Pence in Ve­gas: We are united in grief

VP’s visit comes as in­ves­ti­ga­tors sift for mo­tive in shoot­ing

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By David Mon­tero and Kur­tis Lee

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.

ETHAN MILLER/GETTY

Karen Pence and her hus­band Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence were part of the faith unity walk.

ETHAN MILLER/GETTY

Las Ve­gas Mayor Carolyn Good­man echoed the vice pres­i­dent’s words Satur­day.

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