LAS VEGAS: Investigators were desperately trying to establish the motive of a retired accountant who killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 500 after amassing a weapons cache in a hotel room and opening fire on the Las Vegas strip.
As America grappled with the deadliest mass shooting in its history, officials reacted cautiously to an Islamic State claim that Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, had carried out Sunday night’s massacre on behalf of the jihadist group.
Police said Paddock, who had no criminal record, smashed windows in his 32nd floor hotel room shortly after 10:00 p.m. on Sunday and trained bursts of automatic weapons fire on thousands of people attending a country music concert below on the strip.
In video footage of the massacre broadcast on CNN, the rattle of long, sustained gunfire is heard as people scream and scurry for cover. At first they did not know where the shots were coming from.
“We saw bodies down. We didn’t know if they had fallen or had been shot,” said Ralph Rodriguez, an IT consultant from the Pomona Valley, near Los Angeles, who was at the concert with a group of friends.
Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Paddock fired through the door of his hotel room and hit a security guard in the leg.
But when a SWAT team stormed the room where Paddock had been staying since September 28, they found he had killed himself.
A total of 23 firearms including automatic weapons were found in the hotel room, he said.
A search of Paddock’s house in Mesquite, Nevada, 80 miles (130 kilometers) northeast of Las Vegas, recovered 19 additional firearms, some explosives and several thousand rounds of ammo.
Lombardo said investigators had discovered several pounds of an explosive called tannerite in the Mesquite home, as well as ammonium nitrate, a type of fertilizer, in the gunman’s car.
He said the latest death toll was 59, while 527 people had been injured.
The motive of the massacre was not yet known, he said.
Lombardo said the authorities had found no manifesto or anything else to explain Paddock’s actions.
“This individual is a lone wolf and I don’t know how it could have been prevented,” he said earlier in the day. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.”
President Donald Trump denounced what he called “an act of pure evil” and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Paddock, according to his brother, was a high-stakes gambler and their bank-robber father was once on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
But Eric Paddock stressed that his brother led an otherwise normal life, doting on their mother.
“He liked to play video poker. He went on cruises. He sent his mother cookies,” he said.
“We’re trying to understand what happened,” his brother said. “We’re lost.”
Paddock had “no religious affiliation, no political affiliation” and was “not an avid gun guy at all,” his brother added.
The Las Vegas attack is the deadliest shooting in modern US history, exceeding the toll of 49 dead in an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016.
Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by the “senseless tragedy” in Las Vegas, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II offered her “thoughts and prayers” and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote Trump to voice condolences over the “shocking” crime.
Malacañang on Tuesday joined the international community in denouncing the deadly shooting.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella expressed condolences to the families of victims.
At least one Filipino-American, Arthur Andrade, 21, has been reported injured, according to ABS-CBN News.