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UPDATE: Death toll rises to 58 in Las Vegas shooting massacre

Associated Press • Updated Oct 2, 2017 at 4:20 PM

LAS VEGAS — A gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino rained heavy fire down on a crowd of over 22,000 at an outdoor country music festival, turning the expanse into a killing field from which there was little escape. At least 58 people died.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. At least 515 people were injured.

Concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives Sunday night outside the 44-story Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino after hearing what at first sounded like firecrackers but turned out to be dozens of bullets in rapid-fire bursts, perhaps from an automatic weapon.

SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room in the gold-colored glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself, authorities said.

The attacker, Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nevada, had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles, they said.

Asked about the motive for the attack, Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said: “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.”

The sheriff said a check of federal and state databases showed Paddock was not on law enforcement authorities’ radar before the bloodbath.

Aaron Rouse, the FBI agent in charge in Las Vegas, said investigators saw no immediate evidence connecting the attack to an international terror organization, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman apparently used a hammer-like device to smash out windows in his room and opened fire, the muzzle flashes visible in the dark, authorities said.

The crowd, funneled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands. Others crawled under parked cars.

Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said the music stopped briefly after the first shots, then started up again before a second round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.

“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.”

Monique Dumas, of British Columbia, Canada, said she was six rows from the stage when she heard what she thought was a bottle breaking, then a popping that sounded to her like fireworks.

Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed. Some were bloodied, and some were carried out by fellow concertgoers. Dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, while some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to the hospital.

Some of the injured were hit by shrapnel. Others were trampled in the mass panic.

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. For several minutes, officers could not tell whether the fire was coming from Mandalay Bay or the neighboring Luxor hotel.

Investigators gave few details on the weapons used, but reported over the radio that they were faced with fully automatic fire.

In an address to the country, President Donald Trump called the attack “an act of pure evil” and added: “In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has.” He ordered flags flown at half-staff.

Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with the wounded. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat whose congressional district includes part of Las Vegas, visited a hospital and said: “Literally, every single bed was being used, every single hallway was being used. Every single person there was trying to save a life.”

Las Vegas 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.

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.

“It’s a devastating time,” the sheriff said.

The sheriff said authorities believe it was a “lone wolf” attack but want to talk to Paddock’s roommate, a woman Lombardo said was out of the country at the time of the attack.

Paddock lived in a retirement community, owned rental properties, held a private pilot’s license and liked to travel to Las Vegas to play high-stakes video poker.

As for why he went on the murderous rampage, his brother in Florida, Eric Paddock, told reporters: “I can’t even make something up. There’s just nothing.”

While Paddock appeared to have no criminal history, his father was a bank robber who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list after escaping from prison in Texas in the 1960s.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the Sunday night attack was the work of a “crazed lunatic full of hate.”

In its claim of responsibility, the Islamic State group said the gunman was “a soldier” who had converted to Islam months ago. But it provided no evidence, and the extremist organization has been known to make unsubstantiated claims of responsibility for attacks around the word.

The Islamic State group also said it was responsible for a June attack on a Manila casino and shopping complex where 37 died, mostly from smoke inhalation — a claim rejected by authorities, who said the lone attacker was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict.

On Monday, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered the support of the FBI and other federal agencies but noted that the investigation is being led by the sheriff. That was seen as another possible sign the shooting was not thought to be an act of international terrorism.

Interstate 15 was briefly closed, and flights at McCarran International Airport were suspended for a while.

Nearly every inch of the Las Vegas Strip is under video surveillance, much of it set up by the casinos to monitor their properties. That could yield a wealth of material for investigators as they try to piece together the attack.

Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was “beyond horrific.”

“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” the country star said.

Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub 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 2015.

This story has been corrected to give the right spelling for the last name of Kodiak Yazzie and show that the officer in critical condition was on duty at the time of the shooting.

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Earlier:

LAS VEGAS — Sheriff Joe Lombardo says the death toll from the Las Vegas shooting has risen to 58, with 515 people injured. A gunman opened fire on a Las Vegas country music festival Sunday night.

The gunman opened fire from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

Authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock killed himself after the shooting. Police have yet to determine a motive.

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Earlier:

LAS VEGAS — A gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 50 people as tens of thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

More than 400 victims were taken to hospitals, authorities said.

SWAT officers using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room and found he had killed himself, authorities said.

There was no immediate word on the motive for the attack. The U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the U.S.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in front of a crowd of 22,000 when the gunman opened fire from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

The gunman was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada.

SWAT teams quickly descended on the concert and the casino, and officers used explosives to get into the hotel room where the suspect was inside, 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,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.

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 it were unsure of what had just happened.

The gunman paused and then fired another volley, the muzzle flashes visible from the casino, as more victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands, while others crawled under parked cars.

Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said the music stopped temporarily when the first shots began and the tune even started up again before the second round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.

“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.”

As the bullets ran rampant, thousands in the crowd fled in every direction. Couples held hands running through the dirt lot. Faces were brushed with shock and confusion, tears and screams. Some were bloodied and others were carried out by fellow concert-goers.

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.”

In addition to Paddock, police said they located a woman who may have been his roommate — Marilou Danley, 62. Lombardo said they believe this was a “lone wolf” attack.

“It’s a devastating time,” Lombardo said.

Police shut down the usually busy Las Vegas Boulevard and authorities across the state and federal ranks converged on the scene as dozens of ambulances ferried those struck by gunfire. Nearby Interstate 15 and flights at McCarran International Airport were briefly closed.

Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with victims delivered by ambulance. Others loaded the wounded into their cars and drove them to hospitals.

Jose Baggett, 31, of Las Vegas, said he and a friend were in the lobby of the Luxor hotel-casino — directly north of the festival — when people began to run, almost in a stampede.

He said people were crying and as he and his friend started walking away minutes later, they encountered police checkpoints where officers were carrying shotguns and assault rifles.

“There were armored personnel vehicles, SWAT vehicles, ambulances, and at least a half-mile of police cars,” Baggett said.

Among those killed were two off-duty police officers who were attending the concert. Two on-duty officers were wounded, including one who underwent surgery and was upgraded to stable condition, police said.

Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was “beyond horrific.”

“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” Aldean said.

President Donald Trump tweeted: “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”

Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub 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.

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