Pence in Vegas: We are united in grief
VP’s visit comes as investigators sift for motive in shooting
LAS VEGAS — Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday, offering prayers and encouragement for a community reeling days after a gunman went on a killing rampage at an outdoor country music festival along the Strip.
Pence, flanked by several local elected officials, including Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, spoke from a podium inside City Hall where he emphasized that the country stands united with the Las Vegas community.
“When one part of America cries out for help we always come together to answer the call,” Pence said. “Today we are all Vegas strong.”
He added, “We are united in our grief . ... We are united in our resolve to end such evil in our time.”
The vice president’s remarks culminated a unity prayer walk in memory of the 58 people killed and nearly 500 who were injured Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest festival. The gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, fired hundreds of rounds at the crowd from his high-rise hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Pence’s visit came three days after President Donald Trump arrived here and met with victims and first responders.
For many on Saturday, it was a day to reflect, move ahead and celebrate Las Vegas, which last year saw a record 43 million visits.
“We will not be defined by hate and violence. We will not be defined by anger and we will not be defined by fear,” Goodman said. “We will be defined by our humanity, we will be defined by our unity, our compassion for each other.”
Also Saturday, federal agents started hauling away piles of backpacks, baby strollers and lawn chairs left behind by fleeing concertgoers who scrambled to escape raining bullets.
Investigators have remained stumped about what drove Paddock, a reclusive high-stakes video poker player, to begin shooting at the crowd at the country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite before taking his own life.
The unity service Saturday afternoon came after dozens of people — many wearing shirts that said “Vegas Strong” — marched from Mandalay Bay to City Hall. After speeches from Pence and other politicians, doves were released into the air, flying in a wide arc and then disappearing into the tourist distance as someone shouted, “God bless America!”
Lisa Rhoads-Shook, whose brother-in-law was inside the Mandalay Bay when the shooting broke out, said she wanted to attend the unity service to be part of the conversation about change.
“I’m so sad and it’s not fair, really, for us to experience another avoidable tragedy. We have to acknowledge that there is no better time to talk about gun control,” she said. “I don’t think the Founding Fathers wanted the right to bear arms to become the right to build an arsenal in your home.”
Investigators have chased many leads and examined Paddock’s politics, finances, any possible radicalization and his social behavior — typical investigative avenues that have helped uncover the motive in past shootings. But Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said there’s still no clear motive.
In their effort to find any hint of his motive, investigators were looking into whether he was with a prostitute days before the shooting, scrutinizing cruises he took and trying to make sense of a cryptic note with numbers jotted on it found in his hotel room, a federal official said.
The U.S. official briefed by federal law enforcement officers wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The official said investigators were interviewing other call girls for information and looking into at least a dozen cruises Paddock took in the last few years, including one to the Middle East.
Karen Pence and her husband Vice President Mike Pence were part of the faith unity walk.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman echoed the vice president’s words Saturday.