Tuesday 12 December 2017

Las Vegas gunman had arsenal of guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition in his home - police confirm

  • Shooting took place near Las Vegas Strip
  • Gunman, 64, acted alone, had no militant links - officials
  • Toll makes the mass shooting deadliest in modern U.S. history
  • Gunman killed himself after shooting from above into crowd
  • Trump calls shooting 'act of pure evil'
  • Police recover 19 guns, explosives, several thousands rounds of ammo from sniper's nest and gunman's home
  • Police recover 23 guns from shooter's hotel room
  • Assault-style rifles modified in attempt to convert them to machine guns
Stephen Paddock (pictured) lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada
Stephen Paddock (pictured) lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada
A view of houses in the Prominence community, where shooter Stephen Craig Paddock owned a home, in Mesquite, Nevada, U.S. October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
Mesquite Police Sgt. Tracy Fails talks with another officer at the entrance to the Prominence community, where shooter Stephen Craig Paddock owned a home, in Mesquite, Nevada, U.S. October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
Mesquite Police Sgt. Tracy Fails and members of a citizen volunteer patrol block the entrance to the Prominence community, where shooter Stephen Craig Paddock owned a home, in Mesquite, Nevada, U.S. October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Devika Krishna Kumar and Alexandria Sage

Police have confirmed that Las Vegas mass killer Stephen Paddock had an arsenal of weapons in his retirement village home, which amounted to 19 guns, explosives and several thousands rounds of ammunition.

Police also recovered 23 guns from his Las Vegas hotel room, from where he shot and killed at least 59 people and injured 515 enjoying a country music concert at a site on the opposite side of the Strip.

The retiree killed himself before police breached his room, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The barrage of gunfire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people came in extended bursts that lasted several minutes, as throngs of terrified music fans cowered desperately on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concert-goers, while others at the edge tried to flee.

An undated photo of Stephen Paddock Picture: Eric Paddock via AP
An undated photo of Stephen Paddock Picture: Eric Paddock via AP

More than 525 people were injured - some by gunfire or shrapnel, some trampled - in the pandemonium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip as police scrambled to locate the assailant. Police identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, 64, who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. Authorities said they believed he acted alone, although his motive was unknown.

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the massacre, but U.S. officials said there was no evidence to support the claim.

At least a dozen people were in critical condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where the most seriously injured victims were taken, a spokeswoman said.

The preliminary death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year's record massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

The dead in Las Vegas included a nurse, a government employee and an off-duty police officer.

Shocked survivors, some with blood on their clothing, wandered streets after the shooting, where the flashing lights of the city's gaudy casinos blended with those of emergency vehicles.

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)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People tend to the wounded outside the festival ground after an apparent shooting on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
A pair of cowboy boots is shown in the street outside the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas StripY
Police vehicles block a street corner after a deadly shooting at a music festival (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)
A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a shooting outside of a music festival along the Las Vegas Strip
Blurred image of heavily armed police officers running
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01 People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
People react at gunshots heard at music festival in Las Vegas, U.S., October 1, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. @RTBLECKvia REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Police officers advise people to take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Las Vegas Shooting
Las Vegas Shooting
Las Vegas Shooting

Police said Paddock had no criminal record. The gunman shot and wounded a hotel security officer in the leg through the door of his suite then killed himself before police entered the room, authorities said.

"We have no idea what his belief system was," Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters. "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath."

Las Vegas Shooting
Las Vegas Shooting
A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a shooting outside of a music festival along the Las Vegas Strip

Federal officials said there was no evidence to link Paddock to militant organizations.

"We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group," Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office in Las Vegas, told reporters.

CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu said in a separate email: "We advise caution on jumping to conclusions before the facts are in."

Multiple guns

Police said 23 guns were found in the room where Paddock killed himself, some of them assault-style rifles with scopes and some that appeared to have been modified in an attempt to convert them into machine guns.

Lombardo said the gunman smashed the windows from which he fired in the two-room hotel suite where he had been staying since Thursday. More than 10 suitcases were in the suite.

Lombardo said a search of the suspect's car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can be used in explosives. It was used in the 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

People assist a wounded woman at the Tropicana during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Strip
People assist a wounded woman at the Tropicana during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Strip

Police found another 19 firearms, some explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition at Paddock's home in Mesquite, about 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Las Vegas, along with "some electronic devices that we are evaluating at this time," Lombardo told reporters.

Police obtained a warrant to search a second house connected to Paddock in Reno, Nevada, more than 400 miles (644 km) northwest of Las Vegas, Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo later told reporters.

Chris Sullivan, the owner of the Guns & Guitars gun shop in Mesquite, issued a statement confirming that Paddock was a customer who cleared "all necessary background checks and procedures," and said his business was cooperating with investigators.

Las Vegas Shooting
Las Vegas Shooting

"He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time," Sullivan said. He did not say how many or the kinds of weapons Paddock purchased there.

Lombardo said investigators knew that a gun dealer had come forward to say that he had sold weapons to the suspect, but it was not clear if he was referring to Sullivan. He said police were aware of "some other individuals that were engaged in those transactions," including at least one in Arizona.

Investigators also want to interview Paddock's girlfriend, identified as Marilou Danely, who Lombardo said was believed to be in Tokyo. She was initially described by police as a "person of interest" but not a suspect.

'Heartbreaking'

The shooting, the latest in a string that have played out across the United States over recent years, sparked a renewed outcry from some lawmakers about the pervasiveness of guns in the United States, but was unlikely to prompt action in Congress.

Nevada has some of the nation's most permissive gun laws. It does not require firearm owners to obtain licenses or register their guns.

House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday to create a select committee on gun violence, saying: "Congress has a moral duty to address this horrific and heartbreaking epidemic."

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and gun-rights advocates staunchly defend it. U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has been outspoken in his support for the Second Amendment.

The White House said on Monday it was too soon after the attack to consider gun control policies.

"Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost," presidential spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a news briefing.

Trump said he would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet victims, relatives and first responders. "It was an act of pure evil," said Trump, who later led a moment of silence at the White House in honor of the victims.

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

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

He said his brother belonged to no political or religious organizations, and had no history of mental illness. Their father had been a bank robber who for a time was listed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list of fugitives.

Speaking to reporters from his doorstep in Orlando, Florida, he described his brother as "a wealthy guy" who liked to play video poker and take cruises. He seemed to have been settling into a quiet life when he moved back to Nevada from Florida.

'Just kept going on'

The gunfire erupted as country music star Jason Aldean was performing on stage. Video of the attack showed terrified crowds fleeing under rapid gunfire as the gunman took aim from a distance of around 1,050 feet (320 m).

"People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on," said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona.

"Probably 100 shots at a time," Smith 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 started shortly after 10 p.m. local time (0400 GMT).

Mike McGarry, a financial adviser from Philadelphia, was at the concert when he heard hundreds of shots.

"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 from people who ran over him in panic.

Shares of MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, fell 5.58 percent on Monday to $30.77 a share.

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