Last night, the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history occurred at a country music festival in Las Vegas. More than 50 people were killed and at least 400 were injured during the shooting, according to the latest numbers from CNN. It was carried out by a lone gunman during Jason Aldean’s headlining set on Sunday night.
The shooter has been identified as Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old resident of Mesquite, Nevada. He was set up on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with 10 rifles and a clear view of the festival crowd outside. Police believe Paddock killed himself before they burst into his hotel room, and that he’s a lone-wolf actor. He’d been staying at the Mandalay Bay since Thursday, the Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told CNN.
Aldean was headlining the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival to a crowd of 22,000 when it burst into chaos just after 10 p.m. local time. It was the fourth year of the festival, which was billed as a “neon sleepover,” with some of the biggest names in country, including Eric Church, Sam Hunt, Jake Owens, and more.
It was a disorienting scene when the shooting began, with attendees uncertain if the gunshots were just loud “pops” caused by a malfunctioning speaker or fireworks that had been triggered too early. Video footage shows that Aldean’s band kept playing at first, before realizing what was happening and running for cover. Rachel De Kerf, who filmed at least five minutes of the gunfire, tells CNN that shooting lasted for 10-15 minutes. Somehow, police are hesitant to treat the massacre as an act of terrorism, despite Nevada state law classifying terrorism as “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”
Aldean shared a statement on Instagram early this morning, assuring that he and his crew were safe. “Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. 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.”
UPDATE (6:20 p.m.): The New York Times reports that the death toll has risen to 59, with 527 others injured. Police found at least 20 rifles in the hotel room, and Paddock used a hammer to smash out the windows. Earlier today, the Islamic State claimed that the gunman was one of its soldiers, but the F.B.I. claims that it has no evidence so far suggesting that he had ties to an international terrorist organization.