The brisk flames at first seemed like fireworks, and much of the crowd of 22,000 country music fans didn’t understand what was happening when the band stopped playing and singer Jason Aldean took off from the stage.
A man could be heard saying “these are gunshots” categorically on a mobile phone video tape in about half a minute of silence and the confusion that followed. A woman pleaded with the others: “Get down! Get down! Get off!”
Then the pop-pop hype resumed. And pure horror happened.
“People start screaming and screaming and we start running,” said Andrew Akyoshi, who provided the mobile video to the Associated Press. “You can panic. You can feel that bullets are flying over us. Everyone is crouching down, running to the ground.”
While some of those in attendance hit the ground Sunday night, others pushed toward the crowded exits, pushed through narrow gates and climbed fences as 40-50 rounds of bursts rained down on them from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Casino Hotel.
61 victims were killed and 869 wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.
You just don’t know what to do, ‘said Akiyoshi. Your heart is racing and you think, “I’m going to die.”
The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before officers stormed Room 135 in a gold-colored glass skyscraper.
The avid gambler who, according to his brother, made a small fortune from investing in real estate, had been staying there since Thursday and smashing windows to create his sniper perch roughly 500 yards from concert grounds.
The motive for the attack remained unknown, as Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said, “I cannot enter the mind of a psychopath at this point.”
Authorities said Paddock had 23 rifles – some with binoculars – in his hotel room. They found two weapons stocks that allow the shooter to repeat fully automatic fire, and are investigating whether the weapons used in the massacre had those modifications, according to a US official briefed by law enforcement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing.
At the Paddock house, authorities found 19 more rifles, explosives, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Al-Sharif said several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be converted into explosives like those used in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, was in his car.
As hospitals crowded with victims, the authorities launched a call to donate blood and set up a hotline to report the missing and quickly identify the dead and wounded. They also opened a “family reunion center” to find their loved ones.
More than 12 hours after the massacre, corpses covered in white sheets were still being removed from the festival grounds.
The shooting started at 10:07 PM, and the gunman appeared to fire unimpeded for more than 10 minutes, according to radio traffic. Police frantically attempted to locate him and determine whether the shooting was from Mandalay Bay or the nearby Luxor Hotel.
At 10:14 p.m., an officer on his radio said he was hung on a wall on Las Vegas Boulevard with 40 to 50 people.
At 10:15 p.m., an officer said, “We cannot worry about the victims.” “We need to stop the shooter before we have more casualties. Anyone watching … stop the shooter.”
Near the stage, Dylan Schneider, the country singer who performed earlier in the day, met others under the VIP stands, as he turned to his manager and asked, “Hey, what do we do?” He said he repeated the question over and over again over the next five minutes.
The bodies were lying on the artificial grass in front of the podium, and people were screaming and crying. The sound of the people running on the stands added to the confusion, and Schneider believed that the concert was conquered by several archers.
Nobody knows what to do, ”said Schneider. “It actually works for your life and doesn’t know what the right decision was. But like I said, I knew we had to get out of there.
Ultimately, he made his way away from the crowd and found refuge in the nearby Tropicana Hotel and Casino, kicking in the engineering room door and spending hours there with others who followed him.
The shooting began when Aldean closed the three-day Harvest Route 91 festival. He had just started the song “When You Say Hey Baby,” and a first pop of about 50 shots while singing, “It’s tough to wake up.”
The crater flashes were seen in the darkness as the gunman fired.
You can hear the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You can see twinkle, twinkle, twinkle, flash. “Said Kodiak Yazzie, 36.
The crowd, which was directed tightly into a wide open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. The victims fell to the ground, while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession platforms or crawled under parked cars.
The faces were engraved in shock and confusion, and people cried and screamed.
Tales of heroism and mercy quickly emerged: husbands held hands as they ran through the dirt. Some of the bleeding was done by his party mates. While dozens of ambulances transported the wounded, some people loaded the victims into their cars and took them to hospital. People fleeing the concert grounds have ridden their journeys with strangers, crammed into cars and trucks.
Some of the wounded were injured by shrapnel. Others were run over or injured while jumping on fences.
The authorities said that among the dead were at least three off-duty police officers from various departments who were attending the ceremony. Police said two officers on duty were injured, one of them in serious condition.
Las Vegas mayor, Caroline Goodman, said the attack was the work of a “crazy maniac full of hate”.
Sharif said the authorities believed that Paddock acted alone. While Paddock appears to have no criminal history, his father was a bank robber who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list in the 1960s.
As for why Paddock started in a murder rampage, his brother in Florida, Eric Paddock, told reporters, “I can’t even make up something. There’s nothing.”
Hours after the shooting, Aldean posted on Instagram that he and his crew were safe and that the shooting was “extremely terrifying”.
“It hurts my heart that this will happen to anyone who has just been out to enjoy what should have been a fun night,” said the country star