A lone gunman released a rapid-fire barrage of bullets on an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas Sunday night, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500 others in the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
From his room on the 32nd floor of a glitzy hotel, the shooter, identified by law enforcement officials as Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired shot after shot down on the crowd of about 22,000, sending terrified concertgoers running for their lives.
“We heard what sounded like firecrackers going off. Then all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a machine gun. People started screaming that they were hit… When we started running out, there were probably a couple hundred [people] on the ground,” witness Meghan Kearney told MSNBC.
“People kept dropping and dropping… People were getting shot one foot away from us,” she added. “People were trying to save their friends. There were gunshots everywhere. Helping them would’ve meant that we got shot, too.”
Police responded to reports of the shooting just after 10 p.m. (1 a.m. ET). Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Monday morning that authorities believe Paddock killed himself before police entered his room.
Earlier, officials had said police fatally shot Lombardo.
The suspect is believed to have checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sept. 28, Lombardo said, and had an “excess of ten rifles” in his hotel room.
It was not clear whether Paddock had specifically requested a room on a high floor that overlooked the concert venue or whether he had prevented housekeepers from entering his room.
The shooting is not believed to be connected to international terrorism. Authorities have not said what kinds of weapons were found.
Paddock has no criminal background, other than a citation he received several years ago that was “handled as a normal practice” by the courts, Lombardo said. He didn’t offer any more details.
The shooting started while performer Jason Aldean was onstage. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of back-to-back bullets raining down from above, lasting for up to 10 minutes.
Fellow performer Jake Owen said he was standing about 50 feet away from Aldean when the shots started.
“It got faster and faster, almost like it was an automatic rifle,” Owen said. “At that point, everyone on stage started running everywhere.”
Owen dashed by victims covered in blood and eventually found shelter in his bus. The gunfire still hadn’t stopped by the time he got there, he said.
“It wasn’t something that was quick. It was chaos for a pure seven to ten minutes,” he said.
At least one off-duty Las Vegas police officer was among those shot, Lombardo said. Several other off-duty police officers are believed to be among the dead and injured.
The massacre put the normally bustling Strip at a standstill. Flights in and out of the Las Vegas airport were temporarily halted.
Police have located Paddock’s roommate, Marilou Danley, 62, and “believe her at this time not to be involved,” Lombardo said, adding that the investigation is ongoing. They also found two vehicles related to the investigation: a Hyundai Tuscon and a Chrysler Pacifica Touring, both with Nevada license plates.
A search of their home in Mesquite, located about 80 miles away from Las Vegas, was underway.
Aldean, who was named the Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year in April 2017, was performing on the final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival at the Las Vegas Village. He later said via Instagram that he and his band were safe.
“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,” he wrote.
Witnesses said that the first round of shots sounded like fireworks. Only after the second burst of gunfire did the band stop playing.
“After the second round… everybody hit the ground around us,” concert-goer Sean said on TODAY. “It seemed like people were hit everywhere.”
Another concertgoer, Jon Bessette, described a scene of “pandemonium” as “the band ran off stage.”
“Everyone was running, people were getting trampled,” he said.
President Donald Trump sent his condolences in a tweet Monday morning.
“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” he wrote.
Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted about the “senseless violence.”
“The hearts & prayers of the American people are with you. You have our condolences and sympathies,” he wrote.
“To the courageous first responders, thank you for your acts of bravery,” he added.
Mandalay Bay tweeted out a statement that said, “Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of last night’s tragic events. We’re grateful for the immediate actions of our first responders.”
By Andrew Blankstein, Pete Williams, Rachel Elbaum, Yuliya Talmazan and Elizabeth Chuck.