Las Vegas shooting: Gunman monitored police on cameras, photos of hotel room leaked

A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room.
A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE / QRONOS16
A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room.
A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE / QRONOS16
A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room.
A screengrab of Stephen Paddock's hotel room. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE / QRONOS16

LAS VEGAS (WASHINGTON POST) - Authorities in Las Vegas said the gunman who killed least 59 people at a country music festival "extensively" planned the massacre, placing cameras in his room and the nearby hallway so that he could see when police officers were closing in.

"It was pre-planned, extensively, and I'm pretty sure that he evaluated everything that he did in his actions, which is troublesome," Joseph Lombardo, sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said at a briefing on Tuesday afternoon (Oct 3).

He said one of the cameras was hidden in a food service cart in the hallway outside the suite. Law enforcement officials said the purpose of that camera was apparently to give the gunman a video feed that would warn him when police were closing in.

Lombardo also said the department has opened an investigation into the unauthorised release of images that show the crime scene, including the bullet-riddled door to the suite used by the gunman Stephen Paddock. Police said Paddock fired at hotel security before taking his own life.

In these photographs, obtained by the German newsmagazine Bild on Tuesday, a portion of Paddock's two-room suite is visible. A gun with a scope and a stand can also be seen inside the room, just behind yellow crime-scene tape criss-crossing the door.

Lombardo declined to confirm whether the images were legitimate, but he said the department was trying to determine how the images were made public.

"I can tell you I'm very troubled by it," Lombardo said. "We have an internal investigation going as we speak as to how those photographs were obtained."

Investigators sifted through a chilling but baffling array of clues in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, trying to determine the chain of events that caused a 64-year-old to gun down concertgoers from his hotel suite overlooking the Las Vegas Strip.

"I can't get into the mind of a psychopath," Lombardo had said Monday.

The probe into the shooting stretched from a ranch-style home near the Arizona border to the 32nd-floor hotel suite used by Paddock as a place to scan the crowds at a country music festival and then open fire - leaving at least 59 people dead and hundreds more injured in the rain of bullets or trampled in the panicked rush for cover late Sunday. He then killed himself as SWAT officers closed in.

Once again, a stunned nation was left to grapple with a city riven by tragedy and a resurgent debate over gun control and gun violence. The White House and many Republicans said it was a time to mourn rather than launch into political battles, while some Democrats renewed calls for gun safety legislation.

Lombardo warned that the number of dead in Las Vegas could rise, more than 500 other people were thought to have been injured. Hospitals across the region continued to treat patients from the scene, many of them seriously injured. Sunrise Hospital and Medical Centre said that as of Tuesday morning, it had 68 patients from the rampage, 33 of them in critical condition.

While the nation learnt more about the lives cut brutally short as well as the heroic actions of people on the ground, few answers were available as to what, if anything, may have motivated the rampage.

23 GUNS IN HOTEL ROOM

Authorities described a grim amount of preparation. Police said Paddock arrived on Thursday, three days before the shooting, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. He took more than 10 suitcases into his suite, officials said. Paddock aroused no suspicion from hotel staff even as he brought in 23 guns, some of them with scopes.

One of the weapons he apparently used in the attack was an AK-47 type rifle, with a stand used to steady it for firing, people familiar with the case said.

Officials recovered another 19 guns as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition and the chemical tannerite, an explosive, at Paddock's home in Mesquite, Nevada. They also found ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used in bombmaking, in Paddock's vehicle, Lombardo said.

He apparently had set up a security perimetre behind him while firing round after round into the crowd below - another indication of the level of preparation he put into the attack. Such a setup would have made it easier for Paddock to know when he was close to being confronted by law enforcement.

When police breached his hotel room door and stormed inside, they found him already dead, with blood spread out behind him, mixed in with the empty shell casings on the carpet. He had apparently pointed a silver, black-handled revolver into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Paddock had purchased weapons legally over a period of years, from local stores near his homes and from major retailers, like Cabela's, according to law enforcement officials. Guns & Guitars, a store in Mesquite, Nevada, said in a statement that Paddock purchased some of his weapons there, but employees followed all procedures required by law, and Paddock "never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time."

Lombardo said Paddock also seemed to have purchased guns in Arizona. Investigators believe at least one of Paddock's guns functioned as if it were fully automatic, and they are now trying to determine if he modified it or other weapons to be capable of spitting out a high volume of fire just by holding down the trigger, people familiar with the case said.

Authorities said a sweep of law enforcement databases showed that before the rampage, Paddock had no known run-ins with police. He was the son of a bank robber who was once on the FBI's most-wanted list, but investigators turned up no clear links to any criminal enterprises or international terrorist groups - despite repeated claims by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that Paddock carried out the carnage in its name.

Police said they believe Paddock was a "lone wolf" attacker, though they were still interested in speaking more with a woman named Marilou Danley who lived with him in Mesquite, a little more than an hour outside of Las Vegas on the Arizona border.

Danley, Paddock's 62-year-old girlfriend, was found outside the country and was not involved in the shooting."We still consider her a person of interest," Lombardo said Monday.

He said investigators also are exploring a report that Paddock attended a different music festival in September. People close to the investigation said that in the weeks before the attack, Paddock transferred a large amount of money - something close to US$100,000 (S$136,114) - to someone in the Philippines, possibly his girlfriend.