LAS VEGAS -- A gunman on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel-casino rained heavy fire down on a crowd of about 22,000 at an outdoor country music festival, turning the expanse into a killing field from which there was little escape. At least 59 people died.
The rapid-fire popping sounded like firecrackers at first, and many in the crowd didn't understand what was happening when the band stopped playing and singer Jason Aldean bolted off the stage.
"That's gunshots," a man could be heard saying emphatically on a cellphone video in the nearly half-minute of silence and confusion that followed. A woman pleaded with others: "Get down! Get down! Stay down!"
Then the bang-bang-bang sounds resumed.
"People start screaming and yelling and we start running," said Andrew Akiyoshi, who provided the cellphone video to The Associated Press. "You could feel the panic. You could feel like the bullets were flying above us. Everybody's ducking down, running low to the ground."
While some concertgoers hit the ground, others pushed for the crowded exits, shoving through narrow gates and climbing over fences as 40- to 50-round bursts of what was believed to be automatic-weapons fire rained down on them from the Mandalay Bay casino hotel.
By Monday afternoon, 59 victims were dead and 527 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Sheriff Joseph Lombardo did not specify how many were wounded by gunfire or injured in the chaos that followed. Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said officials were seeing a "wide range" of injuries, including gunshot victims as well as people injured by shrapnel, trampling or from jumping fences attempting to escape.
The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree from Mesquite, Nev., killed himself before officers stormed Room 135 in the gold-colored glass skyscraper.
The avid gambler who, according to his brother, made a small fortune investing in real estate had been staying there since Thursday and had busted out windows to create his shooting perch.
Officers used a smoke alarm, triggered by gun smoke that filled the room as Paddock set off round after round, to zero in on him, said Randy Sutton, a retired lieutenant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, citing police sources.
It took about 20 minutes to locate Paddock's position -- not nearly enough time for a floor-by-floor search of the hotel, which has 3,309 rooms and a 135,000-square-foot casino.
At some point, Paddock fired through the door and hit a security guard in the leg, Lombardo said, adding that the guard is expected to survive. Officers ultimately stormed the room and some fired shots, though Paddock is believed to have killed himself, the sheriff said.
My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2017
Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. 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. #heartbroken #stopthehate
Paddock had 23 firearms -- their calibers ranging from .223 to .308, some with scopes -- in his hotel room, Lombardo said. They found two gun stocks that allow the shooter to replicate fully automatic fire, and they are investigating whether weapons used in the massacre had those modifications, according to a U.S. official briefed by law enforcement authorities, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still unfolding.
Paddock had attached what is called a "bump-stock" to two of his weapons. The devices have attracted scrutiny in recent years from authorities.
The device basically replaces the gun's shoulder rest, with a "support step" that covers the trigger opening. By holding the pistol grip with one hand and pushing forward on the barrel with the other, the shooter's finger comes in contact with the trigger. The recoil causes the gun to buck back and forth, "bumping" the trigger.
Technically, that means the finger is pulling the trigger for each round fired, keeping the weapon a legal semi-automatic.
At Paddock's home, authorities found 19 more guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be turned into explosives such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, were in his car, the sheriff said.
Because Paddock was a high roller at the Vegas casinos, investigators are also scouring his records to try to determine if he was facing financial strains, according to people familiar with the probe.
Asked about the motive for the attack, Lombardo said, "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point."
The FBI said it found nothing so far to suggest the attack was connected to international terrorism, despite a claim of responsibility from the Islamic State militant group, which said Paddock was a "soldier" who had recently converted to Islam.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he met with FBI Director Christopher Wray on Monday morning and spoke with Lombardo, expressing gratitude and offering federal support.
"The investigation into the horrific shooting last night in Las Vegas is ongoing," Sessions said. "To the many families whose lives have been changed forever by this heinous act, we offer you our prayers and our promise that we will do everything in our power to get justice for your loved ones."
In the initial chaotic aftermath of the shooting, authorities sought Paddock's girlfriend, a woman named Marilou Danley. Lombardo said during a briefing that investigators spoke with Danley, who was on a trip to Toyko, and do not believe she was involved in the shooting, though she will be interviewed when she returns.
With hospitals jammed with victims, authorities put out a call for blood donations and set up a hotline to report missing people and to speed the identification of the dead and wounded. They also opened a "family reunification center" for people to find loved ones.
'ACT OF PURE EVIL'
In an address to the country, President Donald Trump called the bloodbath "an act of pure evil."
Trump offered his condolences to the friends and relatives of those killed. "We cannot fathom their pain; we cannot imagine their loss," he said. He urged the country not to be divided by what happened, saying that "our unity cannot be shattered by evil." And he praised law enforcement officers and others who quickly responded as soon as shots were fired.
"The speed with which they acted is miraculous and prevented further loss of life," Trump said. "To have found the shooter so quickly after the first shots were fired is something for which we will always be thankful and grateful. It shows what true professionalism is all about."
He ordered flags flown at half-staff and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Trump first responded to the shooting in a tweet early Monday, writing: "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!"
The president was informed of the shooting early Monday by Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. He received periodic briefings from Kelly and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert while also monitoring the coverage on cable news. On Twitter, he avoided the kind of inflammatory statements he has issued after some previous tragedies, such as last year's Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting that left 49 dead.
