On Sunday, October 1, at approximately 10:08pm local time, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire upon the Route 91 Harvest festival on the Las Vegas Strip from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing at least 59 people and injuring over 500 others. Paddock reportedly shot multiple rounds of rifle ammunition with a modified semi-automatic weapon, firing indiscriminately at the concert goers below him. Paddock shot through the windows of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, using a hammer to break the glass in the rooms. The incident ended when SWAT officers stormed the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort and breached the door of Paddock’s room, prompting him to commit suicide via gunshot.
According to reports, Paddock arrived at the hotel a couple days before the attack took place. Authorities discovered 23 firearms in Paddock’s hotel room, alongside hundreds of additional rounds of ammunition. A search of Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nevada led to the discovery of 19 additional firearms, explosive material, and several thousand rounds of ammunition. In addition, authorities found ammonium nitrate, a substance commonly used in explosive compounds, inside Paddock’s car. Paddock’s motive currently remains unknown. Authorities have confirmed that he had no ties to any international or domestic militant or extremist groups, and he did not have a criminal history, other than a series of minor and previously resolved citations with Nevada Police. Additionally, he had no prior military experience, and only possessed a license for hunting. There are claims that Paddock legally purchased some of his weapons at least within the last year. At this time, authorities believe that Paddock acted alone.
Sunday night’s attack has been deemed the “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.” The shooting highlights the upward trend in attacks on public spaces and events carried out by both organized terrorist groups and lone-wolf attackers, and underscores the vulnerabilities of soft-target locations that are difficult to secure. Similar vulnerabilities were exploited in the May bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 22 people, and in November 2015 when attackers opened fire at a rock concert in Paris as part of a coordinated attack that killed 130 people. Similar domestic attacks range from the 2016 night club shooting in Orlando, which resulted in the deaths of 49 people, to the more recent shooting in Virginia that targeted members of Congress. The attack also displays the continued use of firearms as weapons of choice, given their effectiveness at causing a large amount of casualties. It has become evident that Paddock had thoroughly planned his attack by conducting pre-operational surveillance of the desired target area before carrying out the attack, and stockpiling dozens of weapons and ammunition. Paddock’s pre-operational surveillance allowed him to select a vantage point that would give him an ample view of his desired target, and likely assisted in his ability to determine the best way to sneak his weapons into the hotel without notice in the days leading up to the attack. Paddock’s attack was indiscriminate and his targets were entirely random. Due to his thorough preparation, preloading hundreds of rounds into dozens of magazines, Paddock was clearly intent on killing and injuring as many people as possible.