Return to Transcripts main page


At Least 58 Killed in Las Vegas Massacre; Survivors Describe Scene; Nevada Officials: "No Prior Knowledge" of Shooter. Aired 4- 4:30p ET

Aired October 2, 2017 - 16:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are continuing with the breaking news coverage on this horrific massacre in Las Vegas.

This is the second time in as many years that you're hearing me report to you about the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history; 58 innocent people were killed in Las Vegas last night. That's even worse numerically than the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that I told you about in June 2016, the previous record, 49 people senselessly slaughtered there.

That was an even higher body count than the 2012 horror at Sandy Hook, 27 innocent people, including 20 small children. And on and on.

I wish I can tell you this is the last time I'm ever going to report to you about the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, but I cannot tell you that. I wish I could report that lawmakers are huddling right now to try to figure out how to do everything they constitutionally can to keep these weapons of mass murder out of the hands of violently insane individuals who will use them to harm innocent people.

But they are not doing that. Again, at least 58 people have been killed. And 515 more are wounded after a shooting in Las Vegas.

We must warn you some of the videos we are about to show you are graphic and they're going to be difficult to watch. Here is what we know at this hour.

Police say the massacre became just after 10:00 p.m. local time in Nevada. Fans had convened at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. That's a three-day country music performance that began on Friday.

Headliner Jason Aldean was singing in front of a crowd of about 22,000 people when the shooter began firing from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

We have heard witnesses tell us that they thought initially it was a helicopter or fireworks, firecrackers. They thought it was part of a show, maybe an audio program. It obviously came as a complete surprise when they realized what it was moments later, when bodies around them started dropping to the ground.

Thousands of people ran for cover. One witness described hearing gunshots lasting 10 to 15 minutes.

Joe Fryer of NBC News shot this video inside the hotel. Police were going door to door there. They say they breached the room where the shooter was located and they found him dead, along with a stockpile of weapons, including 10 rifles.

The FBI says there is no known connection as of now to any overseas terrorist groups.

A short time ago, President Trump led this moment of silence, a moment of silence at the White House for the victims of this latest senseless massacre.

Let's go to the shooting scene in Las Vegas, Nevada.

CNN's Dan Simon is there for us live.

Dan, there is still so much evidence for law enforcement officials to comb through.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, obviously a lot for investigators to look at.

They have to look at surveillance video. You're talking about a hotel casino where of course there are a lot of cameras. Perhaps the suspect, the shooter was picked up at some point. He checked in on Thursday. Is he on the video? The only way they can tell is go through it.

I'm told at this point investigators are through going through the actual hotel room and going through the floor, the 32nd floor. For now, the focus is on the venue itself where those 22,000 people were enjoying that concert.


SIMON (voice-over): Horror at the hands of a psychopath, that's how police are now describing 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who say they smashed through the window of his room at the Mandalay Bay resort and unleashed a rain of bullets from the 32nd floor.

STEVE WOLFSON, CLARK COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: This is a weapon and man of mass destruction.

SIMON: According to police, the retire accountant checked into this hotel room overlooking the festival grounds on September 28. Inside, he had a cache of 10 weapons at his disposal, including a number of long rifles.

When officers broke through the door to engage him during Sunday's massacre, he shot himself. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have determined to this point no connection

with an international terrorist group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an individual that was described as a lone wolf. I don't know how it could have been prevented.

SIMON: This morning in Florida, the shooter's brother in utter disbelief.

ERIC PADDOCK, BROTHER OF SHOOTER: He bought the machine guns and he did this. I mean, he's never even drawn his gun. It's just -- it just makes no sense.

SIMON: Gunfire first rang out at approximately 10:08 p.m. during a headline performance by singer Jason Aldean. The crowd of some 22,000 country music fans and staff had few places to hide.

REIGHLYNN PARSLEY, SURVIVOR: We got up and we ran. And the surreal moment was seeing some man carrying a girl in a white romper, and it was stained red and he was stained red running with that girl.


SIMON: Groups cowered in freezers and behind fences. The deadly gunfire kept coming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what place you went for cover, there was two to three bodies to accompany that.

SIMON: In the parking lot, victims carried out in makeshift stretchers and wheelbarrows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, we need your truck. We just need to get people over to the hospital, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Go ahead. Set them all in the back.

SIMON: Those unhurt helping in any way they could.

Authorities are now scouring the scene and poring over videos for evidence that may help determine a motive. President Trump will fly to Nevada on Wednesday.


SIMON: Meanwhile, hundreds are lining up to donate blood, hoping to help those still fighting for their lives.


SIMON: And, Jake, we are told police were actually able to zero in on the suspect because of the smoke detector in the room, not from the muzzle flashes that you could see off in the distance.

Obviously, when you are firing that many shots, it's going to create some smoke. The smoke detector went off, and police were able to zero in on the suspect that way -- Jake.

