At least 58 people were killed and 500 wounded after a gunman unleashed a storm of bullets on an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas late Sunday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Singer Jason Aldean was performing in the final act of this weekend’s Route 91 Harvest Festival, a massive three-day country music event, when his set was interrupted by rapid gunfire around 10 p.m. Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, was shooting at the approximately 22,000 concertgoers from a room on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel, police later said.
Hoards of panicked fans rushed to flee the scene, hiding under cars and bleachers to escape the bombardment. SWAT team members stormed the hotel and found Paddock in his room, dead of apparent self-inflicted wound and surrounded by at least 10 firearms, including “long rifles,” police said. The windows of his room were smashed open.
Victims, including some in critical condition, were taken to five nearby hospitals. Police said they expected the death count to rise in the coming hours and days.
Officials are still investigating the motive behind the attack. Paddock, a white male who was described as the “sole aggressor,” had no serious criminal record, police said. He lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada, with a female companion, Marilou Danley, but he had been staying in the Mandalay hotel room since Sept 28. Authorities said that Danley, 62, was not a suspect.
Eric Paddock, the suspect’s brother, said that he had “no religious affiliation, no political affiliation,” and no history of mental illness. Family and friends described Stephen Paddock as an avid gambler.
ISIS on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq News site, but an FBI spokesman said that authorities had found “no connection to an international terrorist group.”
“We don’t understand what’s happened… but as we move on we’ll learn more” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) said at a press conference on Monday. “It was a cowardly despicable act that I am very angry about. There is not much we can do but learn.”
Witnesses to Sunday’s attack described frantic concertgoers running for their lives as intermittent rounds of bullets rained down on the crowd. Many thought the pops were coming from fireworks.
“The concert was going on and we heard what sounded firecrackers going off,” one witness, Megan Kearny, told NBC News. “All of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun and people just started screaming that they were hit and to get down, and about every 20 seconds after that you would hear a round of machine guns, and people just dropping, hundreds of bodies over the ground.”
Joseph Ostunio told the Las Vegas Review Journal that he and his friends “heard shots ring out and we thought they were fireworks so we stayed. And then all of a sudden they just kept coming and coming.”
Ostunio said he realized something was wrong after Aldean abruptly left the stage.
Justin Levya, a 22-year-old graphic designer from Riverside, California, was at the concert with his girlfriend, Jenna Newton, and her family when he heard the initial gunfire.
“I look back to my girlfriends father who just yells to get down ― and we did,” Levya said. “My instinct kicked in and I knew I had to get myself as far away from the firing as possible. I grabbed my girlfriend as she was staying down for cover and began throwing chairs out of our path until we finally decided to make a break for it.”
Aldean and his crew were unharmed, he said in an Instagram post, calling the incident“beyond horrific.”
VIDEO: Rapid fire from shooter(s) in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/jgzCTQRUZP
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) October 2, 2017
One off-duty police officer was killed and multiple others were injured including one from the Bakersfield Police Department in Bakersfield, California, authorities said, The Bakersfield officer’s injuries were not life-threatening. Police also said that two on-duty police officers were also injured in the shooting, one critically.
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