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Friday 15 November 2019

Lights dimmed on Las Vegas Strip in honour of mass shooting victims

A number of events marked the first anniversary of the killing of 58 people by gunman Stephen Craig Paddock.

Relatives and friends of the victims gathered to mark the shooting anniversary (AP)
Relatives and friends of the victims gathered to mark the shooting anniversary (AP)

By Ken Ritter and Regina Garcia Cano

Marquees on the Las Vegas Strip dimmed their lights for three minutes as officials read the 58 names of the people killed one year earlier in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The names of the 58 people killed were recited before a silent crowd shortly after 10.05pm on Monday night, the exact time 12 months earlier that the gunman, Stephen Craig Paddock, opened fire from a tower suite at the Mandalay Bay casino-resort on the crowd of 22,000 below.

The ceremony ended a sombre day of events reuniting survivors and the family members of those killed at last year’s country music festival.

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Survivors return to the scene of last year’s carnage (AP)

Hours earlier, victims’ families, survivors and elected officials marked the anniversary of the tragedy by placing roses on a tribute wall and dedicating a memorial garden.

The dedication ceremony under a cloud-streaked orange sunset drew at least 200 people, including former US representative Gabby Giffords of Arizona, herself a survivor of a 2011 mass shooting.

The garden, which features a tree for each of the 58 victims and an oak that represents life, is the only permanent public space that has been created as a memorial to the shooting.

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The sun sets on the dedication ceremony for the victims of Stephen Craig Paddock (AP)

It was built by volunteers and created days after the shooting as the community’s way of reacting to the searing violence, according to the project’s co-creator, Jay Pleggenkuhle.

The city known for its gambling and entertainment started the tributes with a sunrise ceremony where a flock of doves were released, with each bird bearing a leg band with the name of one of the 58 people shot dead.

“Today we remember the unforgettable. Today, we comfort the inconsolable,” Nevada governor Brian Sandoval told several hundred survivors, families of victims, first-responders and elected officials who gathered at the dawn ceremony at an outdoor amphitheatre.

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A number of memorial events took place in the centre of Las Vegas (AP)

He added: “Today, we are reminded of the pain that never really goes away.”

The festival venue that became a killing ground has not been used in the year since the shooting. MGM Resorts International, the owner of the property and Mandalay Bay hotel, has not said if or when it will reopen.

On Monday night, hundreds of survivors of the shooting formed a human chain around the site, linking arms and hands to show solidarity.

Nearby, a procession of pickup trucks with American flags flying from their truck beds drove the Strip while sounding their horns.

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Stephen Craig Paddock fired more than 1,000 shots over 11 minutes of carnage (AP)

Many who were cheering Jason Aldean’s headline set on at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on the fateful night said later they thought the rapid crack-crack-crack they heard was fireworks – until people began to fall.

From across Las Vegas Boulevard, a gambler-turned-gunman with what police later called a meticulous plan but an unknown motive fired assault-style rifles for 11 minutes from 32nd-floor windows of the Mandalay Bay hotel into the concert crowd below.

Police said Stephen Craig Paddock then killed himself.

Medical examiners later determined that all 58 deaths were from gunshots. Another 413 people were wounded, and police said at least 456 were injured fleeing the carnage.

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Gregorio De la Rosa places a flower on a wall in memory of his stepson, Erick Silva (AP)

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo declared the police investigation finished in August, issuing a report that said hundreds of interviews and thousands of hours of investigative work could not provide answers to what made Paddock unleash his hail of gunfire.

That has left unanswered the question of why a 64-year-old former accountant, property investor, small plane pilot and high-limit video poker player assembled his arsenal and attacked the concert crowd.

Paddock was characterised by police as a loner with no religious or political affiliations who became obsessed with guns, spent more than 1.5 million dollars (£1.15 million) in the two years before the shooting and distanced himself from his girlfriend and family.

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People participate in a prayer service for the victims (AP)

Paddock’s gambling habits made him a sought-after casino patron. Over several days, Mandalay Bay employees let him use a service lift to take suitcases to the 590 dollars-per-night suite (£452) he had been provided for free.

The room had a commanding view of the Strip and the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert grounds across the street.

After breaking out windows, Paddock fired 1,057 shots in 11 minutes.

Jim Murren, the chief executive and CEO of MGM Resorts International, issued a statement calling the shooting “an unforgettable act of terror”.

He added: “October 1 will forever be a day of remembrance, reflection and mourning as we struggle to comprehend the incomprehensible – the senseless act of evil that caused such a tragic loss of life, along with the suffering that we know continues.”

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