It’s an ‘act of pure evil’, says Trump
IS claims responsibility for attack
United States President Donald Trump has described the mass shooting in Las Vegas that led to the death of 58 people as “an act of pure evil.”
He offered words of praise for the courage and quick actions of first responders and sought to provide words of comfort for grieving families.
At least 58 were killed and hundreds injured in the shooting at a country music concert outside the Mandalay Bay casino and resort on the Last Vegas Strip late Sunday night.
It is the worst mass shooting in the United States in modern history. Trump directed that flags be flown at half-staff in the memory of the dead and that he would travel to Las Vegas tomorrow to meet with law enforcement and victims of the attack and their families.
“I want to thank the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and all of the first responders for their courageous efforts and for helping to save the lives of so many,” the president said.
“The speed with which they acted is miraculous and prevented further loss of life. To have found the shooter so quickly after the first shots were fired is something for which we will always be thankful and grateful.”
“We are joined together today in sadness, shock and grief,” Trump said.
64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel towards an open-air music festival attended by 22,000.
He killed himself as police stormed the room where 10 guns were found.
Investigators have found no link to international terrorism, despite a claim from so-called Islamic State.
The final shows of the three-day Route 91 country music festival were in full swing when the gunman struck.
Thousands were enjoying a performance by top-billing singer Jason Aldean when the first of several bursts of automatic gunfire rang out – hundreds of shots, witnesses say. That was late on Monday night – 22:08 local time (05:08 GMT on Monday).
Hundreds of concert-goers scrambled for cover, flattening themselves against the ground, rushing for the exits or helping others to escape as Paddock sprayed the site from his high vantage point.
“One man had blood all over him and that’s when I knew something was seriously wrong,” Mike Thompson from London, told the BBC.
“People were running and there was chaos.”
Concert-goer Mike McGarry, who survived, told Reuters he lay on top of his children when the shots rang out.
“They’re 20, I’m 53. I lived a good life,” he said.
Many hotels on the Las Vegas strip close to the scene were placed on police lockdown and parts of Las Vegas Boulevard were shut.
Aldean, who was rushed off-stage, shared his reaction on Instagram.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” he wrote.
Las Vegas police say the number of people injured stands at 515.
Stephen Paddock, from a community of senior citizens in the small town of Mesquite north-east of Las Vegas, booked into the hotel on 28 September, police say.
His motives for carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history remain a mystery. Some investigators have suggested psychological issues, but there is no confirmation of this.
His brother, Eric, is dumbfounded that he acted this way.
Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo described the shooting as a “lone wolf” attack.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” he said.
So-called Islamic State (IS) has claimed to be behind the attack, saying that Paddock had converted to Islam some months ago.
But the group provided no evidence for this and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.
FBI Special Agent Aaron Rouse told a news conference: “We have determined at this point no connection to an international terrorist organisation.”
IS’s claim of responsibility for the Las Vegas attack is very unusual in that the perpetrator’s profile does not fit that of supporters or “soldiers” that the group has claimed in the past, writes Mina al-Lami, who monitors jihadist groups for the BBC.
If true, his suicide would be deemed wholly “un-Islamic”, she adds.
Jihadist suicides involve the assailant blowing himself up in order to kill those around him.
The president, speaking in measured tones, called for national unity and spoke of the bonds between citizens.
“In moments of tragedy and horror America comes together as one — and it always has,” he said. “We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family and shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence. And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens it is our love that defines us today—and always will, forever.”
Paddock brought an arsenal of weapons into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas before opening fire on a crowd at a country music festival Sunday night, police said.
“We are still going through the search warrant … but [he had] in excess of 10 rifles,” Joseph Lombardo, the sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, told reporters at a Monday morning press conference.
According to Lombardo, Paddock opened fire at about 10 p.m., as an estimated 22,000 people attended the final day of a three-day Harvest music festival, headlined by country music star Jason Aldean. Mandalay Bay Resort is adjacent to the concert venue.
Witnesses reported hearing what they’ve described as automatic gunfire for more than five minutes. It’s not yet clear how many rounds of ammunition were fired, sending frantic concertgoers scrambling for cover.
The gunfire “just kept coming,” Robyn Webb told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It was relentless.”
Authorities have not specifically identified the weapons used by the gunman.
Assault rifles, manufactured by several gunmakers, are available for purchase by anyone who can pass a background screening. They are typically sold as semi-automatic, meaning they fire one bullet for each squeeze of the trigger.
An automatic weapon, sometimes known as a machine gun, can fire continuously when the trigger is held. Federal gun laws allow possession of pre-1986 models, which can be purchased in most states by law-abiding citizens who pass a background screening, pay a tax of $200, and register the gun with the federal government.
It’s unclear if the weapons used in Sunday’s shooting were legally owned and purchased by the shooter.
The massacre will likely reignite the debate on gun control, particularly in Nevada, which has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the United States. Firearm owners there are not required to have a license, and do not have to register their weapons. The state does not prohibit the sale of assault rifles, and places no limits on the number of firearms an individual can possess and the capacity of ammunition magazines.
Authorities are likely to release details on the weapons used in the shooting once they finish examining items seized.
The gunman’s motive was unclear.