MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As gunfire rained down on a crowd of thousands, people took cover — some still not believing they were a target. Even as country music star Jason Aldean ran off stage.
“It’s not a gun. It’s not a gun,” said one concertgoer.
But as victims started to fall, chaos and reality set in.
“Everybody was just running just straight up. You could see people getting shot and people falling,” said witness Gayle Davis.
“Every time he stopped, he was reloading. We had gotten up and started making our way towards the fence and then he started shooting again and we’d hit the ground. And I must have heard him do it at least 15 times,” said witness Paul Dumas.
Police said 64-year-old Stephen Paddock had been at Mandalay Bay since Sept. 28. He busted out windows in his room on the 32nd floor before shooting into a crowd of 22,000 from a distance of four football fields. Smoke from the gunfire set off smoke detectors and led a SWAT team to his room. When they arrived they found Paddock dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“I don’t know how it could have been prevented if we didn’t have any prior knowledge to this individual,” said Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Police said they checked federal, state and local databases, but Paddock’s name never came up. The FBI said there’s no evidence he was involved with a terror group.
“No religious affiliation, no political affiliation, he just hung out,” said Paddock’s brother Eric.
Eric Paddock said his brother had moved from Florida to a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. He was living with a woman who was in the Philippines during the shooting and police said she is not a suspect. Eric said his brother was a retired accountant and investor who was a multimillionaire, and he enjoyed playing high stakes poker.
“He’s my brother. He was a guy. He gambled. He was nice to my kids. I hope someone finds out. Figures it out. Because we’d like to know,” said Eric.
Police found 17 weapons inside Stephen Paddock’s room, and another 18 at his home with thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Investigators believe he could have been planning this for years.
Paddock’s father was once on the FBI’s most wanted list for bank robbery.