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Erica R. Hendry
Erica R. Hendry
Investigators are learning more about Sunday’s deadly shooting at a country music festival along the Las Vegas strip, which killed 59 and injured more than 500.
The gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before police could enter his 32nd-floor hotel room, where he had stockpiled 23 firearms to shoot down onto the crowd below. Here’s what we know about what’s now considered the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history.
What happened the night of the shooting? Around 10:08 p.m. local time, as Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, a gunman began to shoot onto the crowd of 22,000 below. Many concertgoers first thought the rapid gunfire was actually the sound of fireworks. The gunman fired into the crowd for nine to 11 minutes, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Tuesday.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters Tuesday night that a “heroic” security guard was able to help officers pinpoint Paddock’s location in the hotel. Paddock shot at the guard through the hotel room door, striking him. His actions allowed police to gather more information about the shooter’s location, McMahill said.
A screen grab from body camera footage released by Las Vegas police officers after Sunday’s deadly shooting.
Late Tuesday, the department released body camera footage from officers as they approached the Mandalay Bay Resort after the gunfire began.
“Go that way, get out of here! There’s gunshots coming from over there,” one officer is heard saying on the tape.
PBS NewsHour’s Joshua Barajas has more on the body cam footage here.
Police now say the gunman had also set up cameras inside his hotel suite, from the peep hole of his door and on a service cart outside, which offered a view of anyone who would have tried to approach the room. The sheriff said the shooting was “obviously premeditated.” Las Vegas authorities said Paddock killed himself before officers could gain entry into the hotel room. Along with multiple weapons, police found a computer in the hotel room. The shooter’s motive is still unknown.
The weapons: Investigators have recovered nearly 50 firearms belonging to the suspect — 23 in the hotel room and 19 found at his Mesquite home about one hour away.
In a third search — of another Reno, Nevada, home owned by Paddock — police found seven weapons, along with “a plethora of ammunition.”
Experts believe one of the weapons Paddock used in Sunday’s shooting was manipulated with a “bump stock,” allowing him to fire some of his semi-automatic guns like automatic weapons.
PBS NewsHour’s Gretchen Frazee explored how those weapons work, and what challenges they pose when responding to mass casualty situations.
“It’s not a very difficult thing to do. Almost every semi-automatic weapon can be converted to a fully automatic weapon,” Joseph Vince, a former special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told her. “I have seen a firearm converted with a paper clip.”
Read more of her reporting here: The Las Vegas shooter had a cheap modification that made his rifles more deadly
PBS NewsHour’s William Brangham explains how these modifications work and how they get around the law.
The victims: Earlier in the day, police had scaled back the number of victims in the attack from 59 to 58, removing the shooter from the count.
By Tuesday night, the death toll was back up to 59, after one of those wounded died of their injuries in the hospital.
Friends and families of the victims have started to come forward to pay tribute to those who died while attending the outdoor concert. Sonny Melton, 29, of Jackson, Tennessee. Susan Smith, 53, of Simi Valley, California. Adrian Murfitt, 35, of Alaska. Authorities have identified all but three victims, Lombardo told reporters. We’ve confirmed what we can here, and will update that list as we learn more.
A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial on the Las Vegas Strip for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.
More than 500 people were injured in the shooting, though the total number of people injured has decreased slightly, Lombardo said, due to a “double count issue” at one of the local hospitals.
Some of the injured were first responders. A local Las Vegas union told the Associated Press that 12 off-duty firefighters were injured during the event. Some of them immediately began to set up triage stations until more help could arrive on scene.
Hospital officials told reporters this morning that dozens of victims remained in critical condition.
Authorities say 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, rented a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel on Thursday. Paddock has been described as a professional gambler and real estate investor who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite.
He also worked “as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, an IRS agent and in an auditing department over a 10-year period,” The Associated Press reports. (Read more here).
The Associated Press reported late Tuesday that Paddock had transferred $100,000 to an account in the Philippines before the shooting , citing an anonymous official briefed on the investigation. USA Today also reported that news, citing an unnamed official.
The gunman’s girlfriend speaks
After initially calling off a search for Paddock’s girlfriend, Las Vegas officials said Tuesday they were interested in talking to her. Marilou Danley, 62, returned to the U.S. late Tuesday night after a weekslong trip in the Philippines. Officials have called her a “person of interest,” who was travelling in the Philippines at the time of the shooting.
Through a statement delivered by her lawyer, Danley said Paddock bought her tickets to the Philippines about two weeks ago to go visit her family. While she was there, Paddock transferred her money, which he said was to buy a house and to help her family.
Danley said she believed it was his way of breaking up with her.
“It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone,” the statement said. “Anything I can do to help ease suffering in any way, I will do.”
What are police exploring now?:
President Donald Trump visited with victims and first responders Wednesday. “We cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror,” he said. The president declined to answer questions about gun control or legislation.
Erica R. Hendry is the managing editor for digital at PBS NewsHour.
Joshua Barajas is the arts editor for the NewsHour. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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