LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Some 50 people died and more than 400 were hurt when a 64-year-old gunman with an arsenal of at least 10 rifles fired on Las Vegas country music festival on Sunday, raining down bullets from a 32nd-floor window for several minutes before killing himself.
The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary, would make the mass shooting the deadliest in U.S. history, eclipsing last year’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club by a gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants.
Some 22,000 people were in the crowd when a man police identified as Stephen Paddock opened fire, sparking a panic in which some people trampled on others, as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate the gunman.
Shocked concertgoers, some with blood on their clothing, wandered the streets afterwards.
Police said they had no information about Paddock’s motive, that he had no criminal record and was not believed to be connected to any militant group. Paddock killed himself before police entered the hotel room he was firing from, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
(Slideshow by Photo Services)
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said.
A senior U.S. government official told Reuters that Paddock’s name was not on any database of suspected terrorists.
Lombardo said there were more than 10 rifles in the room where Paddock killed himself after checking into the hotel on Thursday.
The dead included one off-duty police officer, Lombardo said. Two on-duty officers were injured, including one who was in stable condition after surgery and one who sustained minor injuries, Lombardo said. Police warned the death toll may rise.
As sunrise approached, police were still finding people who had taken cover during the attack, Lombardo said.
“It’s going to take time for us to get through the evacuation phase,” Lombardo said.
‘JUST KEPT GOING ON’
Video of the attack showed panicked crowds fleeing as sustained rapid gunfire ripped through the area.
“People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on,” said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona, who had flown in for the concert. He said the gunfire went on for an extended period of time.
“Probably 100 shots at a time,” Smith said. “It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again.”
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 broke out shortly after 10 p.m. local time.
Shares of U.S. casino operators fell in early trading on Wall Street, with MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, down 4 percent. Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd, Wynn Resorts Ltd and Las Vegas Sands Corp each fell 1 to 2 percent.
Mike McGarry, a financial adviser from Philadelphia, 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.
The shooting broke out on the final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean said in a statement on Instagram. “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone.”
The suspected shooter’s brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned.
“We have no idea. We’re horrified. We’re bewildered and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a brief telephone interview, his voice trembling. “We have no idea in the world.”
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the victims via a post on Twitter.
“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” said Trump, who was due to address the nation at 10:30 a.m. ET.
As with previous U.S. mass shootings, the incident sparked anger among advocates for gun control. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and gun-rights advocates staunchly defend that provision.
“It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something,” said U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where 26 young children and educators were killed in an attack on a school in 2012.
“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic.”
The rampage was reminiscent of a mass shooting at a Paris rock concert in November 2015 that killed 89 people, part of a wave of coordinated attacks by Islamist militants that left 130 dead.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Chris Michaud and Frank McGurty in New York, Susan Cornwell and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Alison Williams and Bernadette Baum)