Las Vegas: deadliest mass shooting in US history; president addresses the nation

crime | Oct 02, 2017 | By Martin Barillas

Update to this developing story:

President Trump will visit Las Vegas on Tueseday. The official death toll is now 58; more than 500 persons were wounded by the mass murderer.

The deadliest mass shooting in American history unfolded at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. According to Las Vegas sheriff Joe Lombardo, the death toll was set at more than 50. In a televised Monday morning address, President Donald Trump condemned the "murders" as "pure evil." He praised the professionalism of police, who responded swiftly to the attack. The number of wounded has risen to over 400. The gunman, who shot himself to death, has been identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man. The perpetrator’s female roommate has also been found. She has been identified as Marilou Danley. She has been described as Paddock’s “associate.” Police have ruled out terrorism.

According to local law enforcement, Paddock had been staying at his Mandalay Bay hotel room on the 32nd floor since Thursday. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said that police found 10 rifles in his room. He added that it is not clear how Paddock kept the weapons hidden from hotel cleaning staff. 

In a message to Catholic Bishop Joseph Anthony Pepe, Pope Francis conveyed his condolences through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. He wrote, “Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas, Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.” The papal message offered encouragement to police and emergency responders. The pontiff offered his prayers “for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.”

Among the dead was an off-duty Las Vegas police officer, who was not officially identified. Two on-duty officers also were injured. One of those has been upgraded from critical to stable condition, according to officials.

 

There were crowds of fans attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when Paddock opened fired from a hotel balcony. The casino/hotel was soon on lockdown, while there were police reports of two shooters on the 32nd floor of the hotel who had shot at police officers and a bodyguard. Witnesses described the horror of seeing fellow music fans falling to the ground, covered in blood, after being high by the spray of bullets. Performer Jason Aldean was seen to flee the stage as shots rang out.

Passersby used trucks and other vehicles to ferry victims to local hospitals, which are now treating dozens of patients who suffered severe gunshot wounds. One witnessed described to ABC News that a young man died in his arms while being taken to a waiting vehicle to be transferred to a hospital.

Media reports contend that a “machine gun” was used. However, no photos of the actual weapon used have emerged. One twitter message described the gun as an "M-16."

British tennis star Laura Robson posted Instagram images of the concert and posted Twitter messages saying “I’m okay.” The 23-year-old tweeted, “We were right there.. sounded like fireworks at first then everyone started running. Scary s***.” 

Calls to 911 reported shots fired at approximately 10:08 pm local time. Festival-goers thought at first that they were hearing the sound of fireworks but soon saw the deadly toll of the bullets. The wounded and dying were on the floor of the concert venue, while others could not decided whether to run or stay in place.

On Twitter, President Donald Trump offered his “warmest condolences and sympathies” to victims, shortly after sheriff Joe Lombardo confirmed the massacre. He wrote:  “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted, “The UK’s thoughts are with the victims and the emergency services responding to the appalling attack in Las Vegas”

Two cars belonging to the suspect have been found. According to Sheriff Lombardo, there were “multiple, multiple” incorrect reports on social media. He dispelled claims that there was more than one shooter involved in the carnage, or that there had been explosions. The only associated explosion was a controlled detonation of a device by a police SWAT that entered the room on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay Hotel where the shooter was found. Paddock was described by police as a “lone wolf.” Police engaged him there and shot him dead. Police are now searching a residence in Mesquite NV where he reportedly lived with Marilou Danley (62).

Following the attack, MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay and also the Bellagio, MGM Grand and The Mirage, posted a statement on its Twitter page, stating: “Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of last night’s tragic events. We’re grateful for the immediate actions of our first responders.”

Amateur video taken at the concert showed terrified people crouched to seek cover, while others scrambled to safety. The sound of apparent automatic fire could be heard in the background.

Local media interviewed a young, unidentified woman, who was at the Route 91 event and who claimed an unidentified woman had told other concert-goers they were “all going to die” after pushing her way to the front. The witness, who was in Las Vegas to celebrate her 21st birthday, told local media: “She had been messing with a lady in front of her and telling her she was going to die, that we were all going to die." Describing the unidentified woman as Hispanic, the witnessed went on to say, “They escorted her out to make her stop messing around with all the other people, but none of us knew it was going to be serious.” The unidentified woman was escorted from the concert venue along with a male companion. The witnessed described the pair as looking like “everyday people”.

 



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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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