LAS VEGAS: A gunman killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 200 others at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, raining down rapid fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel for several minutes before he was killed by police.
The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary and tentative, would make the attack the deadliest mass shooting in US history, eclipsing last year’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando night club.
Thousands of panicked people fled the scene, in some cases trampling one another as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate and kill the gunman. Shocked concertgoers, some with blood on their clothes, wandered the streets after the attack.
The suspect was a local Las Vegas man who acted alone and was not believed to be connected to any militant group, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
The gunman has been identified by the police as Stephen Paddock. The shooter’s 62-year-old companion, an Asian-American woman identified as Marilou Danley, has been located, the police added.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said. “Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor and the scene is static.”
Police had located two cars that belonged to Paddock.
They said that rumours of other shootings in the area were false.
Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 10 p.m. (0400 GMT).
Witnesses on social media said the shooting broke out on the last night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event attended by thousands and featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean.
The spokeswoman for the University Medical Center hospital said 14 of the wounded were in a critical condition. All had suffered gunshot wounds, she said.
Aldean was performing around 10:45 p.m. local time on Sunday when the rampage began but that he had been bundled safely off stage at the event outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in the Nevada gambling mecca. CNN reported all the artists were safe.
Lombardo said the gunfire came from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, where the gunman was killed.
The gunman, who was a local man, was killed after police “engaged the suspect,” Lombardo told reporters.
Police said on Twitter that at this time they did not believe there are any more shooters.
Toll May Rise
Police warned the death toll may rise.
“I don’t want to give you an accurate number because I don’t have it yet,” Lombardo said.
At least one police officer was hospitalized with critical injuries, Lombardo said.
Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city, known primarily for its gambling, shopping and entertainment.
Video on the festival’s website showed stage set up outside the front of the Mandalay Bay.
The hotel is near McCarran International Airport, which said on Twitter it had temporarily halted flights after the shooting. Later, the airport said that some flights had resumed.
One Twitter user posted that the casino hotel was on lockdown, while another, citing police scanners, said two gunmen who had shot at a bodyguard and police were on the 32nd floor, although there was no confirmation from police.
Video clips posted online showed what sounded like automatic weapons as panicked concertgoers fled, dropped to the ground screaming.
Witnesses heard numerous gunshots at the hotel, where police tactical teams were searching for the attacker, according to reports on CNN and in the New York Times.
Police have disclosed no information that would suggest a motive for the shooting or revealed the identify of the suspect.
Even so, the rampage was reminiscent of a mass shooting at a Paris rock concert in November 2015 that killed 89 people, part of a coordinated attack by Islamist militants that left 130 dead.
A witness named Christine told CNN both she and her husband had separately taken shooting victims to two hospitals, the University Medical Center and the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.
“The shots just kept coming,” she said. “Everyone was telling us ‘run, run as fast as you can’.”
Off-duty police were believe to be among the victims, the sheriff said.
The concert venue was in an outdoor area known as Las Vegas Village, across the Strip from the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor hotels.
The United States has seen a series of deadly mass shootings in recent years. Prior to Orlando, the deadliest occurred in April 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech university and in December 2012 a man killed 26 young children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.