LOS ANGELES: More than 50 people were killed and 200 wounded when a gunman opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, police said on Monday, making it the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
The gunman, who police identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, was killed after being “engaged” by officers who responded to reports of multiple gunfire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, a hotel-casino next to the concert venue in the gambling hub.
Police also believed they had located his female companion who had been earlier named as a person of interest, Marilou Danley.
“This is an ongoing investigation, but we are comfortable that the primary aggressor in this event … has expired or passed away, and is no longer a threat,” Las Vegas Metro Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
Revelers screamed and fled in panic as a steady stream of automatic gunfire rang out at the venue shortly after
10 p.m. local time (0500 GMT Monday), footage captured on smart phones showed.
Two of those killed are believed to be off-duty police officers, said Lombardo.
Thousands of fans were attending the concert next to the Mandalay Bay, which was part of a three-day country music festival known as Route 91.
Witnesses described how the gunman opened fire with an initial long burst, and then appeared to reload as he continued his spree.
“We heard (what) sounded like a glass breaking, so you looked around to see what’s going on and then heard a pop, pop, pop,” Monique Dekerf told CNN.
“You’d think for a moment okay we’re fine, there’s no more gunfire, then it starts again.”
Her sister Rachel said it sounded like “the shots were coming from the right side … it sounded like they were right beside us too … it was right there.”
Best-selling country singer Jason Aldean was on stage and near the end of his concert when the shooting began.
“We were watching the concert having a great time, then we heard what sounded like firecrackers,” witness Joe Pitz told the local Las Vegas Sun news outlet.
“I guess it was an automatic weapon going off but it literally sounded like firecrackers.
“Then soon enough there was commotion on the Mandalay Bay side of the stage. They were motioning for medics to come and safety people to come and Jason Aldean ran off the stage.
“Everybody in the vicinity went down. I don’t know if they were ducking or if they were but it was chaos.”
It was the deadliest shooting in the United States since 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando,
Florida in June 2016.
It was also the latest in a series of recent deadly attacks at concert venues.
Twenty-two people were killed while leaving a concert in the northern English city of Manchester in May when a suicide bomber detonated a nail bomb in the foyer.
Ninety people were killed in November 2015 at the Bataclan venue in Paris during a concert by the US band the Eagles of Death Metal.
A shocked Aldean told his fans via Instagram that he and his band was safe.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” the singer wrote.
“I still dont know what to say … 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.”