An outpouring of sorrow and help after Las Vegas shooting massacre

HARI SREENIVASAN: Investigators in Las Vegas are searching for answers tonight. The main question, what drove a barrage of bullets that left at least 58 dead, another low point in the annals of American killings?

William Brangham begins our coverage.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: It was an evening of country music in Las Vegas, fans recording the scene with cell phones.

(GUNFIRE)

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Then the rapid fire of gunshots. There was momentary confusion, as country music singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage.

MAN: Jason Aldean left the stage, and then everybody started fleeing. And we started fleeing. We had to hop a gate to get out. It was crazy. I have never seen anything like that in my life.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: For approximately 10 minutes, bullets rained down on the crowd of 22,000 people. Some ducked for cover. Some tried to shield loved ones. Others ran for shelter in nearby hotels on the famed Strip.

The gunman had taken up position on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel and had a clear view of the open concert down below. Police scrambled to identify his position, amid the chaos.

OFFICER: We got shots fired, 415 ASF. Sounded like an automatic firearm.

2ND OFFICER: We have an active shooter. We have an active shooter inside the fairgrounds.

OFFICER: I see the shots coming from Mandalay Bay, halfway up.

CONTROL: One suspect down inside the room. Zebra 20 has one suspect down inside the room.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The suspect, who was found by a SWAT team, was identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock from nearby Mesquite, Nevada. Police say he shot himself as they approached. There are reports he had as many as 19 rifles with him in the room.

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Paddock had no known criminal background.

JOSEPH LOMBARDO, Sheriff, Clark County: We have no investigative information or background associated with this individual that is derogatory. The only thing we can tell is he received a citation several years ago, and that citation was handled as a matter of normal practice in the court system.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Investigators also searched Paddock's home, and appealed to the public for information and video from the shooting. But the sheriff wouldn't speculate on motive.

JOSEPH LOMBARDO: I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: In Orlando, Florida, the gunman's brother said Paddock was — quote — "not a normal guy," and that he frequently played high-stakes video poker.

ERIC PADDOCK, Brother of Gunman: I used to fix thing for a living, and my job was to find the answers. And this is like, what? This is — an asteroid fell out of the sky.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: As news of the tragedy spread, many in Las Vegas joined long lines to donate blood for the wounded. And condolences poured in from across the country.

Singer Jason Aldean posted on his Instagram this morning, saying: "Tonight has been beyond horrific. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night."

Other country music stars who performed at the festival also sent out words of sympathy. Flags across the country were lowered to half-staff, and President Trump called for unity.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We pray for the day when evil is banished and the innocent are safe from hatred and from fear. May God bless the souls of the lives that are lost. May God give us the grace of healing, and may God provide the grieving families with strength to carry on.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Later, the president and first lady, Vice President and Mrs. Pence, and White House staff observed a moment of silence on the White House lawn.

The mayor of Orlando also offered support. Last year, 49 people died in a nightclub shooting in his city, what had been the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, until last night.

MAYOR BUDDY DYER, Orlando, Florida: When I first heard the news this morning, my heart sunk. And it immediately took me back to June the 12th of last year.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Las Vegas attack also reopened the gun control debate. In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for Republicans to take up gun control legislation.

And outside the Capitol, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in 2011, joined by her husband, Mark Kelly.

MARK KELLY, Husband of Gabrielle Giffords: We have been working to overcome this with the resources we have, right, to put the people in office that will accept this as a public health issue, that will work to come up with responsible and sensible solutions.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: At the White House this afternoon, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said it's much too early to get into the gun issue.

SARAH SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: Before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night, we need to know more facts. And right now we are simply not at that point.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: A House committee has already approved a bill making it easier to purchase silencers for guns and to relax other gun restrictions. There's no word on when it might come to the floor for a vote.

For PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Congressman Ruben Kihuen represents part of the city of Las Vegas. He's been responding with other public officials throughout the day and visited a hospital where patients were taken.

REP. RUBEN KIHUEN, D-Nev.: Yes, I arrived at the hospital around 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, you know, right in the middle of the disaster that we saw last night.

And, you know, I walked in and I got a tour. And let me just say this, that I have never seen anything like this in my life before, not even in movies. Every single bed was taken. Almost every single hallway was occupied with a bed.

Every single emergency room was filled with multiple people. And every single doctor, every single nurse, every single paramedic was doing everything possible to save lives.

