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Wednesday 22 August 2018

US Vice President Mike Pence praises Americans' resolve at Vegas prayer service

Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Las Vegas on Saturday following a unity prayer walk honouring the victims of last weekend's massacre. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Las Vegas on Saturday following a unity prayer walk honouring the victims of last weekend's massacre. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

US Vice President Mike Pence praised the heroic response by police and the resolve of the American people at a prayer service Saturday in Las Vegas before organisers released 58 white doves in memory of each victim killed in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

At the same time, federal agents started hauling away piles of backpacks, baby strollers and lawn chairs left behind by fleeing concertgoers who scrambled to escape raining bullets from a gunman who was shooting from his high-rise hotel suite.

"It was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions," Pence said as he addressed nearly 300 people at Las Vegas City Hall.

"Those we lost were taken before their time, but their names and their stories will forever be etched into the hearts of the American people," he said.

"On Sunday night, Las Vegas came face-to-face with pure evil, but no evil, no act of violence, will ever diminish the strength and goodness of the American people," Pence said. "In the depths of horror, we will always find hope in the men and women who risk their lives for ours."

The unity service Saturday afternoon came as friends, relatives and an outpouring of grievers gathered in California to celebrate the life of a man who died in the mass shooting.

More than 800 people packed a Bakersfield church to honour Jack Beaton, who was in Las Vegas last Sunday to celebrate his 23rd wedding anniversary at a country music festival.

Beaton's memorial service was among the first held for the victims and the community of Bakersfield was home to several of those killed or injured in the attack.

When gunfire rang out, Beaton covered his wife's body with his own, told her he loved her and then went limp.

Investigators have remained stumped about what drove gunman Stephen Paddock, a reclusive 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player, to begin shooting at the crowd at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel suite last Sunday, killing 58 and wounding hundreds before taking his own life.

Investigators believe a note found on a nightstand in Paddock's hotel room contained a series of numbers that helped him calculate a more precise aim, accounting for the trajectory of shots being fired from that height and the distance between his room and the concert, a law enforcement official said Saturday.

The official wasn't authorised to discuss the details of the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Investigators have chased 1,000 leads and examined Paddock's politics, finances, any possible radicalisation and his social behaviour - typical investigative avenues that have helped uncover the motive in past shootings.

But Clark County Under-sheriff Kevin McMahill said there's still no clear motive.

What officers have found is that Paddock planned his attack meticulously.

He requested an upper-floor room overlooking the festival, stockpiled 23 guns, a dozen of them modified to fire continuously like an automatic weapon, and set up cameras inside and outside his room to watch for approaching officers.


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