TAPPER: Dan Simon in Las Vegas for us, thank you so much.

We are learning more about some of the innocent victims murdered in this horrific massacre. One off-duty Las Vegas police officer was killed in the shooting. His name has yet to be released.

Among other victims, Sonny Melton, a registered nurse from Tennessee, was at the concert with his wife. They were celebrating the one-year anniversary of the marriage. His wife, Heather Melton, survived the shooting. She told our affiliate that her husband saved her life while bullets were flying around them.

We have also learned about Rachel Parker, a records technician for the Manhattan Beach Police Department in Southern California. And Sandy Casey, a special education teacher from California, was shot and killed.

More and more of these tragic stories are going to come in. There will be young people with lives of promise cut short, moms and dads whose young children are now cheated out of having a parent. Kind souls who were only forces of good in their communities.

Again, 58 innocent people killed. More than 500 wounded.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is outside of one of three Las Vegas hospitals where victims are being treated.

Stephanie, another big concern right now of course is with so many wounded, the death toll of 58 already staggeringly awful, that could actually go up.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is the terrible, terrible truth about this, Jake.

And where I am at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, this is the only level one trauma center in the state. And, therefore, they have been doing lots of drills to prepare for events just like this.

And I talked to two of the surgeons, including the chief surgeon in charge of the department here, about what it was like inside of the hospital here last night. Take a listen to what he had to say.


DR. JOHN FILDES, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER OF SOUTHERN NEVADA: This was the largest event we have ever done. We have had other mass casualties, but this was really big event with a lot of walking wounded and a lot of criticals.

The alarming thing was watching the front door open, and it never stopped. And gurneys just kept coming in. Trucks would pull up, people would be in by friends. Private vehicles and taxes dropped off patients.


ELAM: With that, what we understand too is Dr. Fildes telling me they were coming in, in taxis, they were coming in, in personal vehicles and taxi and ambulances as well.

Sometimes, they had to line them up outside of the emergency room door before they started bringing them in. And the first priority another surgeon told me was to start stopping the death process, to save the lives, as many lives as they could.

They had all hands on deck. Because of their city system they have here, they knew they were about to get inundated and all in all this hospital alone got 104 patients, 104 patients they were working on.

And they had everyone here working. At one point, they actually more surgeons ready to go than they had patients to operate on. But that is just one hospital. There are two other hospital -- one hospital system and another closer, one that is closer to the Strip, the Sunrise Hotel, where they got 180 patients.

And they said 14 of their patients died. Another hospital system getting 55 patients and four of them remain in critical condition. So all of this as people are trying to figure out still where some of their loved ones might be, Jake.

TAPPER: Stephanie Elam, thank you so much.

Joining me now are Caren Mansholt and Rusty Dees. They were at the concert at the time of the tragic shooting.

Caren and Rusty, I'm so glad you are OK.

Caren, I will start with you. Walk us through the moments when you first heard the gunshots.

CAREN MANSHOLT, SURVIVOR: We were sitting in our seats in the neon lounge area, the VIP section that was just to the right of the stage.

And we were sitting in our seats. Actually I think we were standing up, listening to Jason Aldean, and we heard a lot of pops, consecutively. And at first we thought they were possibly fireworks, and looked up and realized there weren't any fireworks in the air, so we weren't sure what was happening until we heard them again.

TAPPER: And, Rusty, what did you do once you heard them again? When you realize what this was?

RUSTY DEES, SURVIVOR: Well, I still didn't know what it was.

But the second volley of shots is when the artists ran off the stage. And then we stood up. And then it was kind of a cadence to everything. And 20, 30 seconds later, there was another volley of shots. And then it was other it was a firearm.

[16:10:02] So we weren't sure what to do. And I the sounded like they were

coming in the main entrance, so she hid and I went running over, because based off everything that's happened recently, you would assume there's multiple people with firearms and they're shooting unarmed civilians.

So I didn't want to stand there and just wait for them to come to us, so went running over. There was no one there. The fence was still up. No security to be found. I think they were out dealing with it.

But it was pretty confusing, too, because we didn't hear anyone shooting back, which, if you think about someone attacking you, you would assume the armed officers would be shooting back. Now we understand why. But it didn't make sense at the time.

TAPPER: Right, because he was obviously more than 30 stories up in the hotel a block away.

Caren, you were hiding. Tell us about that. Where did you hide?


So we were sitting in rows of bleachers, and I don't know how many stairs we were up, but as soon as I saw Jason Aldean run off the stage, we just hit the deck. And I as crouching as low as possible with the people that were also in my row.

And when you are there for three days, you tend to get to know the people around you. So we were all kind of taking care of each other and just hit the deck as low as we could. And I was trying to make myself as small as possible. And I was going to try to fit myself actually under a seat if I could, but at that point in time was when Rusty came back and found me and we were able to run from the area.

