By KEN RITTER and MICHAEL BALSAMO LAS VEGAS — The jangle of slot machines echoed through a packed casino as police officers methodically made their way across the floor with guns drawn. But the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas went on. Gamblers kept tugging at slot handles, seemingly unaware that above them, a man was unleashing a hail of gunfire in what would become the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
“There’s a shooter! He’s shot and killed multiple people already,” a police officer shouts as he passes bystanders, on the hunt for the man who killed 58 people from his high-rise hotel suite. The officers tell employees to evacuate the Mandalay Bay casino and then carefully work their way up to the 32nd floor. As they approach his suite from a stairwell, another officer yells out, “Breach! Breach! Breach!” before a loud bang and a fire alarm begins to sound.
Inside, they find gunman Stephen Paddock lying in a pool of blood with high-powered weapons sprawled around the room. One officer pulls an assault-style rifle from a window ledge as others discover an arsenal of firearms, cameras in the peepholes, a homemade gas mask and venting system.
This photo from police officer video body camera footage on Oct. 1, 2017, provided by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, shows the body of shooter Stephen Paddock on the floor behind an officer, following during the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, released Wednesday, May 2, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)
But more than seven months after the massacre, police are no closer to answering the key question: What led the retired accountant and high-stakes gambler to unleash his deadly barrage of bullets? Police released hours of footage from two officers’ body-worn cameras Wednesday in response to a lawsuit from The Associated Press and other news organizations.
The videos showed officers inside Paddock’s room looking behind curtains. The gunman’s body is seen on his back, clad in dark pants and a long-sleeve shirt with a glove on his left hand. A pool of blood stains the carpet near his head as a police SWAT officer walks past. Officers noted the amount of firepower Paddock amassed — more than 10 high-powered firearms. Others talked about Paddock “blasting out the window” and pointed to “a whole suitcase full of loaded AK mags.
Investigators believe the 64-year-old acted alone and fatally shot himself before officers burst through the door of his room. The newly released video, totaling about 2½ hours, represents a sample of hundreds of hours of body-camera recordings and does not provide a complete view of everything police discovered when they entered Paddock’s suite. The footage also does not show what the first officer through the door saw because he didn’t activate his body camera. The revelation raised questions about whether officers followed Police Department policy.
The agency requires officers with body cameras to activate them during calls that lead to interaction with residents and searches. Police refused to say whether the officer would be disciplined. The AP and other media outlets sued to obtain videos, 911 recordings, evidence logs and interview reports to shed light on the response by public agencies, emergency workers and hotel officials while Paddock fired for more than 10 minutes.
A preliminary report released in January said Paddock meticulously planned the attack, researched police SWAT tactics, rented hotel rooms overlooking outdoor concerts and investigated potential targets in at least four U.S. cities. ___ Balsamo reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Michelle Price and Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas contributed to this report.