Las Vegas was the site of what is now being called the deadliest mass shooting in American history last night, as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, a local resident with no known affiliations to terrorism, opened fire on a gathering of thousands of people attending a country music festival on the Strip.
More than 50 people were killed, and more than four hundred more were injured before police were able to find the man’s elevated firing position on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel. It’s currently unclear whether officers shot and killed Paddock, or if he took his own life. In his room they found at least eight additional firearms, including a number of long guns.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said. “We’ve located numerous firearms within the room that he occupied.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, insisting that Paddock was a recent convert to Islam. There are no indications of that being true.
Authorities had also been looking for Marilou Danley, reportedly Paddock’s roommate, but she is no longer considered a person of interest in this case. According to law enforcement officials, she has been traveling, and went home for days leading up to the incident. Thus far, no indication of Paddock’s role in the slaughter has been released.
“Marilou Danley is no longer being sought out as a person of interest,” the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said. “LVMPD detectives have made contact with her and do not believe she is involved with the shooting on the strip.”
Law enforcement has yet to formally confirm, but witness reports seem to indicate that Paddock employed an automatic weapon in the attack, as concert goers recounted long stretches of rapid gun fire, followed by silence as Paddock presumably reloaded.
“It sounded like fireworks. People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on,” said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona, who had flown in for the concert. “Probably 100 shots at a time. It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again,” Smith said. “People were shot and trying to get out. A lot of people were shot.”
Approximately 22,000 spectators had gathered to hear Jason Aldean play on the third and final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when Paddock opened fire from an elevated position in the Mandalay Bay hotel at approximately 10:18 pm local time. According to reports, the intermittent gunfire continued to rain down on the crowd for as long as fifteen minutes, as Paddock fired and reloaded his weapon from the hotel down the street.
During pauses in the gunfire, event security wearing yellow shirts were heard shouting to the crowd to “go, go, go” to seek shelter from before the next wave of rounds began coming in. The ground was strewn with the dead, injured, and in many cases, concert goers that chose to climb on top of others to shield their body from the barrage of bullets using their own.
“Everybody’s hiding everywhere, they’re hiding under the bleachers and the stanchions, anywhere they could and everyone is telling us to ‘run, run as fast as you can,'” One attendee told the local media. “And my husband and I ran out toward our car, and there were people hiding underneath my car for cover and there was a gentleman who was shot and he said, ‘Can you help me?’ And so I put him in my car and I had like six people in my car, people without shoes, running, just to get away.”
Among the growing list of the dead was at least one on-duty police officer, two others were wounded, including one who is listed as stable after having surgery overnight. Law enforcement warns that the death toll from this tragic incident is expected to continue to rise in the aftermath of the crisis.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press