US seeks clues to shooting

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A woman lights candles at a vigil on the Las Vegas strip following a mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Sunday. Reuters

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Police sought clues yesterday to explain why a retiree with a penchant for gambling but no criminal record set up a sniper’s nest in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and poured gunfire onto a concert below, slaying dozens of people before killing himself.

The Sunday night shooting spree from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel, on the Las Vegas Strip, killed at least 59 people before the gunman turned a weapon on himself. More than 500 were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, left no immediate hint of his motive for the arsenal of high-powered weaponry he amassed, including 42 guns, or the carnage he inflicted on a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival.

Paddock was not known to have served in the military, or to have suffered from a history of mental illness or to have registered any inkling of social disaffection, political discontent or radical views on social media.

US President Donald Trump yesterday said Paddock was “a very, very sick individual” and said gun laws would be discussed later.

“We’ll be talking about gun laws as times goes by,” Mr Trump said.

Asked if the shooting was an act of domestic terrorism, he added: “He was a sick man, a demented man. Lot of problems, I guess, and we’re looking into him very, very seriously.”

US officials discounted a claim of responsibility by the militant Islamic State group. Police said they believed Paddock acted alone.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”

Although police said they had no other suspects, Mr Lombardo said investigators wanted to talk with Paddock’s girlfriend and live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who he said was travelling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.

Mr Lombardo also said detectives were “aware of other individuals” who were involved in the sale of weapons Paddock acquired.

The closest Paddock appeared to have ever come to a brush with the law was for a traffic infraction, authorities said.

Paddock seemed atypical of the overtly troubled, angry young men who experts said have come to embody the profile of most mass shooters.

Public records on Paddock point to an itinerant existence across the US West and Southeast, including stints as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker. But Paddock appeared to be settling in to a quiet life when he bought a home in a Nevada retirement community a few years ago, about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and the casinos he enjoyed.

His brother, Eric, described Stephen Paddock as financially well-off and an avid enthusiast of video poker games and cruises.

“We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said. “We have no idea in the world.”

The gunfire erupted during the Route 91 Harvest music festival as country music star Jason Aldean was performing. The musician ran off stage as the shooting progressed.

Video of the attack showed throngs of people screaming in horror and cowering on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concertgoers, as extended bursts of gunfire strafed the crowd from above from a distance police estimated at more than 460 metres.

The bloodshed ended after police swarming the hotel closed in on the gunman, who shot and wounded a hotel security officer through the door of his two-room suite and then killed himself before police entered, authorities said.

Police said 23 guns were found in Paddock’s suite. Mr Lombardo said a search of the suspect’s car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser compound that can be formed into explosives.

Police found another 19 firearms, some explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition at Paddock’s home in Mesquite, about 145km northeast of Las Vegas.

They also obtained a warrant to search a second house connected to Paddock in Reno, Nevada.

Chris Sullivan, the owner of the Guns & Guitars shop in Mesquite, issued a statement confirming
that Paddock was a customer who cleared “all necessary background checks and procedures”, and said his business was cooperating with investigators.

“He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time,” Mr Sullivan said. He did not say how many or the kinds of weapons Paddock purchased there.

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