Motive mystery in Las Vegas carnage

A woman lights candles at a vigil on the Las Vegas strip
Picture: Reuters

Police seek clues to deadliest mass shooting in modern US

Police sought clues yesterday to explain why a retiree who enjoyed gambling but had no criminal record set up a vantage point in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and poured gunfire onto a concert below, slaying dozens of people before killing himself.

The Sunday night shooting spree 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 people were injured, some trampled, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, left no immediate hint of his motive for the arsenal of high-powered weaponry he amassed, including 42 guns, or the carnage he inflicted on a crowd of 22 000 attending an outdoor country music festival.

Paddock was not known to have served in the military, nor 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.

“He was a sick man, a demented man,” US President Donald Trump said.

“Lot of problems, I guess, and we’re looking into him very, very seriously, but we’re dealing with a very, very sick individual.”

He declined to answer a question about whether he considered the attack an act of domestic terrorism. US officials also discounted a claim of responsibility by the Islamic State militant group.

Police said they believed Paddock had acted alone.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said on Monday.

“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 was travelling abroad.

Lombardo also said detectives were aware of other individuals who were involved in the sale of weapons Paddock had acquired.

The closest Paddock appeared ever to have come to a brush with the law was for a traffic infraction, authorities said.

As with previous mass shootings in the United States, the massacre in Las Vegas stirred the ongoing debate about gun ownership, which is protected by the second amendment to the constitution, and about how much that right should be subject to controls.

Democrats reiterated what is generally the party’s stance, that legislative action is needed to reduce mass shootings, while Republicans argue that restrictions on lawful gun ownership cannot deter criminal behaviour.

“We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by,” Trump said.

The death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s record massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who pledged allegiance to IS.

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

Public records on Paddock 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 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, described Paddock as financially well-off and an enthusiast of video poker games and cruises.

“We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida. “We have no idea in the world.”

Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw more than 40 million visitors from around the world each year.

The Strip was packed with visitors when the shooting started shortly after 10pm on Sunday during the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

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