And so I just want to say thank you to all the first-responders, to the law enforcement, and also to the doctors and nurses who are still right now at this moment still saving lives. And to everyone who has been very generous in donating blood here in our community, we're very grateful to each and every one of you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: You were also at the command center today, where there was the coordination of different agencies. Describe that for us. How many different people, how many different groups were working on figuring out the background or the details on how we came to this event?

REP. RUBEN KIHUEN: Yes, so this is the fusion center, where local, state and federal law enforcement agencies came together since early this morning to strategize on the best response possible.

We have the FBI, the DEA, Las Vegas Metro Police, the fire department, North Las Vegas Police, Henderson Police, elected officials, the governor, the attorney general, and so on and so on. And let may just say this. I am so proud of the work that they did, especially law enforcement. Within minutes that this shooter came out and caused chaos, they had the situation contained.

So, I want to say thank you to all the law enforcement who risked their lives to protect us and to save so many lives, and also again to the doctors who are right now working tirelessly, many of them who haven't slept in almost 24 hours, trying to save lives.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Are any of the hotels that are on the Strip rethinking security tonight in light of what happened?

REP. RUBEN KIHUEN: Look, the hotels have always been very secure.

Las Vegas has always been a very safe place. And, look, today reassured me that we continue being a safe place, because we saw our law enforcement come together, contain a situation that again in many ways would have been very hard to predict it was going to happen.

You know, this gentleman out of nowhere, you know, was able to obtain weapons, take them up to a hotel room and cause this horrific incident. And so, again, I am very thankful that law enforcement acted very quickly, very swiftly and were able to contain the situation.

But, you know, Las Vegas has always been a strong city. We will recover from this and we're going to continue being the entertainment capital of the world, and we're going to continue being the safe city that we have always been.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Congressman Ruben Kihuen, joining us from Nevada tonight, thanks so much.

REP. RUBEN KIHUEN: Thank you so much.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Let's stay in Nevada for more on the response to the attack and how the community is coping.

Heidi Swank is the state assemblywoman for the district in Las Vegas where the shooting happened. She's been at donation centers today to help victims of the shooting. I spoke with her a short time ago.

Ms. Swank, you have been able to speak to your constituents today. Give us the range of the reactions that they have been having to what happened.

HEIDI SWANK, Nevada State Assemblywoman (D): Yes, I would say that, of course, there is a lot of shock, a lot of disbelief.

A lot of us who live in Las Vegas really embrace the idea that we have this very special piece of real estate called the Las Vegas Strip that makes up such a large part of our community. And I did spend the morning with a lot of my constituents at a blood bank making sure we had an outpouring of folks with concern and worry for everyone that was injured on the Strip today, over 500 people at the location I was at wanting to give blood.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Tell us a little bit about that. I saw some of your tweets. The lines looks incredibly long. They were almost running out of orange juice in some places?

HEIDI SWANK: Yes, I think that there was a huge outpouring across the entire valley.

It is a very tight-knit community, and we really do embrace our tourists. And a lot of us do spend a lot of time at shows on the Las Vegas Strip, so I think this was very important to folks. And at the location, I was at we had more than enough juice and food and water. And people were bring lunch when I was leaving.

So there was definitely a huge outpouring both on the — behalf of businesses bringing in goods for folks waiting in line, as well as hundreds of people waiting in line to give blood this morning.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, is there anything new that you're learning from perhaps communications that you are in with authorities about the shooter or how he did this?

HEIDI SWANK: You know, from what I have heard, I mean, we have really been kind of stepping back and letting the authorities get the work done that they need to get done today.

And I have been really just focusing on what the needs of my constituents are. From what I have heard is that it seems very surprising that this man from Mesquite, Nevada, traveled to Las Vegas and committed this horrendous crime.

I think we're all looking for answers at this point and hoping — that we just need to give police time to find those answers for all of us.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Is there anything that could have been done to prevent this?

HEIDI SWANK: You know, I think that is the question that always comes up whenever there is any of these mass shootings.

And I think that looking at our gun laws is always something that we should eternally be doing, that we need to just make sure that we're finding a good balance between safety and allowing people's freedoms to have to still keep their freedoms.

But I think that we should eternally be having these discussions, not just when something horrendous happens, although it does seem that is when most of us kind of take that up again.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Heidi Swank of the Nevada State Assembly, thanks so much for joining us.

HEIDI SWANK: Thank you so much.

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