The fateful 11 minutes of the Las Vegas mass shooting: ‘This can’t be happening’ | Sunday Observer

The fateful 11 minutes of the Las Vegas mass shooting: ‘This can’t be happening’

Oct 4: Just after 10 p.m. Sunday, Michelle Compton was enjoying herself, listening to the act she’d come all this way to see: Jason Aldean, the night’s headliner at the Route 91 Harvest festival.

Clad in a cowboy hat and jeans, Aldean was breezing through his set when the sounds of what seemed like pyrotechnics filled the air. The singer must have known that the set did not feature fireworks because he ran from the stage, still strapped in to his guitar.

“Then two rows in front of me a woman goes down and a man yells that she’s bleeding and people duck down,” Compton said. “And I’m just standing there.”

Compton’s friend yelled at her: Get down! But she didn’t immediately understand what was happening. “Even three or four minutes into it, I was still thinking, ‘This can’t be happening. Not here,’” she said.

It was happening: A mass shooting that would turn out to be the worst in U.S. history. And she was standing in the middle of it.

The volley of gunshots lasted just 11 minutes. But in that span, Stephen Paddock, 64, a chronic gambler, real estate investor and former mail carrier from Mesquite, Nev., operating from a 32nd-floor perch in a glass-clad high-rise hotel, used a small arsenal to kill at least 58 people and wound more than 500.

Authorities say Paddock checked in to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Thursday, a day before the festival began on Las Vegas Boulevard, more popularly known as the Strip. He rented out a two-room suite in the hotel’s north tower, about two-thirds of the way up, one whose nearly floor-to-ceiling windows afforded an unobstructed view of the open-air venue 400 yards away.

Paddock brought with him “in excess of 10 suitcases,” according to police. The cases held at least 23 weapons, many of them rifles ranging in size from .308 to .223 caliber, along with two tripods.

Paddock also brought a trove of amateur video equipment, designed to keep tabs on anyone approaching his end-of-corridor room - including a camera he positioned in the peephole of the door.

“I anticipate he was looking for anybody coming to take him into custody,” Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.

As Paddock shot out two windows in his suite and began his rampage, scores of Mandalay Bay guests called the front desk, wondering about the popping sounds.

Outside, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers tried to figure out the source of the shots in the tangle of high-rise hotels.

A few doors down from Paddock, Sonny Morgan, an Atlanta-area businessman in town for a conference, dozed in front of “Sunday Night Football” when he woke to the sounds of gunshots.

“I heard a major explosion and I honestly thought that it was like a terrorist attack at that point, somebody was trying to blow up the hotel,” he said. “So I immediately just called my wife because I didn’t know what was going on. I just kind of said, ‘I love you.’”

The shooting stopped momentarily, but when it picked up again, around 10:21 p.m., one officer reported that he saw a “strobe light” coming from the hotel’s north tower.

Police began to close in on the Mandalay Bay.

A packed festival

Along with Compton, an estimated 22,000 attendees were having the time of their lives as the massive Route 91 event built to a climax late Sunday. Tickets were not cheap - they ranged from $210 to $750 for VIP packages - but it was sold out.

Compton had made the nearly four-hour trip to Vegas from Yucca Valley, Calif., with a friend - it was their second time at Route 91, and as they ran for the exits during pauses in the shooting, they passed bodies on the ground. One, a young girl, lay with her eyes still open.

Desperate to escape, Compton jumped into a police van headed for a nearby hospital - the van was so packed that the door wouldn’t close. Compton hung out the door, her friend holding on to her.

When they got to the hospital, Compton discovered the van wasn’t driven by police - a woman found it unoccupied and used it to drive a man who’d been shot to the hospital. Others, like Compton, just jumped in to get away.

Linda Proctor, in town with family from Vero Beach, Fla., to celebrate her daughter’s 50th birthday, was watching from an elevated VIP platform near the stage - she and her family were guests of singer Jake Owen, a family friend, who had gotten them backstage passes.

When the shooting began, Proctor said, everyone thought the sounds were fireworks - until someone on the platform was hit.

