Police sought clues on Tuesday to explain why a retiree with a penchant for gambling but no criminal record set up a sniper’s nest in a highrise Las Vegas hotel and poured gunfire onto a concert below, killing dozens of people before taking his own life.
The Sunday night shootings from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel, on the Las Vegas strip, killed at least 59 people before the gunman turned a weapon on himself. More than 500 were injured, some trampled, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke briefly to reporters Tuesday before heading to Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage.
Trump, who once again praised the response of law enforcement to the mass shooting, said “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
When reporters asked Trump if the mass shooting were an act of domestic terrorism, Trump said “he was a sick man, a demented man – a lot of problems, I guess.”
“We’re looking into him very, very seriously. But we’re dealing with a very, very sick individual.”
At least three Canadians are among the dead and six others were injured. The parents of 23-year-old B.C. man Jordan McIldoon said their son was killed at the festival. Jessica Klymchuk of Valleyview, Alta., was also killed. She had four school-age children and worked at a local Catholic school in the Alberta town. A third woman, from Jasper, is also among the dead.
The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, left no immediate hint of his motive for the arsenal of high-powered weaponry he amassed, including dozens of guns, or the carnage he inflicted on a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival.
No history of radical views
Paddock was not known to have served in the military, or to have suffered from a history of mental illness or to have registered any inkling of social disaffection, political discontent or radical views on social media.
U.S. officials also discounted a claim of responsibility by the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“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 field office in Las Vegas, told reporters on Monday.
Police said they believed Paddock acted alone but were at a loss to explain what might have precipitated it.
‘The mind of a psychopath’
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”
Although police said they had no other suspects, Lombardo said investigators wanted to talk with Paddock’s girlfriend and live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who he said was travelling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.
Lombardo also said detectives were “aware of other individuals” who were involved in the sale of weapons Paddock acquired.
Still, the closest Paddock appeared to have ever come to a brush with the law was for a traffic infraction, authorities said.
The death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s total of 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., by a gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Public records point to an itinerant existence across the U.S. West and Southeast, including stints as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker. But Paddock appeared to be settling into a quiet life when he bought a home in a Nevada retirement community a few years ago, about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and the casinos he enjoyed.
His brother, Eric Paddock, described Stephen Paddock as financially well off and an avid enthusiast of video poker games and cruises.
“We’re horrified. We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Fla. “We have no idea in the world.”
Las Vegas casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw more than 40 million visitors from around the world each year, and the Strip was packed with visitors when the shooting started shortly after 10 p.m. local time on Sunday.
The gunfire erupted during the Route 91 Harvest music festival as country music star Jason Aldean was performing. The musician ran off stage as the shooting progressed.
Video of the attack showed throngs of people screaming in horror and cowering on the open ground, hemmed in by fellow concert-goers, as extended bursts of gunfire strafed the crowd from above from a distance police estimated at more than 450 metres.
The bloodshed ended after police swarming the hotel closed in on the gunman, who shot and wounded a hotel security officer through the door of his two-room suite and then killed himself before police entered, authorities said.
Police said 23 guns were found in Paddock’s suite, along with more than 10 suitcases.
Lombardo said a search of the suspect’s car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can be formed into explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people.
Police found another 19 firearms, some explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition at Paddock’s home in Mesquite, about 145 km northeast of Las Vegas, along with some electronic devices, including computers.
They also obtained a warrant to search a second house connected to Paddock in Reno, Nev., more than 644 kilometres northwest of Las Vegas.
Chris Sullivan, the owner of the Guns & Guitars shop in Mesquite, issued a statement confirming that Paddock was a customer who cleared “all necessary background checks and procedures,” and said his business was co-operating with investigators.
“He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time,” Sullivan said. He did not say how many or the kinds of weapons Paddock purchased there.
Lombardo said investigators knew that a gun dealer had come forward to say that he had sold weapons to the suspect, but it was not clear if he was referring to Sullivan. He said police were aware of “some other individuals who were engaged in those transactions,” including at least one in Arizona.
A fundraiser set up by Steve Sisolak, the Clark County commission chair from Las Vegas, had raised $ 2.9 million US for family members of shooting victims by Tuesday morning.