Weapons cache found at Las Vegas shooter's house

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

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LAS VEGAS, United States (AFP/AP) — Authorities said yesterday they had recovered a weapons cache including firearms, explosives and ammunition from a house owned by Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock, as they upped the death toll from the attack to 59.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said officers searching the house in Mesquite, Nevada recovered “in excess of 18 additional firearms, some explosives and several thousand rounds of ammo, along with some electronic devices we're evaluating at this point”.

Lombardo said the death toll from the Sunday night assault on an open-air concert on the Vegas Strip had risen to 59, while 527 people had been injured.

He said law enforcement were working four separate crime scenes: Paddock's room at the Mandalay Bay hotel, the concert venue, the gunman's house in Mesquite, and another house he owns in northern Nevada which a SWAT team was poised to raid.

The arsenal uncovered in Mesquite comes on top of at least 16 firearms discovered in the Vegas hotel room from which Paddock launched the deadly assault before killing himself.

Lombardo said investigators had discovered several pounds of an explosive called tannerite in the Mesquite home, as well as ammonia nitrate, a type of fertiliser, in the gunman's car.

Asked if they had discovered anything to bolster the claim of responsibility by the Islamic State group, Lombardo replied:

“Good for them — no, we have no evidence of that.”

The FBI also discounted the possibility of international terrorism. But beyond that, the motive remained a mystery, with Lombardo saying: “I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.”

Concertgoers screamed and ran for their lives Sunday night outside the 44-storey Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino after hearing what at first sounded like firecrackers but turned out to be dozens of bullets in rapid-fire bursts, perhaps from an automatic weapon.

SWAT teams using explosives stormed the gunman's hotel room in the gold-coloured glass skyscraper and found he had killed himself.

Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree, had as many as 10 guns with him, including rifles.

Country music star Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman apparently used a hammer-like device to smash out windows in his room and opened fire, the muzzle flashes visible in the dark, authorities said.

The crowd, funnelled tightly into a wide-open space, had little cover and no easy way to escape. Some victims fell to the ground, while others fled in panic. Some hid behind concession stands. Others crawled under parked cars.

After the first burst of gunfire, the music stopped, Aldean left the stage, and many of those in the crowd looked on in confusion. Then the shooting resumed about half-a-minute later.

“It was the craziest stuff I've ever seen in my entire life,” said Kodiak Yazzie, 36. “You could hear that the noise was coming from west of us, from Mandalay Bay. You could see a flash, flash, flash, flash.”

Monique Dumas of British Columbia, Canada, said she was six rows from the stage when she heard what she thought was a bottle breaking, then a popping that sounded to her like fireworks.

Couples held hands as they ran through the dirt lot. Faces were etched with shock and confusion, and people wept and screamed. Some were bloodied, and some were carried out by fellow concertgoers. Dozens of ambulances took away the wounded, while some people loaded victims into their cars and drove them to hospital.

Some of the injured were hit by shrapnel. Others were trampled in the mass panic.

The shooter appeared to fire unhindered for more than 10 minutes as Las Vegas police frantically tried to locate the man in one of the Mandalay Bay hotel towers, according to radio traffic. For several minutes, officers could not tell whether the fire was coming from Mandalay Bay or the neighbouring Luxor hotel.

Investigators gave few details on the weapons used but reported over the radio that they were faced with fully automatic fire.

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