America reels as ‘Lone wolf’ gunman, Stephen Paddock, leaves scores dead and hundreds injured in deadly Las Vegas shooting
Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail|03 October 2017| 12 Muharram 1439
It was a hail of bullets that marked the start of what was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, and again left America confronting the toxic and ever-emotional issue of how to regulate the right to bear arms.
Police have not yet revealed how many bullets Stephen Paddock, a so-called lone wolf, used when he opened fire from a Las Vegas hotel room, equipped with at least 23 weapons and two tripods, set up and with two rifles aimed out of two different windows. But by the time he was finished – the 64-year-old killed himself before police stormed his room – he had taken the lives of at least 59 people and wounded another 527.
As the nation was left reeling from the massacre, carried out in one of the world’s most iconic cities, Donald Trump sought to offer solace and condolence, first on Twitter and later in a sombre, televised address.
“In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one. And it always has,” he said, speaking from the White House. As his officials said the President would travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday, a day after he visits Puerto Rico, he added: “Our unity cannot be shattered by evil and our bonds cannot be broken by violence.”
Later, Mr Trump and the First Lady held a minute’s silence on the White House’s South Lawn to honour those who were killed, the sound of a bell ringing out and the flag flying at half-mast.
Police said Paddock, a divorced accountant who lived in Mesquite, 80 miles to the northeast of Las Vegas, had checked into a room on the 32nd Floor of the Mandalay Bay casino resort on Thursday. Over the next few days staff entered his room several times in the normal course of their duties and saw nothing untoward. At 10.06pm on
Sunday he started shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival where 22,000 people had gathered to watch country stars from across the nation.
At the moment he began shooting, Jason Aldean, a star from Nashville was performing. Video footage posted online showed him running for cover as the sound of automatic fire sounded out across the open air festival, nicknamed the “neon sleepover” and located on the Las Vegas Strip.
“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 later 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.”
As Las Vegas woke up to the news, people in the the usually humming gambling and leisure capital were on Monday stunned and horrified. Austin Wayne, of Tulsa Oklahoma, said he had been in a casino opposite where the shooting took place. He struggled to find words to sum up the experience.
“It was gunshots and everyone was running. You didn’t know what to do or where it was coming from,” he told The Independent. “Everybody was scared, running, getting down. Words can’t even explain it.”
Hundreds of people have lined up at United Blood Services and University Medical Centre in Las Vegas to donate blood, shortly after officials announced a blood drive.
The authorities have yet to confirm the identities of any of the 59 killed, but details have emerged of a several victims. Jordan McIldoon, 23, from British Columbia in Canada, has been identified by CBC News, while a nurse, Sonny Melton, of Big Sandy, Tennessee, was also reported to have been killed. Officials said an off-duty Las Vegas police officer was another of those who died.
Also among those who lost their lives were commercial fisherman Adrian Murfitt, 35, of Anchorage, Alaska, Denise Burditus from Martinsburg, West Virginia, Danae Gibbs of Cedar Park, Texas, and Lisa Romero, from Gallup, New Mexico, according to the Associated Press.
Mr Trump, who received millions of dollars for his 2016 presidential campaign from the powerful National Rifle Association, the country’s major gun-rights lobbying organisation, did not mention the issue of gun control when he spoke to the nation.
Later, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed it was was “too soon” to begin a debate on the issue. “There’s a time and place for a political debate but now is the time to unite as a country,” she told reporters.
“There’s currently an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation a motive has yet to be determined and it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t know all the facts or what took place last night.”
Others believed Monday was precisely the correct time to start the conversation. Mr Trump’s challenger in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, said it was essential that America confronted the NRA and demanded the regulation of weapons. “The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” she wrote on Twitter. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.”
She added: “Our grief isn’t enough. We can and must put politics aside, stand up to the NRA, and work together to try to stop this from happening again.”
It took 72 minutes from the first 911 call being placed to when police eventually stormed Paddock’s room, where he was found dead. Officers initially sought to determine where the gunfire was coming from, and upon identifying the Mandalay Bay Hotel as the place the shooting was coming from, started searches on the 29th floor and worked their way up to the 32nd floor.
Mr Lombardo told reporters Paddock fired at officers through his hotel room door, hitting a security guard in the leg. A Swat team then used explosives to get into the gunman’s room. The security guard is expected to survive.
Police said they believed Paddock, who moved to Nevada two years ago, from Florida, acted alone and dismissed suggestions he had any links to international terror. In addition to the 16 guns they discovered in his hotel room, they said a search of the property in Mesquite uncovered another 19, along with explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition. That made 42 weapons in total. Also, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be turned into explosives such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, were in his car, authorities said.
It emerged that Paddock had bought weapons from two different Nevada gunshops within the last year, one in Mesquite and the second in Las Vegas. In both cases, he passed all the required background checks, the store owners said.
“Right now, we believe it’s a sole actor, a lone-wolf-type actor,” Las Vegas sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters, saying he was a “psychopath”. “We have no idea what his belief system was. Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor.”
In Mesquite and in Florida, where Paddock’s family lived, people offered few insights into the man or what may have motivated him. “We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group,” FBI special agent in charge Aaron Rouse, told reporters.
Paddock’s brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned by the news.“We’re still just completely befuddled. Dumbstruck,” Mr Paddock said outside his home in Orlando, Florida. He described his brother, a retired accountant, as “a wealthy guy. He liked to play video poker. He went on cruises.”
Police said that there were four active crime scenes – the hotel room, the concert site, the retirement home in Mesquite where Mr Paddock was a resident and a property in Reno in northern Nevada, also owned by the gunman.
Source – Independent