Las Vegas shooting: Concertgoers begin claiming personal items left behind in massacre

"We're past the response portion of this horrible incident," Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said at a news conference. "We're moving into the recovery now."
"We're past the response portion of this horrible incident," Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said at a news conference. "We're moving into the recovery now." PHOTO: AFP

LAS VEGAS (REUTERS) - The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Sunday (Oct 8) started returning thousands of purses, phones and other property left behind by concertgoers in Las Vegas fleeing the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history, as the Red Cross stepped up efforts to reach those traumatised by the Oct 1 massacre.

Investigators still lack a clear reason why Stephen Paddock, 64, unleashed a torrent of gunfire into a crowd of 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The suspect shot himself to death before police stormed his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, high above the concert venue.

"We're past the response portion of this horrible incident," Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said at a news conference. "We're moving into the recovery now." Fifty-eight people died and nearly 500 were injured.

To honour the victims on Sunday (Oct 8) night, marquee lights along the Las Vegas Strip dimmed for 11 minutes from 10.05pm until 10.16pm local time, the exact time and duration of the gunfire one week ago, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said in a statement.

Unlike so many other perpetrators of deadly mass shootings before him, Paddock left behind no suicide note, no manifesto, no recordings and no messages on social media pointing to his intent, according to police.

Paddock used a device known as a bump stock to make 12 of his rifles operate more like automatic weapons, which are outlawed in the US.

On Sunday, the powerful US gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, said it would oppose an outright ban on bump-stock devices.

 

A week since the incident, teams of counsellors fanned out across the city, attending church services and gathering at a family assistance centre set up at the Las Vegas Convention Centre as the Red Cross set out to find those in need of comfort. Spiritual and legal advisers were also available.

"A week into this, a lot of people have been numb," said Red Cross spokesman Bill Fortune, who flew in from Colorado to help with the recovery effort. "Some of those emotional crises are just showing up today, where people can't get out of bed. People have called saying they can't be in crowds."

The process of returning items left behind by those who fled in the chaos could take weeks, the authorities said.

So many phones, backpacks, lawn chairs and other items were left behind that the FBI has divided the huge crime scene into four quadrants, releasing items from only one of them at a time, starting on Sunday, said FBI Victims Services chief Paul Flood.

Before release, the items had to be cleaned of blood and other substances, as well as categorised, Flood said. Property from just one quadrant of the scene filled seven delivery-sized trucks, he said, and required the attention of dozens of investigators.

The authorities began returning vehicles left at the concert grounds to their owners last week.