A gunman perched high on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino hotel unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 59 people and wounding 525, as tens of thousands of frantic concert-goers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
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ISIS claimed responsibility for the shooting. The group's news agency said the shooter, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, converted to Islam months ago. The FBI however said the Las Vegas shooter had no connection to the international terrorist group.
U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the media from the White House Monday morning, deeming the attack "an act of pure evil." He ordered the national flag to be flown at half-staff and said that he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented, "On this terrible day, the people of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people. Our hearts are with the families of the victims and we wish full recovery to the wounded." President Reuven Rivlin sent a letter to Trump to express the condolences of the Israeli people. He wrote, "We stand with you as you mourn the terrible loss of life and injury following this senseless attack on people who had merely gathered together to listen to music."
Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman opened fire across the street from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. SWAT teams quickly descended on the concert and the casino, and officers used explosives to get into the hotel room where the suspect was positioned, authorities said. The gunman died at the scene and was identified by Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo as Stephen Paddock, 64. A motive was not immediately known, and police confirmed he killed himself before police could apprehend him.
Aldean was in the middle of a song when a rapid volley of shots began: Pop-pop-pop-pop. Video of the shooting then showed Aldean stopping the music and the crowd becoming quiet in order to figure out what had just happened. The gunman paused, then fired another volley of muzzle flashes from the gold glass casino as more victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some said they hid behind concession stands and other 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.”
Thousands in the crowd fled as the bullets ran rampant. 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 onto 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 like 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 early Monday, police said.
Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and said 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 extended condolences to the victims and their families.
In a tweet Monday, Trump offered “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was “briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas.”
Sanders said that “we are monitoring the situation closely and offer our full support to state and local officials. All of those affected are in our thoughts and prayers.”
The shooting at the sold-out Route 91 Harvest festival was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Forty-nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016.
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.