LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – A 64-year-old man armed with multiple machine guns strafed an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas from a high-rise hotel window on Sunday, slaughtering at least 58 people in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history before killing himself.
The barrage of gunfire from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people lasted several minutes, sparking panic as throngs of music fans desperately cowered on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concertgoers, while others at the edge tried to flee.
More than 500 people were injured – some by gunfire, some trampled – in the pandemonium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip as police scrambled to locate the assailant.
Police on Monday identified the gunman as Stephen Paddock, who lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. They said they believed he acted alone and did not know why he attacked the crowd. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the massacre, but U.S. officials said there was no evidence of that.
The preliminary death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
The dead in Las Vegas included a nurse, a government employee and an off-duty police officer.
Shocked survivors, some with blood on their clothing, wandered streets, where the flashing lights of the city’s gaudy casinos blended with those of emergency vehicles.
Police said Paddock had no criminal record. The gunman killed himself before police entered the hotel room from where he was firing, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”
Federal officials said there was no evidence to link Paddock to militant organizations.
“We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group,” Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) field office in Las Vegas, told reporters.
U.S. officials discounted the claim of responsibility for the attack made by Islamic State in a statement.