Las Vegas, NV — A lone gunman released a rapid-fire barrage of bullets on an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 400 others, police said, in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
From his room on the 32nd floor of a glitzy hotel, the shooter, identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired shot after shot down on the crowd of about 22,000, sending terrified concertgoers running for their lives.
“We heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. Then all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun. People started screaming that they were hit… When we started running out, there were probably a couple hundred [people] on the ground,”
“People kept dropping and dropping… People were getting shot one foot away from us,” she added. “People were trying to save their friends. There were gunshots everywhere. Helping them would’ve meant that we got shot, too.”
-witness Meghan Kearney, to MSNBC.
Police responded to reports of the shooting just after 10 p.m. (1 a.m. ET). Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Monday morning that authorities believe Paddock killed himself before police entered his room.
Earlier, officials had said police fatally shot Lombardo.
The suspect is believed to have checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sept. 28, Lombardo said, and had an “excess of ten rifles” in his hotel room.
It was not clear whether Paddock had specifically requested a room on a high floor that overlooked the concert venue or whether he had prevented housekeepers from entering his room.
The shooting is not believed to be connected to international terrorism. Authorities have not said what kinds of weapons were found.
Paddock has no criminal background, other than a citation he received several years ago that was “handled as a normal practice” by the courts, Lombardo said. He didn’t offer any more details.
The shooting started while performer Jason Aldean was onstage. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of back-to-back bullets raining down from above, lasting for up to 10 minutes.
Fellow performer Jake Owen said he was standing about 50 feet away from Aldean when the shots started.
“It got faster and faster, almost like it was an automatic rifle,” Owen said. “At that point, everyone on stage started running everywhere.”
Owen dashed by victims covered in blood and eventually found shelter in his bus. The gunfire still hadn’t stopped by the time he got there, he said.
“It wasn’t something that was quick. It was chaos for a pure seven to ten minutes,” he said.
At least one off-duty Las Vegas police officer was among those shot, Lombardo said. Several other off-duty police officers are believed to be among the dead and injured.
The massacre put the normally bustling Strip at a standstill. Flights in and out of the Las Vegas airport were temporarily halted.
Police have located Paddock’s roommate, Marilou Danley, 62, and “believe her at this time not to be involved,” Lombardo said, adding that the investigation is ongoing. They also found two vehicles related to the investigation: a Hyundai Tuscon and a Chrysler Pacifica Touring, both with Nevada license plates.
A search of their home in Mesquite, located about 80 miles away from Las Vegas, was underway.
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