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America is ‘a nation in mourning,’ Trump says in Las Vegas


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Las Vegas (Reuters): A sombre President Donald Trump visited Las Vegas on Wednesday to express the sorrow and shock felt by a nation reeling from the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, telling those whose loved ones died, “You’re not alone.”

Sunday night’s attack by a gunman who killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 before killing himself “fills America’s heart with grief,” Trump said. “America is truly a nation in mourning.”

Trump’s remarks came at the end of a visit to the city during which the president and first lady Melania Trump met with survivors of the shooting spree, doctors, law enforcement officers and other first responders.

Speaking at the Las Vegas Police Department’s command centre, Trump addressed those grieving over the loss of loved ones in the attack.

“We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain,” Trump said. “You’re not alone. We will never leave your side.”

The day served as yet another test of Trump’s capacity to serve as the nation’s comforter-in-chief, coming after he travelled to storm-battered Puerto Rico a day earlier.

There, he occasionally veered from expressions of sympathy, as when he said the recovery from Hurricane Maria was blowing the US budget “a little out of whack.”

But in Las Vegas, Trump stayed on message and tried, at times, to elevate his rhetoric.

“We cannot be defined by the evil that threatens us or the violence that incites such terror,” he said. “We’re defined by our love, our caring, and our courage. In the darkest moments, what shines most brightly is the goodness that thrives in the hearts of our people.”

Earlier in the day, Trump praised the bravery of survivors who risked their lives to help other victims as bullets rained down from a nearby hotel during the shooting spree.

At University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Trump said he met with some patients who were “very, very badly wounded, and they were badly wounded because they refused to leave. They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over.”

Trump’s trip to the city was the first time he has had to deal directly with the aftermath of a major shooting of the type that have killed hundreds of people in recent years in the United States.

At the hospital, however, Trump deflected a question about whether the United States has a problem with gun violence.

“We’re not going to talk about that today,” he said.

Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree with no criminal record, was identified as the gunman in the attack, spraying bullets at an open-air concert from the window of his suite in the high-rise Mandalay Bay hotel.

Trump’s motorcade passed the hotel during the drive to the hospital.

Paddock killed himself as police closed in. In a visit with law enforcement officers, Trump asked Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo whether the investigation had made progress in determining Paddock’s motive for the attack.

“It’s still a little bit soon,” Lombardo replied. “We have a couple of good leads. ... We are going to get there.”

Las Vegas gunman stockpiled weapons over decades, planned attack

Las Vegas (Reuters): The Las Vegas gunman who killed 58 people and himself in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history stockpiled weapons and ammunition over decades, and meticulously planned the attack, authorities believe.

But what led Stephen Paddock, 64, to unleash the carnage he did remains largely a mystery.

“What we know is that Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said at a news briefing on Wednesday night

Lombardo said he found it hard to believe that the arsenal of weapons, ammunition and explosives recovered by police in their investigation could have been assembled by Paddock completely on his own.

“You have to make an assumption that he had some help at some point,” Lombardo said.

Some 489 people were also injured when Paddock strafed an outdoor concert with gunfire on Sunday night from his 32nd-floor suite of the Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. He then took his own life.

There is evidence that Paddock tried to survive and escape. He also may have scouted out the location, renting a room at the Ogden, a nearby hotel, during the Life is Beautiful festival a week earlier, Lombardo said.

Police recovered nearly 50 firearms from three locations they searched, nearly half of them from the hotel suite. Twelve of the rifles there were fitted with so-called bump stocks, officials said, allowing the guns to be fired almost as though they were automatic weapons.

Lombardo said investigators were examining the possibility Paddock’s purchase of more than 30 guns in October 2016 may have been precipitated by some event in his life. He did not elaborate.There remained no evidence as yet “to indicate terrorism” in the shooting spree, said Aaron Rouse, FBI special agent in charge of the Las Vegas field office.

Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley was questioned by the FBI on Wednesday and said in a statement she was unaware of the Paddock’s plans.

 “He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen,” Danley, 62, said in a statement released by her lawyer Matt Lombard.

 

 


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