Las Vegas Concert Interrupted By Gunfire, Dozens Dead

Oct 2, 2017
Originally published on October 2, 2017 11:44 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In the years after 9/11, as we were saying, security experts spun out a nightmare scenario. They warned that scenes of ordinary life were vulnerable - nightclubs, shopping malls, the Las Vegas Strip.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Yeah. In recent years, a string of individuals with a variety of motives have struck those vulnerable spots. And last night, a gunman described as a lone wolf checked into a Las Vegas hotel. He went to an upper floor with several rifles, according to police, and aimed at least one at a concert below.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

GREENE: The Clark County sheriff who we've been hearing from this morning is Joe Lombardo.

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JOE LOMBARDO: Now, the number of injured I do not know yet. But we are looking at an excess of 50 individuals dead and over 200 individuals injured.

GREENE: That is staggering, those numbers - more than 50 dead, more than 200 injured - making it the worst mass shooting in recent United States history. Now, police have identified the suspect as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock.

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LOMBARDO: Obviously, this is a tragedy incident and one that we have never experienced in this valley.

GREENE: OK. That's the sheriff again we also have heard from Chris Bash (ph). He is a Lyft driver who was picking people up from the scene.

CHRIS BASH: As I pull in, there's people screaming. People are scared. People are crying, running. I pull in just to see who I can talk to to jump in the truck 'cause I have a F-150. So I could - I was able to get as many people as I could out.

INSKEEP: Let's bring another voice into this conversation now. Rachel Crosby is a reporter at the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's been up all night, as so many people in Las Vegas have. She began the morning at University Medical Center, which is Nevada's only Level 1 trauma center. What did you see there?

RACHEL CROSBY: Well, when I first arrived, that was obviously the very beginning, as all of this was unfolding. By then, all of the streets around this major hospital had been shut down by Las Vegas police to clear the way for first responders. As you can imagine, there were very many of them. While I was waiting at the hospital, of course, trying to stay out of the way of the trauma entrance, I saw multiple staff members wearing scrubs filing in to back entrances, you know, getting their badges, hurrying in.

I was able to chat with a few who kind of stepped out for a smoke break and were obviously very overwhelmed, just in shock. And, of course, while I was waiting outside, slowly, citizens and others who were looking for information on loved ones and friends started arriving at the hospital. And, you know, it was just an overwhelming scene. And I was raised here in Las Vegas. And there's people screaming and crying just trying to get more information about, obviously, their loved ones. It's hard to see. Yeah.

INSKEEP: I can tell it's difficult for you to deal with this. And I'm sorry for the loss in Las Vegas. Sorry for the country this morning. Can you just describe to me a little more of what you saw as people were going into that hospital and what you heard?

CROSBY: Yeah. So, obviously, the trauma entrance was shut down and cleared by first responders. But as people were starting to show up, you know, not knowing if their loved ones were even at that hospital - just screaming. Police, you know, doing their best to calm some of these relatives down. Local police here have now set up the whole police headquarters as the place to come if you are looking for information, trying to divert some pressure off the hospitals, which are just overwhelmed. I mean, UMC isn't the only hospital here in town. There are - several other victims were transferred to other hospitals just because UMC - I mean, they ran out of beds there. Yeah.

INSKEEP: Ran out of beds. That raises another question. This seems like the kind of incident that perhaps you think about, that you prepare for - you try to mentally prepare for, run exercises for.

CROSBY: Right.

INSKEEP: But, surely, you're not really truly prepared when it does happen. How could you possibly be? Do you have a sense of whether the hospital system in Las Vegas has had the capacity to deal with this?

CROSBY: You know, UMC does a great job. I believe in 2015, when we had a terrible incident here on the strip when a car came up on the sidewalk and injured a couple dozen people - and UMC was very quick to respond at that time. There was a little more than 30 people that were transferred. And they had really no issues at that time. I mean, obviously, you can't control the amount of people that are going to be coming in.

