From the 32nd floor of his hotel in Las Vegas, Stephen Paddock opened fire on around 22,000 people attending an outdoor country music festival—killing at least 50 and wounding around 500 others. The massacre occurred on Sunday evening and officials have now deemed it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history; surpassing the death toll of the Pulse nightclub shooting in June of 2016.
Reports of gunfire were first documented at 10:08 pm as Jason Alden, the last performer of the night, began his set. Jake Owen, another performer, watched from the wings of the stage as the events unfolded. “It was chaos for a pure seven to ten minutes,” Owen stated to officials.
Alden can be seen in a fan video, fleeing the stage as the music stopped and panic set in. He has since posted on social media, “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone.”
Countless other celebrities and government officials have since expressed their condolences for the victims and their families on social media. President Trump condemned the acts on twitter early Monday and later in the day in his morning address. He described it as, “an act of pure evil.”
Paddock, a Mesquite, Nevada resident, was 64 years old. Police report he had no prior history or crime and have not yet concluded a motive. ISIS claimed responsibility for the acts this morning, stating that Stephen was one of their soldiers and had converted to Islam recently. However, officials have stated that Paddock was most not acting for a terrorist group and are denying ISIS’s claims. Aaron Rouse, the FBI agent in charge, stated, “We have determined, to this point, no connection with an international terrorist group.”
Although police are not considering Paddock’s actions to be terrorism, a great majority of the public are debating otherwise; calling on officials to “call it what is it” as one Twitter user wrote. Many people believe that an act of this magnitude and violence should be considered an act of terrorism. Many others are bringing the debate over gun accessibility and regulation into the discussion, hoping to use this event as a catalyst in implementing stricter gun policies.
Police pinpointed the source of gunfire and entered the Mandala Bay Resort and Casino in search of the gunman. Upon entering Paddock’s room, they found him dead, presumably having shot himself prior to their entrance. They also found 10 rifles near the window. Officials have concluded Paddock shattered the window with a blunt object and then began firing at the concertgoers. They have also concluded he has brought all 11 weapons into the resort earlier that day.
Police have begun a search of his home, although they note it will take some time to check the area for explosives before the search can begin. They have also contacted his family, who are in complete disbelief and shock. His brother Eric Paddock, who is currently residing in Florida, told police, “He was just a guy … he went to hotels, he gambled, he went to shows … We are completely at a loss.” Police have cleared his roommate, Marilou Danley, of being an accomplice saying they believe Paddock to have acted alone. She was out of the country when the acts occurred and is assumed to have been unaware.
Officials expect the death toll to continue to rise as more information is gathered by police and families. And as the people of Las Vegas search for answers, the rest of the country is mourning with them; standing in solidarity by their side. We want answers, we need answers. And as more information surfaces, perhaps we can begin to understand something so deeply unsettling and senseless.