process of body recovery out there, and evidence recovery and evidence documentation."

People can call to check on their loved ones using this missing persons hotline: 1-800-536-9488. A previous number is no longer in service due to technical difficulties. Locals are being asked to go to the Family Resource Center in person rather than trying to call.

What we know about the shooter

Paddock lived in a town called Mesquite — which is about 90 minutes north of Las Vegas, in Clark County. Investigators have conducted a search warrant at Paddock's residence, the Mesquite Police Department said. Lombardo added that other properties will also be searched.

Paddock seems not to have had a criminal record. "The only thing we can tell is he received a citation several years ago and that citation was handled as a matter of normal practice in the court system," Lombardo said.

Police have also located two vehicles associated with Paddock: a Hyundai Tucson and a Chrysler Pacifica. At Paddock's home, authorities found 19 more guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be turned into explosives such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, were in his car, the sheriff said.

Police officers take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.
Police officers take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas.
John Locher/AP

 

In the initial hours after the shooting, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said they were looking for Paddock's female companion, Marilou Danley. Early Monday, the department said, "we are confident we have located the female person of interest" — but they later clarified that they believe she was not involved. Lombardo says she was found "out of the country" and that Paddock had used some of her identification.

Responding to reports by the ISIS-associated news agency Amaq that the terrorist group had claimed responsibility for the attack — and that Paddock had converted to Islam — FBI Las Vegas Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse said on Monday that the agency has "determined, to this point, no connection with an international terrorist group."

More about the shooter: Paddock said to be a restless retiree who liked to gamble

The killing of dozens of innocent people has prompted questions about how to define the horrible crime — particularly whether it could most accurately be called domestic terrorism.

When asked about that distinction, Lombardo said, "We have to establish what his motivation is first. And there's motivating factors associated with terrorism other than a distraught person just intending to cause mass casualties."

Paddock's brother Eric, who lives in Orlando, Fla., says the family doesn't know why Paddock might carry out a deadly shooting.

"We have absolutely no idea whatsoever," Eric Paddock said to reporters gathered outside his home Monday morning. "We have no idea why he did this. And that's what you're going to find out. I can't imagine. When you guys found out why this happened, let us know. I have no idea whatsoever."

Visibly distraught, Eric Paddock said the family sends its condolences to everyone affected by the attack. He said he was "dumbfounded" after being told that his brother had killed dozens of people. As for the guns Stephen Paddock reportedly used, Eric Paddock noted that his brother doesn't have a military background and asked, "Where the hell did he get automatic weapons?"

Eric Paddock described the suspect as someone who gambled in Las Vegas casinos, enjoyed burritos, and dated a woman who sent cookies to their mother. The last contact between the two, he said, was when Stephen Paddock texted to check on his family after Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

How Las Vegas is responding

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Local officials asked people to donate blood through United Blood Services — and a massive response followed, with long lines prompting the service to deploy mobile donation vehicles and open more facilities to the public. Others showed up to offer water and snacks to people waiting in line, local Fox 5 News reports.

"What we ask for is blood," Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said, recalling the offers of help that have followed the assault on residents and visitors to the tourist hub. "Please donate blood."

Goodman called the gunman "a crazed lunatic" who carried out an "outrageous" attack that runs counter to her city's values.

Las Vegas' Clark County Commission Chair, Steve Sisolak, also created a GoFundMe page to aid victims of the shooting. It has already garnered more than $2.5 million in donations. Funds will be used to provide relief and financial support to the victims and families of the horrific Las Vegas mass shooting​.

The Clark County coroner's office has also opened an assistance center for family members of the victims. People can go to the center to receive information about their loved ones, mental health care, legal processes following death and more. It is located in the Las Vegas Convention Center Exhibit Hall S-2.

The FBI is assisting with the investigation, including helping to process evidence from the scene, Lombardo said. He added that the Red Cross is also helping the community.

Flights in and out of nearby McCarran International Airport were temporarily halted, but the airport returned to full operations later in the morning.

A 'worst-case scenario'

The Route 91 festival started in 2014 and has grown to become one of the nation's top country music festivals. 

"I mean, people make it a destination event. They go out and have fun, they go gambling, they see their friends, and they enjoy country music. It's just horrific to think that this happened. I'm still trying to process it," said Lauren Jo Black, editor of the music blog "Sounds Like Nashville."
 
Black said a lot of outdoor music festivals are held in big, open fields with flat terrain and that she could think of no other festival where a shooter could take such a position over the audience.

"So this was a worst-case scenario, I think, to have that type of vantage point over the audience," she told KPCC's "Take Two."

Some people took to social media to question how Paddock made it into the hotel with so many large guns.

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Dick Hudak, a former FBI agent and a longtime expert in global hotel and resort security, told "Take Two" that hotels have to weigh guest convenience and privacy against security and the increased cost and manpower needed to, say, screen all luggage with X-ray machines.

Hudak said he knew of offshore hotels in countries with terrorist threats that do implement such screening, but that he couldn't think of another situation involving a hotel quite like this one.

"A case just like this — this is the first one of its kind. So we have to consider other responses that we might be able to think up and really double down on training of staff and better communications with law enforcement," Hudak said.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Live Nation, the company behind the music festival, called the attack an "incomprehensible act of violence," adding that they were "heartbroken" and saying "this is a moment when we must come together to prevent more tragedies like this from occurring."

President Trump's response

Trump said via a tweet, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”

In a White House address delivered shortly before 8 a.m. PT Monday, Trump said he will visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. He also said he has ordered the flag to be flown at half-staff.

"In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one — and it always has," Trump said.

President Trump and the first lady led a moment of silence on Monday afternoon on the White House South Lawn to honor the victims of the deadly Las Vegas shooting.

Trump also spoke Monday with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the shooting. The White House said May conveyed her condolences for those affected by the attack.

The White House said the president thanked May and praised the first responders in Las Vegas who responded to the shooting.

This story has been updated.