But I will say, judging from the outside, very, very organized. I mean, huge police presence, like, streets shut down so that everyone can come and go. At this point, UMC, because it's such a high-level trauma center, there are now - as I understand from a source inside the hospital, there are now patients that have been taken to other hospitals coming back to UMC to get more treatment for some critical injuries. I have no tally or estimate on amount. But, again, I mean there are just both patients and staff filing in and out of that hospital, as well as several others throughout the valley.

INSKEEP: OK. Rachel Crosby of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, thanks for your reporting all night. Really appreciate it.

CROSBY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Leila Fadel is also in Las Vegas. And I understand that she is on the line. Leila, what have you been hearing?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, as we've mentioned already, the level of - the number of victims continues to rise. It's above 50 now dead - above 200 wounded. And as Sheriff Joe Lombardo said earlier, that number is 50-plus, 200-plus. So those numbers may jump significantly going forward. Police have been asking for those looking for their loved ones to come to police headquarters or call the number that they've given out in order to find those people. And they have identified the shooter as Steven Paddock, a 64-year-old man who was a resident of Clark County. He has been killed. There were firearms in his hotel room at Mandalay Bay. They are searching that room. They are searching his residence. But they still have no motive that they've given to us.

INSKEEP: No motive. That's interesting because the sheriff described him overnight as a sole actor, a lone wolf. Have police given any reason to - as to why they would feel confident that he is a sole actor?

FADEL: They have not. They have said that it appears that he acted alone. They had investigated several other reports of shootings or possible explosives. But they said it appears that he did act alone. They were looking for a person of interest, a companion that they described as a roommate, a woman named Marilou Danley that they are pretty confident they now have identified and found. But they didn't call her a suspect. They wanted to talk to her. They wanted to question her. But they described him as a lone wolf. And they gave very little information about why he would do something like this. They said this investigation would be long and protracted.

INSKEEP: So for people just waking up or gathering the information as we go, let's just remember what happened here. This man - 64 years old - Stephen Paddock - walks into the Mandalay Bay. He's got several rifles. Is that right? He checks in. He goes upstairs. And then what happens?

FADEL: Well, yeah. He checked in, goes into the 32nd floor. He's a hotel guest. And he shot out the window into crowds of thousands of people and. One man was able to kill dozens. And we're not even sure how many are dead at this point. The hospitals are completely overwhelmed. Police went up to that floor into that room, confronted him, shot him. And they found several firearms in that room that they described as rifles but gave no more details on that. And that's what happened. So this concert that was supposed to be something fun outdoors has now turned into an absolute tragedy.

INSKEEP: OK. That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Las Vegas. Leila, thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you.

GREENE: We have NPR's Scott Detrow here in Washington. And, Scott, this is one of those moments where you sort of know that the people in power in this country are going to be reacting to this, asking questions. And that's certainly going to be a thread to follow in the coming weeks and months - how this changes the national conversation.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: And the sad reality is we kind of expect what happens at one point because shootings like this seem to happen so often lately. You know, this happens just days after Steve Scalise returned to Congress for the first time since several members of Congress were shot at by a man with an assault rifle.

GREENE: Right, at that baseball field outside Washington.

DETROW: And about a year and a half after the last deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history, which was the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The president has been briefed. The White House has put out a statement saying President Trump has been briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. They're monitoring the situation. He said one thing on Twitter - saying, my warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you. We've heard responses from Vice President Pence and many members of Congress all to the same point - just horrified by this news.

GREENE: And, of course, this is a moment where President Trump was getting ready to deal with another disaster where a lot of people are suffering, which is the island of Puerto Rico.

DETROW: That's right. And that crisis continues - much of Puerto Rico still without power, without water, without communication. President Trump had made that a much more tense situation by going after the mayor of San Juan and criticizing many people on the island. He's still due to go to Puerto Rico on Tuesday. But there's a big problem there - that it's not going to be fixed for a very long time.

GREENE: All right. We're sitting here in the studio doing what I'm sure many of you are doing as you wake up this morning, looking through social media and seeing some of these just absolutely horrific video images from people running away from this concert outside a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It's just terrible. More than 50 people killed, more than 200 injured. And we'll be following this story throughout the day.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE CALM BLUE SEA'S "NOW THOSE ASHES ARE AT THE BOTTOM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.