LAS VEGAS, October 3 – The slot machines were still ringing and the drinks still flowing but the party didn’t feel
quite the same along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip on Monday evening, 24 hours after a gunman staged the bloodiest shooting in modern U.S. history.
The somber mood was especially pronounced at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where police say a retiree with an
arsenal of assault rifles rained hundreds of bullets into a crowd of concert-goers below his room, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500.
A hush had descended over the Mandalay hotel lobby that, in normal times, bustles with excitement at nearly every hour of the day or night. The shrieking gamblers, the bachelorettes with oversized cocktails, the high-rollers spruced up for an expensive evening out, all were nowhere to be seen.
Instead, a few solitary gamblers sat with glassy eyes in front of slot machines in the lobby. Four security officers unceremoniously escorted a Reuters reporter out when she tried to interview a casino guest.
“It’s eerie. People are trying to enjoy it, but there’s a cloud hanging over the city right now,” said Greg Hartnett, 31, who had arrived for his first visit to Vegas earlier in the day.
Hartnett, who lives near the site of the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university, said Sunday’s rampage reminded him of that bloodbath.
“It really shows the dark side of humanity,” he said.
Vegas cabbie Alex Sanchez said his passengers were much less chatty than usual, and there were many fewer cars on the road.
“People come here for an escape. They want to leave their stresses behind,” Sanchez said. “And this really puts a damper on it.”
Despite the overall gloominess, people along the Strip appeared more ready than on a more carefree day to hold a door or share a quiet smile with strangers.
“I’ve been thanking every police officer I see,” said Hartnett. “I feel like it’s bringing people together.
Sheriffs deputies and their gleaming white motorcycles were parked on the sidewalk in a show of force, perhaps intended to reassure anxious tourists.
“Thanks for last night, guys,” shouted one passing woman.
The victims just kept coming.
In private cars, in ambulances waiting four or five deep, from the walking wounded to the barely alive, they arrived in droves.
“I have no idea who I operated on,” said Dr. Jay Coates, a trauma surgeon whose hospital took in many of the wounded after a gunman opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel window on a country concert below. “They were coming in so fast, we were taking care of bodies. We were just trying to keep people from dying.”
As Sunday night led to Monday morning, the attack became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history with 59 killed and 527 wounded.
University Medical Center of Southern Nevada was one of many hospitals that were overflowing.
“Every bed was full,” Coates said. “We had people in the hallways, people outside and more people coming in.”
He said the huge, horrifying wounds on his operating table that told him it wasn’t just the massive numbers that made this shooting different.
“It was very clear that the first patient I took back and operated on that this was a high-powered weapon,” Coates said. “This wasn’t a normal street weapon. This was something that did a lot of damage when it entered the body cavity,” Coates said.
He had seen similar wounds before but “of course never this many patients,” he said.
The gunman, 64-year-old retired accountant Stephen Paddock, killed himself as authorities stormed his hotel room.
He had 23 guns — some with scopes — in the room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino where he had been staying since Thursday. He knocked out two windows to create sniper’s perches he used to rain torrents of bullets on the crowd of 22,000 some 500 yards away, authorities said.
Two guns were modified to make them fully automatic, according to two U.S. officials briefed by law enforcement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still unfolding.
At Paddock’s home, authorities found 19 more guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be turned into explosives, were in his car, authorities said.
Authorities believe Paddock acted alone. While he appeared to have no criminal history, his father was a bank robber who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list in the 1960s.
“I can’t even make something up,” his brother in Florida, Eric Paddock, said when asked what might have motivated his brother. “There’s just nothing.”
Authorities also had nothing to say about Paddock’s motive.
“I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
At the concert, headliner Jason Aldean had just started his set shortly after 10 p.m. to close out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival when bullets started hitting people.
In the crowd there was gunfire, but no gunman. Some figured out where it was coming from through the cracks and muzzle flashes.
“It was the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” said Kodiak Yazzie, 36. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash.”
Paddock appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic, as police frantically tried to locate him.
“We can’t worry about the victims,” an officer said on radio at 10:15 p.m. “We need to stop the shooter before we have more victims. Anybody have eyes on him … stop the shooter.”
The crowd, funneled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Victims fell to the ground, while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands or crawled under parked cars.
Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and wailed. Some of the injured were hit by shrapnel. Others were trampled or were injured jumping fences.
“It was chaos — people just running for their lives. People trying to get down. Trying to get to their loved ones that had gotten hit,” said Shaun Topper. “It was just, you know. It was chaos.”
Marie Langer, 16, of Las Vegas, got to the concert early so she could get to the very front of the venue, closest to the stage.
That meant she and her friends were among the last to get out, and could hear shots ringing and people screaming the entire time she was trying to flee. She finally had to climb a fence with points on the top of metal bars designed to prevent people from getting over it.
“We had no other option,” she said.
Tales of heroism and compassion emerged quickly: One man grasped the hand of a dying stranger as the man died, unable to pull himself away despite the danger. Another borrowed a flannel shirt from a man he didn’t know to create a tourniquet for a girl he didn’t know.
Couples held hands as they ran. The healthy carried the bleeding off the grounds. Strangers drove victims to hospitals in their own cars.
Bodies covered in white sheets were still being removed from the festival grounds more than 12 hours after the massacre, and the scene was covered with the abandoned bags and belongings of those who fled.
Coates, the trauma surgeon, said it was not for lack of preparation that lives were lost, though with smaller numbers they might have saved more.
“I will tell you that everybody that should have lived, lived,” Coates said. “The ones that we lost, I think if they had been the only patients coming through the door that we would have been able to save them.”
Authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a “family reunification center” for people to find loved ones.
World leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sent condolence messages to President Donald Trump.
Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people. Historically, the United States has had a number of mass shootings surpassing Sunday’s attack. For example, more than 100 black people were gunned down during a mass shooting in Colfax, Louisiana, in 1873.
A gunman killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 200 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, 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 U.S. 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.
Police described the suspect as being a local Las Vegas man who acted alone and was not believed to be connected to any militant group, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since a gunman who pledged allegiance to the Islamic
State militant group killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in June 2016.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said.
“Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor and the scene is static.”
Authorities were seeking a woman they named as Marilou Danley, he said. He described her as Asian, 4 foot 11 inches
(1.5 m) tall, 111 pounds (50 kg). He gave no details of whether she was suspected of involvement in the attack but described her as an “associate”.
Police were also searching for two cars that belonged to the suspect.
He said rumors 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.
Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping are a major draw for 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 10 p.m. (0400 GMT).
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.
TOLL MAY RISE
Police warned the death toll may rise.
“I don’t want to give you an accurate number because I don’t have it yet,” Lombardo said.
At least one police officer was hospitalized with critical injuries, Lombardo said.
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.
U.S. media, including Fox News, reported that Aldean was performing when the rampage began but that he had been bundled safely off stage at the event outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in the Nevada gambling resort.
CNN reported all the performers were safe.
Lombardo said the gunfire came from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, where the gunman was killed.
Police have disclosed no information that would suggest a motive for the shooting or revealed the identify of the suspect.
Even so, 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.
A witness named Christine told CNN both she and her husband had separately taken shooting victims to two hospitals, the University Medical Centre and the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Centre.
“The shots just kept coming,” she said. “Everyone was telling us ‘run, run as fast as you can’,”.
The concert venue was in an outdoor area known as Las Vegas Village, across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor hotels.
The Mandalay Bay hotel is near McCarran International Airport, which said on Twitter it had temporarily halted flights after the shooting. Later, the airport said that some flights had resumed.
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.