Tragedy struck Las Vegas on Sunday night when a sniper opened fire on a music festival killing at least 58 people and wounding over 500+ concert goers. The Route 61 Harvest Festival, a popular country and western music festival, was situated on the south-end of Las Vegas Blvd. in a parking lot adjacent to the Mandalay Bay Casino. The shooting began at approximately 10:08pm Las Vegas time during a performance by Jason Aldean. The shooting at Mandalay Bay is now the worst-mass shooting in U.S. history.
Aldean, the ACM's Entertainer of the Year 2016, closed out the Route 61 Harvest Festival with a headlining set. Toward the end of his performance, a gunman from inside the Mandalay Bay opened fire on an adjacent parking lot which doubled as the festival grounds. Las Vegas police identified the shooter as Stephen Craig Paddock, who barricaded inside his hotel room at Mandalay Bay, where he proceeded to spray the festival goers below with gunfire.
The shooting abruptly ended when Paddock apparently committed suicide. Las Vegas SWAT stormed Paddock's hotel room on the 32nd floor. They find a cache of weapons and ammunition. They also found Paddock shot dead by an apparent self-inflicted wound. Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay on Thursday.
Paddock lived in Mesquite, Nevada, located 82 miles outside Las Vegas, or approximately a 90-minute car ride. He made frequent trips to Vegas to gamble, but it is unknown if he had any outstanding debts. Paddock grew up in Sun Valley, California, but most of his family currently resided in Florida. Paddock retired from a job in property management and moved to Mesquite, Nevada. According to reports, Paddock did not have any military training.
The Route 91 Harvest Festival attracted at least 22,000 attendees including tourists and Las Vegas locals. Confusion and panic set in as the crowd rushed to safety. Video clips of the shooting demonstrated the savagery and confusion.
Dan Bilzerian, social media star and poker player, attended the festival and posted several short videos, including one while rushing to safety amidst the pandemonium. Bilzerian witnessed the carnage up close.
"Holy fuck this girl just got shot in the fucking head. This is so fucking crazy," Bilzerian posted on Instagram. "Guy had a heavy caliber weapon for sure. Saw a girl get shot in the face. Her fucking brains hanging out."
Witnessed said they heard popping sounds and initially thought the gunshots were firecrackers or fireworks. Other concert goers thought the gunfire (sounds) were a part of a fireworks display for the festival's finale. Several moments after the shooting began, Jason Aldean and his band were rushed off stage.
On Instagram, performer Jason Aldean posted, "Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate"
Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate
The shooting at the Route 61 Harvest Festival marked the worst tragedy in Las Vegas since the MGM Grand hotel fire that killed 85 people in November 1980.
As the death toll rose over night, the Mandalay Bay shooting became the worst shooting tragedy in American history.
Although ISIS claimed that Paddock had converted to Islam last month, U.S. officials were quick to deny any connections with terror groups. Las Vegas police are still investigating Paddock's precise motive.
The FBI asked that anyone in Las Vegas with video and/or photos of the shooting should call 800-225-5324.