Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks during a news conference last week in Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, file)

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks during a news conference last week in Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, file)

FBI says Las Vegas shooting has no connection to international terrorists

“Right now we believe it’s a solo act, a lone wolf attacker,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.

  • By Alene Tchekmedyian and Hailey Branson-Potts Los Angeles Times
  • Monday, October 2, 2017 9:48am
  • Nation-World

By Alene Tchekmedyian and Hailey Branson-Potts / Los Angeles Times

LAS VEGAS — At least 58 people were killed and at least 400 others injured after a gunman opened fire Sunday night at an outdoor country music festival near the Las Vegas Strip — the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The first shots came at 10:08 p.m. More than 22,000 concertgoers sought cover as a barrage of what sounded like automatic machine-gun fire ripped through the crowd, fired from a hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino across the street.

Police said the suspect, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, a resident of Mesquite, Nev., killed himself before a SWAT team burst in. Officials discovered at least 10 rifles in his hotel room.

“Right now we believe it’s a solo act, a lone wolf attacker,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. “We are pretty confident there is no longer a threat.” The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is a joint city-county force headed by the sheriff.

Lombardo said authorities had no evidence of a motive. “We don’t know what his belief system was at this time.”

The militant group Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, claiming that the gunman had converted to Islam months ago, though it provided no proof; almost immediately, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s field office in Las Vegas, Aaron Rouse, said federal authorities had found no such evidence.

“We have determined, to this point, no connection to an international terrorist group,” Rouse said.

“It was an act of pure evil,” President Donald Trump said in a televised address in Washington, and he did not refer to the shootings as an act of terrorism. He said he would travel to Las Vegas to visit first responders and families of the victims on Wednesday.

“We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss. To the families of the victims, we are praying for you, and we are here for you, and we ask God to see you through this very dark period,” Trump said.

“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” Trump added, saying that while Americans may be angry, “it is our love that defines us today and always will forever.”

The gunman’s brother said he was “dumbfounded” by the attack.

“Where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background or anything like that,” Eric Hudson Paddock told CBS News in Orlando, Fla. “He’s a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite and drove down and gambled in Las Vegas. He did … stuff. Ate burritos. I mean — “

Paddock turned away in disgust.

Police said they have succeeded in locating a woman, identified as Marilou Danley, who was believed to be traveling with Paddock and is listed as living at his address in Mesquite, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The shooter’s brother said Danley was the gunman’s girlfriend.

Mesquite Police Officer Quinn Averett, a spokesman for the department, said about 10 Mesquite officers were at the home early Monday morning, holding a perimeter. Officials found some guns inside.

Mesquite police said they’d had no prior contact with the gunman — no traffic stops, no citations, “no arrests, nothing,” Averett said. “It’s a newer home, a newer subdivision, a nice clean home, nothing out of the ordinary.”

One of the dead was an off-duty police officer who was attending the concert, Lombardo said. Several other officers from Nevada and California, both on and off duty, were wounded by gunfire, officials said.

“A tragic and heinous act of violence has shaken the Nevada family,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said on Twitter. “Our prayers are with the victims and all affected by this act of cowardice.”

And in California, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags at the Capitol flown half-staff. “Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of those killed and injured in last night’s tragic and senseless shooting and we stand with the people of Nevada in this difficult time,” he said in a statement.

At University Medical Center early Monday, Mason Van Houweling, the hospital’s CEO, stood outside with the officers, his face weary. He’d been there since just after the shooting.

There was blood everywhere, he said, all near the entrance. People were coming in ambulances, in taxis. Some drove strangers with bullet wounds. Some, wounded, drove themselves. Hospital staff started doing triage in the parking lot and the entrances to the hospital.

“Our team has done miraculous work in a very tense situation,” Van Houweling said.

Hospital staff just started showing up to work, unasked, he said. Medical professionals who were in town visiting showed up. There were two anesthesiologists from Florida. A number of nurses were from out of state.

His eyes grew cloudy.

“It’s like a bad dream,” Van Houweling said. “This happened to so many nice people. It was a country music festival — so many people who are so warm.”

Authorities established a command post and triage center, and shut down parts of the Strip in the hours after the shooting. Hotel guests blocked from returning to their hotels were shuttled to a center equipped with metal detectors.

Police initially investigated reports of a “suspicious device” down the street, outside the Luxor Hotel, but said later there appeared to be no explosive devices related to the incident, other than that used by the SWAT team breaching the room where the suspect was.

The three-day Route 91 Harvest country music festival was underway across Las Vegas Boulevard from the Mandalay Bay when the shooting erupted. Concertgoers reported a burst of weapons fire as a Jason Aldean performance was underway.

Video posted on social media showed the open-air concert fully underway when bursts of automatic gunfire rang out in rapid succession. Dozens of people dropped to the ground, screaming, while others ran, some in pairs or in groups with their arms linked.

The shooting went on for more than 30 seconds before the music stopped, and another burst was heard later.

“Get down, stay down,” one woman shouted. “Let’s go,” another voice said. Another wave of gunshots followed soon after.

Seth Bayles, of West Hollywood, Calif., said Aldean had been performing for about 20 minutes when he heard shots.

“I thought it was like bottle rockets going off,” Bayles said. “Then we saw people dropping. We saw someone get hit and then we started running.”

Bayles said he was probably 50 feet from the stage when he heard the shots. “We saw people down all over the place.”

Bayles said Aldean was quickly pulled off stage, and soon after the band was brought off as well.

Two men near Mandalay Bay said they heard someone in a helicopter with a bullhorn yelling, “Go! Go! Go!” as the incident unfolded. Others said they saw police and SWAT teams streaming into the hotel.

Bernice Allard, who came to the concert with her husband, Frank Allard, said there was screaming when the shooting began. “Single shot. Single shot, then a lot of shots,” Frank Allard said.

He said he had come to see Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Aldean, who was into his fourth or fifth song when the shooting began. Allard said the crowd began to stampede and that he grabbed a nearby fence, stretched both arms wide and tried to shield his wife from the danger. Then they ran.

“We followed the crowd out,” Bernice Allard said.

Several off-duty police officers from Bakersfield, Calif., were attending the concert when the gunfire began, officials said. Bakersfield Police Lt. Jeff Burdick said they were not in a position to return fire.

One Bakersfield officer was wounded by the gunfire and was taken to a hospital for treatment, but is expected to survive, Burdick said.

“Our officers were actually attending the concert as civilians,” Burdick said, adding that the agency has accounted for every officer known to be there.

Aldean was the final act of the Route 91 Harvest festival, while dozens of others had played over the course of the weekend, including Church, Hunt and Maren Morris. In numerous tweets, artists communicated with fans and followers, expressing their sorrow and prayers for anyone injured and telling loved ones that they were safe.

Jake Owen, who played the main stage before Aldean, tweeted: “Praying for everyone here in Vegas. I witnessed the most unimaginable event tonight. We are okay. Others aren’t. Please pray.”

Aldean responded on Instagram:

“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” he wrote. “I still don’t 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.”

Times staff writer Branson-Potts reported from Las Vegas and Tchekmedyian from Los Angeles. Times staff writer David Montero and Ruben Vives in Las Vegas and Joseph Serna in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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