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Rediff.com  » News » 58 killed, 515 hurt in America's worst mass shooting

58 killed, 515 hurt in America's worst mass shooting

Last updated on: October 02, 2017 21:17 IST

Mayhem and panic gripped a country music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on revellers.

IMAGE: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after a gunman opened fire, shooting rounds and rounds of ammunition at the helpless revellers. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

A gunman in a high-rise hotel opened fire on a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday, killing 58 and injuring 515 people in one of the worst mass shootings in modern United States history.

 

Police say the shooter was 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, a resident of nearby Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire on the festival taking place at Las Vegas Village from a room across the street in the Mandalay Bay Hotel at 10:08 pm. 

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said that his officers breached Paddock's room on the 32nd floor and found Paddock dead inside, among an 'arsenal' of 10 firearms. Lombardo said that Paddock shot himself dead. 

IMAGE: People take cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after gun fire was heard in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

The carnage surpassed the death toll of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub when a gunman believed inspired by the Islamic State opened fire in June 2016.

On Sunday, around 10 pm local time, Paddock fired numerous rounds while revellers were listening to country musician Jason Aldean during the Route 91 Harvest festival. Bursts of gunshots continued even as Aldean fled the stage and his music came to a halt. 

IMAGE: Las Vegas Metro Police officers work near the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas. Photograph: Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus/Reuters
Off-duty officer killed

At least one off-duty police officer was among those killed after a gunman opened fire at a Las Vegas music festival.

The police department in Bakersfield, California, said that a group of its officers were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival and that one received non life-threatening injuries.

Screaming concertgoers ran for their lives, tripping over each other while trying to escape -- not knowing where the gunfire was coming from, according to horrific footage of the attack.

Police rushed to the hotel and searched floor-by-floor before cornering the suspected shooter in a room on the 32nd floor. Officers blasted open the door and found the gunman dead.

Police believe Paddock, a local resident, was a “lone wolf” attacker.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo did not give further details, however, on Paddock’s background or possible motives. “We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor and the scene is static.”

IMAGE: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

A woman who was seen sitting in the suspect’s car before the incident and sought as a person of interest has been located, Lombardo said.

He identified her as Marilou Danley, who is Asian and is 4 feet and 11 inches tall.

The gunman was previously known to local police for past run-ins with law enforcement, according to people familiar with the investigation. Recordings of the attack suggest the suspect used an automatic weapon.

IMAGE: Police and rescue personnel gather at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue after the mass shooting. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Later, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting.

In a statement through its Amaq news agency, it claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying that the attacker had converted to Islam a few months ago.

"The Las Vegas attack was carried out by a soldier of the Islamic State and he carried it out in response to calls to target states of the coalition," the group's news agency Amaq said in reference to the US-led coalition fighting the group in the Middle East.

However, US officials said that there was no evidence the shooter was linked to the group.

Eye-witness accounts

IMAGE: People tend to the wounded after a gunman opened fire at the music festival, sending concertgoers into a tizzy. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

Speaking on a bus laid on to transport concert goers away from the scene, Lisa Price, 43, and Nancy Stover, 38, of Los Angeles said: “People were lying on the ground -- I was like get up, you’re going to get trodden on.

IMAGE: Hundreds of people fled the scene at the sound of automatic gunfire.It is still unknown as to the number of attackers. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

“We just heard like pop, pop, pop, pop and started walking - it was happening over and over again.

“It was at least 20 shots. Enough for us to start walking, then running and panicking. Luckily, we seemed to be further away - we were at the front of the concert near the stage.

“It seemed to be coming from the back. We were running to try to help people and they were coming from that direction.”

Derek and Karen Bernard, from Los Angeles, California, were in town for the Route 91 country festival and were close to the stage when the shooting began.

“We were inside,” said sales manager Derek, 53. “All of a sudden, we saw the band disappearing - they were like running off the stage.

IMAGE: The Las Vegas police has shut down the Strip following the shooting and have asked people to stay indoors. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

“We were off to the left side of the stage, we were running off there and there were staff security there.

“There was a woman bleeding – that’s when we realised it was real shots. She just fell. She was shot. There was a lot of blood.

“It was so many - it sounded like 4th of July - just pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. So many. I didn’t think it was real because I couldn’t see or feel anything. I was so panicked.”

IMAGE: A man lays on top of a woman as others flee the Route 91 Harvest country music festival grounds after a active shooter was reported. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

Another witness said he was in the room next to the gunman when he opened fire.

“I was in room 135 and I heard over the police scanner that the shooting came from room 137,” said the man, who asked not to be named.

IMAGE: Las Vegas police stand guard along the streets outside the Route 91 Harvest Country music festival grounds of the Route 91 Harvest. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images

“It was non-stop, I would say well over 100 rounds. We hit the floor and took cover. I called the front desk and she was remarkably calm and said she was aware of the situation and told us to stay in our room.

“After around 10-15 minutes it just kind of stopped. You could smell the gun powder. Right before we got out I heard an explosion, maybe a flashbang, but windows were blown out.”

IMAGE: A body is covered with a sheet in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Photograph: Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus/Reuters

Trump tweets condolences

“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” wrote the US president on Twitter

Singer Jason Aldean describes ‘horrific’ shooting

American country singer Jason Aldean, who was performing when a gunman opened fire on concert-goers in Las Vegas, has described the deadly incident as "beyond horrific."

“Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe,” Aldean wrote on his Instagram account.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”

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