Investigators search for millionaire gunman's motive in Las Vegas massacre

Investigators search for millionaire gunman's motive in Las Vegas massacre

Vegas tape
Crime scene tape surrounds the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed at least 58 people and wounded more than 500 others when he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on Oct 2, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Mark Ralston)

LAS VEGAS: Investigators worked feverishly on Tuesday (Oct 3) to find out why a retired millionaire accountant gunned down at least 59 people and wounded over 500 others at an open-air concert in Las Vegas, raking the crowd with bullets from a 32nd-floor hotel room packed with weapons.

As America grappled with the deadliest mass shooting in its history, officials reacted cautiously to an Islamic State group claim that Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, had carried out Sunday night's massacre on behalf of the militant group.

Police said Paddock, who had no criminal record, smashed windows in his hotel room shortly after 10pm on Sunday and trained bursts of automatic weapons fire on thousands of people attending a country music concert down below.

In footage of the massacre broadcast on CNN, the sustained rattle of gunfire is heard as people scream and bolt for cover with little idea of where the shots were coming from.

"We saw bodies down. We didn't know if they had fallen or had been shot," said Ralph Rodriguez, an IT consultant from Pomona Valley near Los Angeles, who was at the concert with a group of friends.

"People started grabbing their loved-ones and just strangers, and trying to help them get out of the way," he said.

Vegas police run for cover
Police run to cover at the scene of the shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Oct 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. (Photo: AP/John Locher)

In a statement on online, IS claimed Paddock was one of its "soldiers" but the FBI said it had found no such connection so far with the local sheriff describing him as a lone "psychopath."

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Paddock fired through the door of his hotel room and hit a security guard in the leg.

But when a SWAT team stormed the room where Paddock had been staying since Sep 28, they found he had killed himself.

Inside the room were 23 firearms including automatic weapons, he said.

Investigators also found another 19 firearms along with explosives and several thousand rounds of ammo at Paddock's house in Mesquite, Nevada, some 80 miles (130 kilometres) away.

Lombardo said they had discovered several pounds of an explosive called tannerite at the house as well as ammonium nitrate, a type of fertiliser, in his car. He said the death toll had risen to 59, with another 527 people wounded.

'LONE WOLF PSYCHOPATH'

But the gunman's motive remains unclear.

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.

"We're hunting down and tracing every single clue that we can get on his background," the sheriff said at a late-night briefing.

So far, investigators had found no manifesto or anything else to explain Paddock's actions, he said.

"This individual is a lone wolf and I don't know how it could have been prevented," he said earlier. "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point."

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 traveling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.

As the investigation continued, details started to emerge in the media about some of the victims - a kindergarten teacher from California who married her childhood sweetheart; a Tennessee nurse; a high school secretary from New Mexico and a cheerleader, also from California.

Vegas vigil
 Mourners attend a candlelight vigil at the corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard for the victims of Sunday night's mass shooting, Oct 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)

On Monday night, there were vigils of solidarity with the dead and the wounded.

The Empire State Building went dark, as did the Eiffel Tower - and much of the Las Vegas strip itself.

'PREMATURE' TO DISCUSS GUN POLICY

President Donald Trump denounced what he called "an act of pure evil" and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday. But the White House pushed back at calls to reopen the US debate on tighter gun controls.

"A motive is yet to be determined and it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don't fully know all of the facts or what took place last night," Trump's spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Lombardo said Paddock had apparently used some kind of hammer to smash the window of his hotel room before opening fire on the crowd of some 22,000 people.

Vegas hotel windows
The damaged windows on the 32nd floor room that was used by the shooter in the Mandalay Hotel after a gunman killed at least 58 people and wounded more than 500 others when he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on Oct 2, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Mark Ralston)

IS, which provided no evidence for its claims, described him as a "soldier of the caliphate" saying he converted to Islam several months ago and went by the name Abu Abdel Bar al-Amriki - "The American."

But the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had found no such link so far. "We have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group," FBI special agent Aaron Rouse said.

CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu said the intelligence community was aware of the claim but advised "caution on jumping to conclusions before the facts are in."

'NOT AN AVID GUN GUY'

Paddock seemed atypical of the overtly troubled, angry young men who experts said have come to embody the profile of most mass shooters.

Public records point to an itinerant existence across the US West and Southeast, including stints as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker.

But Paddock appeared to be settling in to 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.

According to ABC News, Paddock was a former accountant and a licensed pilot who also had a hunting licence for Alaska. He also owned two aeroplanes, NBC reported.

Stephen Paddock
This undated photo provided by Eric Paddock shows his brother, Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock. (Courtesy of Eric Paddock via AP)

According to his brother, Paddock was a high-stakes gambler. Their bank-robber father, Patrick Benjamin Paddock, was once on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list and had been described as a psychopath.

But Eric Paddock said his brother, a multimillionaire who made much of his money investing in real estate, had led an otherwise normal life, doting on their mother.

"He liked to play video poker. He went on cruises. He sent his mother cookies," he said. "We're trying to understand what happened," his brother said. "We're lost."

Paddock had "no religious affiliation, no political affiliation" and was "not an avid gun guy at all," his brother added.

'LIKE A WAR SCENE'

Witnesses said Paddock opened fire with an initial long burst of gunfire, and appeared to reload as he continued his spree.

Robert Hayes, a Los Angeles firefighter who was at the concert, said he first thought the noise was some kind of equipment malfunction.

But once he realised what was going on, he joined the first responders.

"It was pretty much like a war scene inside," Hayes said, as emergency crews used tables and metal guard railings as makeshift stretchers.

The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest shooting in modern US history, exceeding the toll of 49 dead in an attack on a Florida nightclub in June 2016.

It was also the latest in a series of deadly attacks at concert venues.

Twenty-two people were killed after an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England in May when a suicide bomber detonated a nail bomb in the foyer.

And 90 people were killed in November 2015 at the Bataclan theatre in Paris during a concert by US band the Eagles of Death Metal.

Source: Agencies/ec

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