LAS VEGAS • Before he mowed down concertgoers at an outdoor country music festival on the famed Las Vegas strip from a perch high in a hotel tower, Stephen Paddock created a ring of surveillance around him, with video cameras in his hotel suite and in the hallway, but investigators were still at a loss to offer a motive for the massacre.
The cameras - apparently intended to warn him of approaching threats - along with the 23 guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and other equipment found in the shooter's hotel suite, suggested a plan to have plenty of time to wreak carnage while holding police at bay.
Local and federal investigators were eager to interview the gunman's girlfriend, Ms Marilou Danley, 62, who arrived in Los Angeles yesterday from the Philippines, where she had apparently been sent by Paddock, 64, two weeks before he carried out the slaughter.
Twelve of the rifles Paddock had in his luxury suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino were outfitted with a "bump stock", a device that enables a gun to fire hundreds of rounds per minute, like a machine gun. That could explain how he was able to rain such devastation on the crowd below, law enforcement officials said. Such devices are generally legal, and the possibility that he may have used them set off a fresh round of calls by Democratic lawmakers in Washington to pass more gun regulations.
At 10.07pm Sunday, the gunman opened fire on the thousands of people at the music festival a few hundred metres north-east of the hotel. He killed 58 people - the coroner clarified on Tuesday that the earlier death toll of 59 included Paddock - and wounded hundreds of others. In all, more than 500 people were injured, most by gunfire, and some in the panicked rush to escape.
US President Donald Trump, who was due to visit Las Vegas yesterday, said on Tuesday that Paddock was "a sick man, a demented man".
Paddock had set up two cameras in the hotel's hallway, including one on a service cart, and a third camera over the suite door's peephole. "I anticipate he was looking for anybody coming to take him into custody," Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said.
TIMELINE OF A MASS MURDER
High-stakes gambler Stephen Paddock had a well thought out plan to wreak maximum carnage at a country music festival on Sunday while holding the police at bay. Here is a quick look at how the mass shooting that left 59 people dead and injured more than 500 others unfolded.
• Paddock checks into a two-room suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
•He has at least 10 suitcases in the suite, which may have been used to transport the rifles and ammunition in without drawing attention. A search after the attack found 23 rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and other equipment in the suite.
• Paddock keeps a Do Not Disturb sign on his door for the next three days, so no maids enter the suite, according to a hotel worker.
• In the period leading up to the shooting, Paddock creates a ring of surveillance around him, with video cameras in his suite and in the hallway, law enforcement officials said. The cameras were apparently intended to warn of approaching threats.
• 9.40pm: Country music singer Jason Aldean begins his performance at the Route 91 Harvest, an annual Las Vegas music festival. There are more than 22,000 people in the crowd.
• 10.08pm: Paddock opens fire on concertgoers from the windows of his hotel suite, firing long, rapid-fire bursts as people run for their lives, trampling one another. It is believed he fired from both rooms to get different angles.
• Around 10.18pm: The shooting reportedly stops after about 10 to 15 minutes, though estimates vary.
• 10.24pm: The police locate Paddock's suite and a Swat team starts preparing to enter it.
• 10.27pm: Paddock shoots into the hall and a bullet hits a security guard's leg.
• 11.25pm: The Swat team storms the suite using explosives and finds Paddock has killed himself.
SOURCES: WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS
According to a law enforcement official who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly, investigators also were looking into whether Paddock had planned an earlier attack in Las Vegas before deciding to target Sunday's concert.
Police have found a total of 47 firearms in his two houses and his hotel suite. Leaked photos that showed parts of the scene inside and outside the hotel suite are circulating online. "What I can tell you is I'm very troubled by it," Mr Lombardo said of the leaks.
The police did release a video, a compilation of footage from officers' body cameras, showing the chaos as Paddock began firing on the crowd. "Hey, you guys, get down!" one officer shouted at bystanders between volleys of gunfire. "There are gunshots coming from over there. Go that way!"
Officials have said they are confident that Paddock, who had no prior criminal record, was the sole shooter. Though the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group has claimed that he was one of their followers, officials say that, so far, they have found no evidence that he had ties to any extremist group.
But Sheriff Lombardo said investigators were still looking into what roles others might have played.
Police also continued the grim task of identifying those slain. Some died blocks away from the concert as they tried to flee or seek help.
As for the city itself, the slot machines were still ringing and the drinks still flowing but the party did not feel quite the same along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip.
Mr Greg Hartnett, 31, who had just arrived for his first visit to Vegas, said: "It's eerie. People are trying to enjoy it, but there's a cloud hanging over the city right now."
WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS