The 2017 Las Vegas Shooting

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People carrying shooting victim
People carrying shooting victim

The 2017 Las Vegas shooting was a mass shooting on the night of October 1, when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Perpetrator Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired more than 1,100 rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 58 people and leaving 851 injured, over 400 of them by gunfire and hundreds more in the ensuing panic. The shooting occurred between 10:05 and 10:15 p.m. PDT; about an hour later Paddock was found dead in his room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His motive remains unknown.

The incident is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States. It reignited debate about gun laws in the U.S. and focused attention on bump stocks, which Paddock used to help him fire shots in rapid succession and with results compared to automatic weapon fire.

Background

Location

The Las Vegas Strip is a stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard immediately south of the city of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada. The Strip is known for its concentration of casinos and resort hotels, including the 43-story Mandalay Bay southwest of its intersection with Mandalay Bay Road, in the unincorporated town of Paradise.

Las Vegas Village, a 15-acre (6.1-hectare) lot used for outdoor performances, is located diagonally across the intersection to the northeast. From 2014 onward, the venue hosted the annual Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The 2017 festival ran from September 29 to October 1, with over 22,000 attendees on the final day.

Perpetrator

Main article about Stephen Paddock

Stephen Paddock was a 64-year-old former auditor and real estate businessman who had been living 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Las Vegas in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. Paddock was twice divorced, had a long-term girlfriend, and had no known children. He was a son of Benjamin Paddock, a bank robber who was on the FBI’s most-wanted list between 1969 and 1977. Paddock’s only recorded interactions with law enforcement were traffic citations.

Stephen Paddock, right, with his brother, Eric Paddock, left
Stephen Paddock, right, with his brother, Eric Paddock, left

Paddock was a high-stakes gambler who placed bets at a high enough level to earn valuable comps—free benefits such as rooms and meals. He was a familiar figure to casino hosts in Las Vegas, but was not well known among other high-stakes gamblers because he mostly played video poker. He reportedly kept to himself and was a heavy drinker. Paddock had lost a significant amount of his wealth over the previous two years, but had paid off all gambling debts before the shooting.

Stephen dead on the floor next to some of his rifles
Stephen dead on the floor next to some of his rifles

Paddock may have considered attacking other events. He had researched large-scale venues in cities such as Boston since at least May 2017, and had reserved a room overlooking the August 2017 Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, but did not use it. According to his girlfriend, she and Paddock were at the Mandalay Bay during an earlier stay a month before the attack when he repeatedly cased out Las Vegas Village from different windows in their room. From September 17, Paddock stayed at The Ogden in Downtown Las Vegas, which overlooked the open-air Life Is Beautiful festival that ran from September 22 to September 24. His internet search terms from mid-September included “swat weapons”, “ballistics chart 308”, “SWAT Las Vegas”, and “do police use explosives”.

Stephen dead on the floor, close up
Stephen dead on the floor, close up

Shooting

Preparation

Paddock arrived at the Mandalay Bay on September 25, 2017. He was booked into Room 32-135, a complimentary room on the 32nd floor. Four days later, he also checked into the directly-connected Room 32-134. Both suites overlook the site of the concert at Las Vegas Village. Between September 25 and October 1—the day of the shooting—he stockpiled an arsenal of weapons, associated equipment and ammunition that included fourteen AR-15 rifles (all of which were equipped with bump stocks and twelve of which had 100-round magazines), eight AR-10 rifles, a bolt-action rifle, and a revolver. A bump stock modifies a semi-automatic weapon so that it can shoot in rapid succession, mimicking automatic fire. Often with the help of hotel bellhops, he brought five suitcases to his room on September 25, seven on the 26th, two on the 28th, six on the 30th, and two on October 1. Cell phone records also show that he also made multiple visits to his home in Mesquite. On September 30, he placed “Do not disturb” signs on the doors of both rooms. Before the shooting Paddock spent much of his time at the Mandalay Bay gambling, often at night. He interacted with Mandalay Bay employees more than ten times during his stay, including twice on the day of the shooting; an MGM Resorts International spokesperson said they were all “normal in nature”.

Attack

The mass shooting occurred between 10:05 and 10:15 p.m. PDT on October 1, 2017, which was the third and final night of the festival. When the shooting began, country music singer Jason Aldean was giving the closing performance.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m., hotel security guard Jesus Campos was sent to the 32nd floor to investigate an open-door alert. He attempted to open a door that provided immediate access to the floor, but found that it would not open. After Campos entered the floor, he discovered an L-shaped bracket screwed into the door and door frame, which was responsible for barring the door from opening. After reporting the discovery to his dispatch center, he heard the sound of rapid drilling coming from Room 32-135 and went to investigate the matter. At approximately 10:05, he was hit in the right thigh by one of about 35 bullets that Paddock fired through the door of his suite. After Campos was hit, he took cover in the alcove between Rooms 32-122 and 32-124 and immediately informed the hotel by radio and cellphone that he had been shot, though he believed he had been shot with a BB or pellet gun. At the same time, maintenance worker Stephen Schuck was on the same floor to fix the door that Campos had reported as being barricaded. Campos, who was already injured, encountered Schuck and told him to take cover. Schuck contacted hotel dispatchers over his radio, informed them of the ongoing shooting, and told them to call the police.  Neither Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department nor MGM Resorts International, the Mandalay Bay’s owner, have confirmed when information about the initial shooting was relayed to the police.

A man lays on top of a woman as others flee during the shooting
A man lays on top of a woman as others flee during the shooting

After Paddock used a hammer to break two of the windows in both of his suites, he began shooting through them at 10:05 p.m. He ultimately fired more than 1,100 rifle rounds approximately 490 yards (450 m) into the festival audience. He initially started out with a few single gunshots before firing in prolonged bursts. Many people in the crowd initially mistook the gunfire for fireworks. During the shooting, a security fence hindered concertgoers from fleeing the 15-acre concrete lot. The gunfire continued, with some momentary pauses, over the span of ten minutes and ended by 10:15 p.m.

In addition to shooting at the concertgoers, Paddock fired eight bullets at a large jet fuel tank at McCarran International Airport 2,000 feet (600 m) away. Two of those bullets struck the exterior of the tank, with one bullet penetrating the tank. The fuel did not explode because jet fuel is mostly kerosene, which is unlikely to ignite when struck by a bullet.

During the shooting, police officers were initially confused whether the shots were coming from the Mandalay Bay, the nearby Luxor hotel, or the festival grounds. There were also multiple false reports of additional shooters at other hotels on the Strip. Officers eventually spotted multiple flashes of gunfire in the middle of the northern side of Mandalay Bay and responded to the hotel. At 10:12 p.m., two officers on the 31st floor reported the sounds of gunfire on the floor above them. When officers arrived on the 32nd floor at 10:17 p.m. and encountered Campos a minute later, he directed them to Paddock’s room and helped others evacuate. Campos was then directed to seek medical attention for himself.

Victims after the shooting
Victims after the shooting

Between 10:26 and 10:30 p.m., eight additional officers arrived at the 32nd floor; some of those officers manually breached through the door Paddock had screwed shut with the bracket. The gunfire had ceased, and the police moved systematically down the hallway, searching and clearing each room, using a master key that was provided by Campos. At 10:55 p.m., the officers finished evacuating guests. At 11:20 p.m., police breached Room 32-135 with explosives. Paddock was found dead on the floor from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police then breached Room 32-134; while entering the hotel suite, an officer accidentally fired a three-round burst from his weapon, but the bullets did not hit anyone. At 11:27 p.m., officers announced over the police radio that a suspect was down.

Immediate response

McCarran International Airport, adjacent to the shooting site, was shut down for several hours. Approximately 300 people entered the airport property as they fled from the shooting. This prompted officials to shut down all four runways. More than 25 flights were rerouted to ensure that no aircraft would be hit by gunfire, while other flights were canceled before airfield operations resumed at 12:40 a.m. on October 2.

Much of Las Vegas Boulevard was closed while police SWAT teams combed the venue and neighboring businesses. At approximately 2:45 p.m. PDT on October 2, a state of emergency was declared in Clark County. Early on October 2, Sheriff Lombardo identified the suspect as Stephen Paddock.

Casualties

Fifty-eight people were shot to death at the music festival; Paddock’s suicide was the only death at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The fatalities included 36 women and 22 men. The oldest was 67, the youngest 20. Six were from Nevada, 35 from California, 13 from other states, and four from Canada. The Clark County Coroner’s Office determined that all 58 victims died as a result of gunshot wounds. Thirty-one of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, while the rest were pronounced dead at hospitals.

The victims
The victims

An additional 851 people were injured, 422 of them with gunshot wounds. In the aftermath, many victims were transported to area hospitals, which included University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, and at least one of the six hospitals of Valley Health System. Sunrise Hospital treated the largest portion of the wounded: 199 patients, 150 of whom arrived within a timespan of about 40 minutes. University Medical Center, the Level I trauma center in Las Vegas, was difficult to access for the >50% of patients transported by private vehicles because Interstate 15, the most direct route from the shooting location was closed to the public. Also, an erroneous emergency services announcement 1 hour after the shooting reported UMC had reached capacity and was on diversion. This confusion persisted for several hours and led to most patients being transported to Sunrise, a Level II trauma center. University Medical Center treated 104 patients. Six victims sought medical treatment in Southern California; UC Irvine Medical Center treated four and Loma Linda University Medical Center treated two. Victims of the shooting required blood transfusions totaling 499 components in the first 24 hours of treatment, but this blood was rapidly replaced by available blood from local and national blood banks.

Multiple victims laying on the festival grounds
Multiple victims laying on the festival grounds

The incident is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States, exceeding the death toll of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, where 49 people were shot and killed.

Surviving witnesses

Several persons at the shooting were also present at another mass shooting in November 2018 at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. One person stated that the number of Las Vegas survivors at the bar may have been as high as 60. It was confirmed that a survivor of the massacre in Las Vegas died in the shooting in Thousand Oaks.

Aftermath

On the morning after the shooting, lines to donate blood in Las Vegas stretched for blocks. Wait times were as much as six hours or more. In Las Vegas alone, 800 units of blood were donated to the local blood bank in the days following the shooting, and the American Red Cross reported a 53% increase in blood donation in the two days following the shooting. It was later reported that over 15% of the blood donated in Las Vegas after the shooting went unused, prompting questions about the benefit of widespread calls for blood donation following mass shootings. Millions of dollars have also been raised to help victims and their families.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval called the shooting “a tragic and heinous act of violence that has shaken the Nevada family”. Jason Aldean, who was singing when the shooting started, posted his condolences on Instagram and noted all of those working with him at the show had survived the attack.

At a press conference, President Donald Trump described Paddock as “a very very sick individual”, and “a demented man, [with] a lot of problems”. He added, “the police department has done such an incredible job, and we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by”. A White House official talking points memo, distributed to Trump allies, opposed tightening gun control since “new laws won’t stop a mad man”, but “will curtail the freedoms of law abiding citizens”. On October 2, Trump issued a proclamation to honor the victims and their families. On October 4, Trump visited the shooting victims and first responders.

A unity prayer walk and ceremony was held in Las Vegas on October 7 in honor of the dead. Speakers at the ceremony included Vice President Mike Pence and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. On the evening of October 15, thousands participated in a commemorative 3 mile walk between Circus Circus and Mandalay Bay.

The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon took place on November 12 and was the largest event to be held in the city since the shooting. The event received a massive amount of security, which included 350 officers, counter-sniper surveillance posts, and a number of barriers composed of dump trucks, buses, and other large vehicles.

The expansion Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL held a tribute to the victims and honored response personnel before their inaugural home game on October 10. Later during the season, the number 58 became the first number in team history to be retired, chosen for the 58 deaths during the shooting.

The future of the Las Vegas Village site remains undetermined.

Gun control discussion

The shooting prompted support in the U.S. Congress for assault weapons legislation that would ban bump stocks. Many Congressional Democrats and some Republicans expressed support. House leaders said the issue of bump stock regulation should be decided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which originally approved bump stocks. The National Rifle Association (NRA) came out in favor of administrative bump fire stock regulations. Firearms retailers reported increased consumer interest in bump stocks.

On November 6, 2017 Massachusetts became the first state to ban the sale, possession, or use of the devices. In December 2018, Acting United States Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a regulation banning bump stocks in the U.S., effective March 2019. The regulation bans new sales and requires current owners to surrender or destroy existing bump stocks.

Eighteen Democratic U.S. Senators introduced a bill, the Keep Americans Safe Act, which would ban gun magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition. Stock prices of firearms manufacturers rose the day after the shooting, as has happened after similar incidents. Investors expected gun sales to increase over concerns that such an event could lead to more stringent gun-control legislation, and possibly due a rush of customers wishing to defend themselves against future attacks, but firearm sales did not increase after the shooting.

