Gun­man kills dozens in Las Ve­gas

At least 527 peo­ple in­jured in shoot­ing at coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val, au­thor­i­ties say

Fort McMurray Today - - WORLD NEWS - SALLY HO and REGINA GARCIA CANO

LAS VE­GAS — The rapid­fire pop­ping sounded like fire­crack­ers at first, and many in the crowd of 22,000 coun­try mu­sic fans didn’t un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing when the band stopped play­ing and singer Ja­son Aldean bolted off the stage.

“That’s gun­shots,” a man could be heard say­ing em­phat­i­cally on a cell­phone video in the nearly half-minute of si­lence and con­fu­sion that fol­lowed. A woman pleaded with oth­ers: “Get down! Get down! Stay down!”

Then the bang-bang-bang sounds re­sumed. And pure ter­ror set in.

“Peo­ple start scream­ing and yelling and we start run­ning,” said An­drew Akiyoshi, who pro­vided the cell­phone video to The As­so­ci­ated Press. “You could feel the panic. You could feel like the bul­lets were fly­ing above us. Ev­ery­body’s duck­ing down, run­ning low to the ground.”

While some con­cert­go­ers hit the ground, oth­ers pushed for the crowded ex­its, shov­ing through nar­row gates and climb­ing over fences as 40to 50-round bursts of what was be­lieved to be au­to­matic weapons fire rained down on them from the 32nd floor of the Man­dalay Bay casino ho­tel.

By Mon­day af­ter­noon, 59 peo­ple were dead and 527 wounded in the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory.

“You just didn’t know what to do,” Akiyoshi said. “Your heart is rac­ing and you’re think­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to die.’ ”

The gun­man, iden­ti­fied as Stephen Craig Pad­dock, a 64-year-old re­tiree from Mesquite, Nev., killed him­self be­fore of­fi­cers stormed Room 135 in the gold-coloured glass sky­scraper. He had been stay­ing there since Thurs­day and had busted out win­dows to cre­ate his sniper’s perch.

Pad­dock had 17 guns with him, in­clud­ing two that were mod­i­fied to make them fully au­to­matic, ac­cord­ing to two U.S. of­fi­cials briefed by law en­force­ment who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still un­fold­ing.

At his home, au­thor­i­ties found an ad­di­tional 18 guns, ex­plo­sives and thou­sands of rounds of am­mu­ni­tion.

Asked about the mo­tive for the at­tack, Sher­iff Joseph Lom­bardo said: “I can’t get into the mind of a psy­chopath at this point.”

The FBI said it found nothing so far to sug­gest the at­tack was con­nected to in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, de­spite a claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity from the Is­lamic State group, which said Pad­dock was a “sol­dier” who had re­cently con­verted to Is­lam.

In an ad­dress to the coun­try, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump called the blood­bath “an act of pure evil” and added: “In mo­ments of tragedy and hor­ror, Amer­ica comes to­gether as one. And it al­ways has.” He or­dered flags flown at half­staff.

With hos­pi­tals jammed with vic­tims, 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 cen­tre” for peo­ple to find loved ones.

More than 12 hours after the mas­sacre, bod­ies cov­ered in white sheets were still be­ing re­moved from the fes­ti­val grounds.

The shoot­ing be­gan at 10:08 p.m., and the gun­man ap­peared to fire un­hin­dered for more than 10 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to ra­dio traf­fic. Po­lice fran­ti­cally tried to lo­cate him and de­ter­mine whether the gun­fire was com­ing from Man­dalay Bay or the neigh­bour­ing Luxor ho­tel.

At 10:14 p.m., an of­fi­cer said on his ra­dio that he was pinned down against a wall on Las Ve­gas Boule­vard with 40 to 50 peo­ple.

“We can’t worry about the vic­tims,” an of­fi­cer said at 10:15 p.m. “We need to stop the shooter be­fore we have more vic­tims. Any­body have eyes on him ... stop the shooter.”

Near the stage, Dy­lan Sch­nei­der, a coun­try singer who per­formed ear­lier in the day, hud­dled with oth­ers un­der the VIP bleach­ers, where he turned to his man­ager and asked, “Dude, what do we do?” He said he re­peated the ques­tion again and again over the next five min­utes.

Bod­ies were laid out on the ar­ti­fi­cial turf in­stalled in front of the stage, and peo­ple were scream­ing and cry­ing. The sound of peo­ple run­ning on the bleach­ers added to the con­fu­sion, and Sch­nei­der thought the con­cert was be­ing in­vaded with mul­ti­ple shoot­ers.

“No one knew what to do,” Sch­nei­der said. “It’s lit­er­ally run­ning for life and you don’t know what de­ci­sion is the right one. But like I said, I knew we had to get out of there.”

He even­tu­ally pushed his way out of the crowd and found refuge in the nearby Trop­i­cana ho­tel-casino, where he kicked in a door to an en­gi­neer­ing room and spent hours there with oth­ers who fol­lowed him.

The shoot­ing had be­gun as Aldean closed out the three­day Route 91 Har­vest Fes­ti­val. He had just opened the song When She Says Baby and the first burst of nearly 50 shots crack­led as he sang, “It’s tough just get­ting up.”

He wasn’t fin­ished with the first verse when he abruptly stopped singing and hus­tled off the stage.

Pad­dock ap­par­ently used a ham­mer-like de­vice to smash out win­dows in his room and open fire. Muz­zle flashes could be seen in the dark.

“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.”

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. Oth­ers crawled un­der parked cars.

Cou­ples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Faces were etched with shock and con­fu­sion, and peo­ple wept and screamed.

STEVE MAR­CUS/LAS VE­GAS SUN VIA AP

A body is cov­ered with a sheet after a mass shoot­ing at a mu­sic fes­ti­val on the Las Ve­gas Strip on Sun­day.

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