"There's a difference between being a candidate and being the president," Sanders said when asked to explain the change in tone.
Sanders repeatedly rebuffed questions about whether laws need to be stricter, saying that the day after the mass shooting was not the "time and place for a political debate."
But the familiar discourse did ignite Monday, once again breaking along party lines.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said it was time for Congress to end the inaction that followed other major shootings, including the one in Orlando and a 2012 school shooting in his home state. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was critically wounded in an assassination attempt six years ago, appeared at the Capitol and said she knew "this feeling of heartbreak and horror too well." She called for Congress to pass stricter gun control laws, turning to the Capitol building, raising her fist and saying, "The nation is counting on you."
Republicans largely avoided the subject. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered sympathetic tweets for those who lost their lives but made no mention of gun policy.
The shooting began at 10:07 p.m. Nevada time, and the gunman appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic. Police frantically tried to locate him and determine whether the gunfire was from Mandalay Bay or the neighboring Luxor hotel.
At 10:14 p.m., an officer said on his radio that he was pinned down against a wall on Las Vegas Boulevard with 40 to 50 people.
"We can't worry about the victims," an officer said at 10:15 p.m. "We need to stop the shooter before we have more victims. Anybody have eyes on him ... stop the shooter."
Near the stage, Dylan Schneider, a country singer who performed earlier in the day, huddled with others under the VIP bleachers, where he turned to his manager and asked, "Dude, what do we do?" He said he repeated the question again and again over the next five minutes.
Bodies were lying on the artificial turf installed in front of the stage, and people were screaming and crying. The sound of people running on the bleachers added to the confusion, and Schneider thought the concert was being invaded by multiple shooters.
"No one knew what to do," Schneider said. "It's literally running for life and you don't know what decision is the right one. But like I said, I knew we had to get out of there."
He eventually pushed his way out of the crowd and found refuge in the nearby Tropicana hotel-casino, where he kicked in a door to an engineering room and spent hours there with others who followed him.
The shooting had begun as Aldean closed out the three-day Route 91 Harvest Festival. He had just opened the song "When She Says Baby."
Muzzle flashes could be seen in the dark.
"It was the craziest stuff I've ever seen in my entire life," said Kodiak Yazzie, 36. "You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash."
NOWHERE TO RUN
The crowd, funneled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Victims fell to the ground while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands. Others crawled under parked cars.
Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed.
Tales of heroism and compassion emerged quickly: Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Some of the bleeding were carried out by fellow concertgoers. While dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to the hospital. People fleeing the concert grounds hitched rides with strangers, piling into cars and trucks.
Some of the injured were hit by shrapnel. Others were trampled or were injured jumping fences.
The dead included at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the concert, authorities said. Two on-duty officers were wounded, police said. One was in stable condition after surgery, and the other sustained minor injuries.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the Sunday night attack was the work of a "crazed lunatic full of hate."
While Paddock appeared to have no criminal history, his father was a bank robber who was on the FBI's most-wanted list in the 1960s.
Nearly every inch of the Las Vegas Strip is under video surveillance, much of it set up by the casinos to monitor their properties. That could yield a wealth of material for investigators as they try to piece together the attack.
Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was "beyond horrific."
The shooting came as security measures at many music venues have been boosted after concerts were targeted in terrorist attacks. In May in northern England, a bomb exploded at a concert by American singer Ariana Grande in Manchester, killing 22 people; in November 2015, Islamist attackers opened fire at a rock concert in Paris as part of coordinated attacks that left 130 dead. In both of those cases, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Visitors, residents and officials filled the pews at the Guardian Angel Cathedral on Monday, looking for comfort and unity during an emotional interfaith service, one of a number of memorials held around the city.
At another vigil, Goodman spoke to mourners in the setting sun Monday evening outside the downtown City Hall.
Several faith leaders led the group in prayer. The crowd later joined in song and held candles.
At the cathedral, Steve Sisolak, the Clark County Commission chairman, praised the police for their quick response and commended the outpouring of support from the community.
"Las Vegas will never be quite the same as a result of this," Sisolak said. But, he said, "We'll be back."
Information for this article was contributed by Sally Ho, Regina Garcia Cano, Brian Melley, Brian Skoloff, Sadie Gurman, Tami Abdollah, Kristin M. Hall, Jocelyn Gecker, Jonathan Lemire and Catherine Lucey of The Associated Press; and by Heather Long, Mark Berman, Derek Hawkins, Jenna Johnson, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Lynh Bui, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and staff members of The Washington Post.
Women hide inside the Sands Corp. plane hangar in Las Vegas after a gunman killed dozens of people at a music festival Sunday night.
People assist a wounded woman at the Tropicana resort Sunday night on the Las Vegas Strip.
Reed Broschart hugs girlfriend Aria James on Monday on the Las Vegas Strip in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a concert. The Ventura, Calif., couple had attended the concert.
President Donald Trump (middle left) and first lady Melania Trump stand on the South Lawn of the White House with Vice President Mike Pence, his wife, Karen Pence, and members of the White House staff during a moment of silence Monday for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
A Section on 10/03/2017
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