“Then everybody just starts screaming, ‘Get down! Get down!’ So we all just fell down on the ground.”

Speaking at a memorial service on Tuesday in Florida, she recalled, tears in her eyes and her voice breaking, “I laid there, and I swear to God, I wondered what it’s going to feel like to get shot. I just knew I was going to get shot.”

- USA Today

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Gunman may have planned escape, had help: Sheriff

There is evidence the gunman, Stephen Paddock, planned to escape, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.

The motive remains unknown, but the city’s police chief said the assault was “obviously premeditated.”

  •  Paddock was seen gambling for eight hours straight on the night before the shooting.
  •  Paddock reportedly had been stockpiling firearms since 1982 and purchased 33 guns in the past year.
  •  Authorities said they have recovered 47 firearms so far from three locations connected to Paddock.
  •  Paddock’s girlfriend returned to the U.S. from the Philippines and questioned by the FBI.
  •  Paddock may have visited several music festivals in the Vegas area, investigators say.
  •  Meticulous planning preceded ‘premeditated’ shooting

As investigators delve deeper into how Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas unfolded, more chilling details have emerged about the suspected gunman and how he allegedly carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Authorities said Paddock opened fire on a music festival crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing 58 people and injuring 489 others, a decrease from original reports after officials double-checked numbers. The shooting lasted nine to 11 minutes, with the first reports of gunshots beginning Sunday at 10:05 p.m. PT and the final shots being fired at 10:15 p.m.

Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sept. 28, bringing 10 bags and at least 23 guns, including high-power rifles. He set up surveillance cameras inside and outside his two-room suite. There was one camera on a room service cart in the hallway outside his suite, police said.

One official said he also had a camera mounted in the room, apparently to record himself.

Paddock was shuttered inside his suite for three days at the giant hotel-casino, perched high above the site of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, taking place across the street. Room service was provided at some point during his stay.

A search of Paddock’s car, which was parked at Mandalay Bay, revealed several cans of tannerite as well as 1,600 rounds of ammunition, Lombardo said Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators believe Paddock used a device similar to a hammer to smash two windows in his rooms before he allegedly opened fire on the music festival crowd, shortly after a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Police responded to the hotel room, where Paddock was found dead. He is believed to have killed himself before police entered.

Lombardo said authorities are reviewing police body cameras.

While the motives behind the deadly rampage remain unclear, Lombardo said the attack was “obviously premeditated” and the shooter “evaluated everything he did.”

An employee at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino told ABC News she spent a total of 16 hours serving Paddock in the casino during her shifts there over the weekend. She said she watched him gamble for eight hours straight, from Saturday night to Sunday morning.

He played high-stakes video poker on machines in a separate, “exclusive” section of the casino, she said.

As soon as she saw Paddock’s picture on the news, identifying him as the suspected gunman, she said she knew it was the man who was her customer the night before the shooting.

Authorities have executed search warrants at three locations and for Paddock’s vehicle parked at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

In addition to the 23 guns recovered from Paddock’s hotel room - which police said were purchased in Nevada, California, Utah and Texas - authorities found a computer and several pieces of media there. Law enforcement sources said multiple loaded high-capacity magazines and a modified bump stock rifle, which allows a gun to stimulate rapid automatic gunfire, were discovered in the room as well.

Jill Snyder, the special agent in charge at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told “CBS This Morning” in an interview today that Paddock had been stockpiling firearms since 1982. He bought nearly 50 guns legally, she said, but none of those purchases set off any red flags for the ATF.

“From October 2016 to Sept. 28, 2017, he purchased 33 firearms, majority of them rifles,” Snyder said. “We wouldn’t get notified of the purchases of the rifles. We would only get notified if there was a multiple sale, which would be two or more handguns in an individual purchase.”

Over the last several months, Paddock may have visited several music festivals in the broader Vegas area, officials briefed on the investigation told ABC News, adding that it’s thought that all of them were within driving distance of Las Vegas.

- ABCNews.go.com 

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