Legal action

In November 2017, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 450 of the victims of the shooting, which claimed that the Mandalay Bay Hotel had shown negligence by allowing Paddock to bring a large amount of weaponry into the building. In July 2018, MGM Resorts International countersued hundreds of victims, claiming that it had “no liability of any kind” for the attack.

Awards

A British soldier, Trooper Ross Woodward, from the 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, who was visiting a nearby hotel while off-duty when the shooting began, was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for his actions during the event. His citation stated that “he consciously, deliberately and repeatedly advanced towards danger, moving people to safety and treating casualties”.

Investigation

According to authorities with the Clark County Commissioner, the name “1 October” was declared the official title for investigations into the mass shooting.

Early reports

Investigators found hidden surveillance cameras that were placed inside and outside the hotel room, presumably so Paddock could monitor the arrival of others. The cameras were not in record mode. Police said a handwritten note found in the room indicated Paddock had been calculating the distance, wind, and trajectory from his 32nd floor hotel suite to the concertgoers he was targeting on the festival lot.

At a press conference on October 4, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo stated there was evidence—which he declined to discuss—that Paddock intended to escape the scene, and that he may have had assistance from an accomplice. Investigators searched Paddock’s room and found a “bulletproof vest” and breathing apparatus, which were survival gear that Paddock never used.

There have been several changes in the official account and timeline of Paddock’s shooting of hotel security guard Campos. Police officials described these adjustments as “minute changes” that are common in complex investigations.

In their first statement about the incident, police officials inaccurately reported that Campos arrived on the scene after Paddock began firing into the crowd. In a second statement, police officials reported, again inaccurately, that Campos was shot six minutes before Paddock began firing into the crowd. That report had been based on a 9:59 p.m. notation in a hotel security log, which in a third statement was determined to have been the time when Campos encountered the barricaded door.

Sheriff Lombardo dismissed allegations that the changing timeline was the result of some kind of conspiracy between the police department, the FBI, and MGM Resorts International saying, “Nobody is attempting to hide anything in reference to this investigation. The dynamics and the size of this investigation requires us to go through voluminous amounts of information in order to draw an accurate picture.”

Preliminary investigation

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released a preliminary report on the event on January 18, 2018.

Police speculate that Paddock acted alone and have not determined his motive. No links have been identified to any hate groups, terrorist groups or ideologies, and he did not record a reason for his actions.

On February 2, 2018, Douglas Haig, an Arizonan ammunition dealer, was charged in a Nevada federal court with “conspiracy to manufacture and sell armor-piercing ammunition without a license” after his fingerprints were discovered on unfired armor-piercing ammunition inside Paddock’s suite.

Final investigative report

On August 3, 2018, Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a press conference on the release of the “LVMPD Criminal Investigative Report of the 1 October Mass Casualty Shooting”. He said the 10-month investigation had revealed no evidence of conspiracy or a second gunman, and that the gunman’s motive had not been definitely determined. Lombardo said “What we have been able to answer are the questions of who, what, when, where and how… what we have not been able to definitively answer is why Stephen Paddock committed this act.”

Weaponry

Twenty-four firearms, a large quantity of ammunition, and numerous high-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds apiece were found in the suite. Fourteen of the firearms were .223-caliber AR-15-type semi-automatic rifles: three manufactured by Colt, two by Daniel Defense, two by FN Herstal, two by LWRC International, two by POF-USA, one with a .223 Wylde chamber by Christensen Arms, one made-to-order by LMT, and one by Noveske. The others were eight .308-caliber AR-10-type rifles, one .308-caliber Ruger American bolt-action rifle, and one .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 342 revolver. The AR-15 rifles were fitted with vertical forward grips and bump fire stocks, the latter of which allowed for recoil to actuate their triggers at a rate of 90 rounds in 10 seconds. The AR-10 rifles were equipped with various telescopic sights and mounted on bipods. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that the firearms found in his hotel room, along with more guns found in his homes, had been legally purchased in Nevada, California, Texas, and Utah. In the month preceding the shooting, he had attempted to purchase tracer ammunition, but the gun dealer he approached did not have the item in stock. He bought tracer ammunition from a private seller at a Phoenix, Arizona gun show.

During subsequent investigations, ammonium nitrate (often used in improvised explosive devices) was found in the trunk of his Hyundai Tucson SUV, along with 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 50 pounds (23 kg) of Tannerite, a binary explosive used to make explosive targets for gun ranges. Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said that while Paddock had “nefarious intent” with the material, he did not appear to have assembled an explosive device.

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