LAS VEGAS — A gunman perched on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas casino unleashed a shower of bullets on an outdoor country music festival below, killing at least 59 people and injuring 527 others, as thousands of concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives, officials said Monday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
SWAT officers using explosives stormed the gunman’s hotel room and found he had killed himself, authorities said. In the hotel room were 19 rifles, two of them on tripods at the windows, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, the New York Times reported.
There was no immediate word on the motive for the attack. The U.S. Homeland Security Department said there was no “specific credible threat” involving other public venues in the U.S.
Chicago Police said there are no links to Chicago and nothing to indicate it’s part of a larger terror attack.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the mass shooting in Las Vegas, saying that the perpetrator was “a soldier” who had converted to Islam months ago, without providing any evidence to support the claim. But the FBI said Monday that the shooter had no connection to an international terrorist group.
Country music star Jason Aldean was performing Sunday night at the end of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival in front of a crowd of 22,000 when the gunman opened fire from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.
The gunman was identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada. His brother Eric Paddock, who lives in the Orlando area, told the local Fox station (WOFL-Ch. 35) he was shocked by Sunday night’s shooting. He described his brother as a multimillionaire real estate investor.
SWAT teams quickly descended on the concert and the casino, and officers used explosives to get into the hotel room where the suspect was inside, authorities said.
“What we are going to try to do as best we can is to get our first responders back on their feet and responding and conducting a proper investigation to ensure that we have the safety of this community at heart,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
The FBI put out a call for videos and photos to aid in the investigation.
Families looking to locate missing loved ones can call 1-866-535-5654.
Aldean was in the middle of a song when the shots came rapidly: Pop-pop-pop-pop. Video of the shooting then showed Aldean stopping and the crowd getting quiet as if it were unsure of what had just happened.
The gunman paused then fired another volley, the muzzle flashes visible from the casino, as more victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands, while others crawled under parked cars.
Kodiak Yazzie, 36, said the music stopped temporarily when the first shots began but started up again before the second round of pops sent the performers ducking for cover and fleeing the stage.
“It was the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Yazzie said. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash- flash- flash- flash.”
As the bullets ran rampant, thousands in the crowd fled in every direction. Couples held hands running through the dirt lot. Faces were brushed with shock and confusion, tears and screams. Some were bloodied and others were carried out by fellow concert-goers.
Monique Dumas from British Columbia, Canada, said she was at the concert, six rows from the stage, when she thought she heard a bottle breaking, and then a burst of popping sounds that may have been fireworks.
She said as she made her way out, it was “organized chaos” as everyone fled. “It took four to five minutes and all that time there was gunfire.”
GalleryIn addition to Paddock, police said they located a woman who may have been his roommate — Marilou Danley, 62. Lombardo said they believe this was a “lone wolf” attack.
“It’s a devastating time,” Lombardo said.
Police shut down the usually busy Las Vegas Boulevard, and authorities across the state and federal ranks converged on the scene as dozens of ambulances ferried those struck by gunfire. Nearby Interstate 15 and flights at McCarran International Airport were briefly closed.
Hospital emergency rooms were jammed with victims delivered by ambulance. Others loaded the wounded into their cars and drove them to hospitals.
Jose Baggett, 31, of Las Vegas, said he and a friend were in the lobby of the Luxor hotel-casino — directly north of the festival — when people began to run, almost in a stampede.
He said people were crying and as he and his friend started walking away minutes later, they encountered police checkpoints where officers were carrying shotguns and assault rifles.
“There were armored personnel vehicles, SWAT vehicles, ambulances, and at least a half-mile of police cars,” Baggett said.
Among those killed were two off-duty police officers who were attending the concert. Two on-duty officers were wounded, including one who underwent surgery and was upgraded to stable condition, police said.
Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was “beyond horrific.”
“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” Aldean said.
Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director James Joseph, as well as a spokesman for Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday said there are no links to Illinois residents based on information received thus far.
“We know at this point of no one from Illinois who was a victim of the shooting, nor do we know of any connections between the shooter and any one or anything in Illinois,” Rauner spokesman Hud Englehart said.
Joseph said Illinois State Police officials are tasked with determining if there is anyone injured or killed who may have been from Illinois: “At this time . . . there is no information that we have as it relates to that.”
The Illinois State Police has also reached out to the FBI and other federal partners, Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said.
Early Monday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted out his condolences to the victims in the shooting. At a news conference later in the morning, Trump called the mass shooting “an act of pure evil.”
Trump praised the speed of first responders and the lives they saved, calling it “miraculous.” The president said he would visit Las Vegas Wednesday to meet with first responders and the victims’ families.
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil. Our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” Trump said.
President Barack Obama also reached out to Americans on Twitter.
Cardinal Blase Cupich tweeted his prayers.
Contributing: Tina Sfondeles