Sunday 22 October 2017

Las Vegas massacre: 'Most deadly mass shooting in US history' as more than 50 people now confirmed dead

  • Gunman named as Stephen Paddock (64) who was not previously known to police
  • Shooter's brother says family are 'horrified and bewildered'
  • Shooter opened fire from 32nd floor
  • Footage shows music lovers ducking for cover as shots are heard
  • More than 400 people injured
  • Female "associate" located for questioning by police
  • Police officers among those who died
People tend to the wounded outside the festival ground after an apparent shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
People carry a person at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A gunman killed at least 50 people and wounded 406 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip overnight, raining down rapid fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel for several minutes before he was shot dead by police.

The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary and tentative, would make the attack the deadliest mass shooting in US history, eclipsing last year's massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club.

Thousands of panicked people fled the scene, in some cases trampling one another as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate and kill the gunman. Shocked concertgoers, some with blood on their clothes, wandered the streets after the attack.

A police spokesman confirmed that a lone gunman, named by police as Stephen Paddock (64), opened fire while country music artist Jason Aldean was playing a concert at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Police said they had no information about Paddock's motive, and that he had no criminal record and was not believed to be connected to any militant group. Paddock killed himself before police entered the hotel room he was firing from, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.

"We have no idea what his belief system was," Lombardo said.

People hug and cry outside the Thomas & Mack Center after a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
People hug and cry outside the Thomas & Mack Center after a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

"We believe the individual killed himself prior to our entry," Lombardo told a news conference.

Earlier reports indicated Paddock had been shot by police.

Lombardo said there were more than 10 rifles in the room where Paddock killed himself after checking into the hotel on Thursday. Paddock was not known to law enforcement, Lombardo said.

The dead included one off-duty police officer, Lombardo said. Two on-duty officers were injured, including one who was in stable condition after surgery and one who sustained minor injuries, Lombardo said. Police warned the death toll may rise.

Police are still finding people who had taken cover during the attack, Lombardo said.

"It's going to take time for us to get through the evacuation phase," Lombardo said.

Authorities believed they had located Paddock's roommate, who they identified as Marilou Danley. He gave no details of whether she was suspected of involvement in the attack but described her as an "associate."

marilou.JPG
Marilou Danley was being sought by police after a gunman opened fire on the Las Vegas strip

Police had located two cars that belonged to the suspect and also believed they had located the woman.

People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Lombardo said rumours of other shootings or explosives such as car bombs in the area were false.

Video taken of the attack showed panicked crowds fleeing as sustained rapid gunfire ripped through the area.

"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. He said the gunfire went on for an extended period of time.

"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."

The suspected shooter's brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned by the news.

"We have no idea. We're horrified. We're bewildered and our condolences go out to the victims," Eric Paddock said in a brief telephone interview, his voice trembling. "We have no idea in the world."

US President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the victims via a post on Twitter early Monday.

"My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!" Trump said.

Las Vegas's casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 4am Irish time.

Mike McGarry, a 53-year-old financial adviser from Philadelphia, said he was at the concert when he heard hundreds of shots ring out.

"It was crazy - I laid on top of the kids. They're 20. I'm 53. I lived a good life," McGarry said. The back of his shirt bore footmarks, after people ran over him in the panicked crowd.

The suspect, who police say is a local man, was apprehended on the 32nd floor of the hotel where he died.

Giving an update on the situation, Joseph Lombardo, the sheriff said: “There was a shooter on the 32nd floor. Officers responded and engaged a suspect at that location. He is dead currently. He is a local resident."

Witnesses heard numerous gunshots at the casino hotel, where police tactical teams were searching for the attacker.

Kodiak Yazzie (36) said he and his girlfriend were watching country star Jason Aldean's performance when he heard what sounded like fireworks. The music stopped temporarily and then started up again before another round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.

Thousands fled as bursts of gunfire could be heard for more than five minutes, Mr Yazzie said.

A video posted online shows a concert taking place before machine gun fire can be heard. Separate videos show panicked concert-goers fleeing the scene.

One man told reporters that the area they had set aside for medics was "completely flooded".

Concert-goers reported seeing muzzle flashes from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard from the country music festival and the sound of what they described as automatic gunfire.

Many casinos in the area locked their doors during the incident to keep out any potential attackers, some using handcuffs to do so, according to witnesses.

"Caesar's Palace had locked their doors. They wouldn't let you in," said Adam Mitchell, a 31-year-old tourist visiting from Britain.

The shooting broke out on the last night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event attended by thousands and featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.

"Tonight has been beyond horrific," Aldean said in a statement on Instagram. "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 rampage was reminiscent of a mass shooting at a Paris rock concert in November 2015 that killed 89 people, part of a coordinated attack by Islamist militants that left 130 dead.

The concert venue was in an outdoor area known as Las Vegas Village, across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor hotels.

"Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of last night's tragic events," the Mandalay Bay said on Twitter.

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney condemned the attack.

"This was a savage and brutal attack targeting innocent festival-goers.

“I wish to express my heartfelt condolences and those of the Irish people to the families of the victims, those who were injured and to the people and the authorities of the United States on this tragic day.

“As of now, we have no indications to suggest that any Irish citizens have been affected.  I am conscious, however, that it will take time before all of the casualties are identified. My Department, through our Consulate General in San Francisco and the Honorary Consulate in Las Vegas, is continuing to monitor the situation."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has extended “condolences and sympathies” to the people affected by the Las Vegas shooting.

He said: “I think everyone is horrified by the attacks.”

“As things stand we are not aware of any Irish casualties or injuries. But obviously the Irish consulate in Las Vegas and also in San Francisco is keeping in touch and is available to assist if needed.”

Four people from Northern Ireland were among those caught up in the terror.

It's understood Omagh woman Kathy Ewing and her three friends were attending the concert when the gunfire began.

She tweeted Downtown Country to say it was a terrifying experience, but they were able to run and made it back to their hotel safely.

Any families in Ireland who have concerns about relatives can contact the Department’s Consular Assistance Unit on 01 4082527.

The Mandalay Bay Resort has issued a statement in the wake of the shooting thanking emergency responders.

The United States has seen a series of deadly mass shootings in recent years. Prior to Orlando, the deadliest occurred in April 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech university and in December 2012 a man killed 26 young children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

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