Pence praises U.S. re­solve at Ve­gas ser­vice

Of­fi­cials still look­ing for an­swers af­ter con­cert mas­sacre

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - NATION WORLD - By Michael Bal­samo and Amanda Lee My­ers

LAS VE­GAS — Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence praised the heroic re­sponse by po­lice and the re­solve of the Amer­i­can peo­ple at a prayer ser­vice Satur­day in Las Ve­gas be­fore or­ga­niz­ers re­leased 58 white doves in mem­ory of each vic­tim killed in the deadliest mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory.

At the same time, fed­eral agents started haul­ing away piles of back­packs, baby strollers and lawn chairs left be­hind by flee­ing con­cert­go­ers who scram­bled to es­cape rain­ing bul­lets from a gun­man who was shoot­ing from his high-rise ho­tel suite.

“It was a tragedy of unimag­in­able pro­por­tions,” Pence said as he ad­dressed nearly 300 peo­ple at Las Ve­gas City Hall. “Those we lost were taken be­fore their time, but their names and their sto­ries will for­ever be etched into the hearts of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have re­mained stumped about what drove gun­man Stephen Pad­dock, a reclu­sive 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player, to be­gin shoot­ing at the crowd at a coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val from his 32nd-floor Man­dalay Bay ho­tel suite last Sun­day, killing 58 and wound­ing hun­dreds 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.

“On Sun­day night, Las Ve­gas came face-to-face with pure evil, but no evil, no act of vi­o­lence, will ever di­min­ish the strength and good­ness of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Pence said. “In the depths of hor­ror, we will al­ways find hope in the men and women who risk their lives for ours.”

Las Ve­gas Mayor Carolyn Good­man told the au­di­ence that the fo­cus needs to re­main on the vic­tims, not “that hor­rific sense­less an­i­mal.”

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 1,000 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.

What of­fi­cers have found is that Pad­dock planned his at­tack metic­u­lously.

He re­quested an up­per-floor room over­look­ing the fes­ti­val, stock­piled 23 guns, a dozen of them mod­i­fied to fire con­tin­u­ously like an au­to­matic weapon, and set up cam­eras inside and out­side his room to watch for ap­proach­ing of­fi­cers.

Drew An­gerer / Getty Im­ages

Fifty-eight white doves are re­leased in honor of the vic­tims of last Sun­day’s mass shoot­ing at the cul­mi­na­tion of a faith unity walk Satur­day at Las Ve­gas City Hall.

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