TAPPER: Rusty, how were the people around you?

DEES: Amazing.

I mean, it's unfortunate it takes the worst of America to also see the best of America. Everybody was helping each other. It was all over the board. Some people didn't believe it was real. Some people thought it was fireworks.

Some people thought it was a speaker. Some people were in shock and couldn't believe it was really happening. Then of course unfortunately you look down on the main floor and everyone was covering, but there was no cover. They were all exposed.

So you didn't know if somebody was shot or if they were laying down. So it was time for us to get out of there. Came back and got them. And along the way, we saw a gunshot in an arm, a lady that her husband was shot, and she wasn't sure he was.

We just tried to get everybody to safety. And then you started hearing panic stuff. We got by the Tropicana when someone was concerned there was another shooter there and people were screaming and running out of the hallways.

So we just made it back to the hotel and got as many people out as we could at the same time. Pretty amazing what all these people stepped up and did for each other last night.

MANSHOLT: For sure.

TAPPER: Incredible.

Caren, I imagine you guys have been spending a lot of today on the phone telling people who love you that you are OK.

MANSHOLT: Absolutely.

It's been a little difficult to catch up between social media and phone and text. And we have reached out to our loved ones and we let them know immediately.

I'm lucky enough to have family in town here to support. So we did get to reach out to those that are concerned about us the most. And we have been very grateful for that.

TAPPER: And, Rusty, you touched on this a bit, but we heard some incredible stories of heroism. People covering each other with their bodies, taking the bullets for other people. Unbelievable displays of heroism to get whisk their fellow neighbor off to safety.

DEES: Yes, it was just amazing.

And I can't tell you how much of it I saw because it was all around us. And it didn't matter. I heard about being -- people getting trampled, excuse me, but I didn't see it. I saw everyone picking someone up if they got tripped or knocked down.

It was really amazing. And we saw the same thing. There were already people carrying each other trying to get them out of harm's way. If a vehicle was leaving, people were just jumping in. It was just amazing.

What I said earlier, it was the best and the worst at our country all at one time last night. But our condolences to all those that were lost. It's just -- it's a tragic -- it shouldn't happen -- and all those who were injured, but really proud of 30,000 Americans coming together and helping each other out. It was really -- it was amazing to see. It's why we're so great.

TAPPER: Caren Mansholt and Rusty Dees, we're so glad you're OK. Thank you so much for your time today.

DEES: Thank you.

MANSHOLT: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: How did police officers on the ground know shots were coming from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel? How did they figure that out? That story next.

And as we go to break, some images of people coming to together in the wake of the tragedy, the best of America you just heard Rusty talking about. Hundreds of people waiting for hours in lines that stretch for blocks in order to donate blood at the blood banks throughout Las Vegas, urgent need right now with hundreds suffering gunshot wounds, many needing surgery.

Stay with us, as CNN's special live coverage of this massacre continues.

Stay with us.


[16:18:34] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back.

Let's zero in now on the coordinated effort to find the gunman behind last night's massacre in Las Vegas. We know the shooter had time to set up. Authorities say he checked into the Mandalay Bay Hotel three days prior, on Thursday, September 28th.

And as the gunman fired on the crowd of innocent, police tells CNN it was the officers on the ground who helped pinpoint exactly where the shots are coming from.

CNN's Jim Sciutto joins me now.

And, Jim, how long did it take law enforcement to move in on this killer?


We know this from the police scanner sound. We know that the first shots were fired sometime after 10:00 local time. The first 911 calls came in at eight past 10:00, 10:08 and we know from police scanner, actually the SWAT scanner, that they finally breached the room and went in at 11:20 p.m. So, that's an hour an 12 minutes. It is sometime.

Have a listen to this. This is as the officers were inside the hotel trying to pinpoint exactly which room the shooter was firing from.


OFFICER: I'm inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor. I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.

FEMALE DISPATCHER: Copy. Is there a unit down?

MALE DISPATCHER: Repeat. Just be advised, it is automatic fire. Fully automatic fire from an elevated position. Take cover.

OFFICER: This is correct, it's fully automatic fire, I'm right below it.


SCIUTTO: Fully automatic fire, and that's one way, as they were in the hotel, because they could see, of course, it was an elevated position once they identify where the shots were coming from, but they didn't know what floor.

[16:20:02] And it was only when they were inside, they heard a machine gun in effect from the floor above them and that led them to the attacker's room.

TAPPER: And, Jim, when you look at the building two large holes. Did the gunman have two firing points?

SCIUTTO: This is something policemen are investigating right now and we heard from the sheriff say just a short time ago when they were updating the press, that the attacker actually rented two rooms. It wasn't clear to him if they were adjoining suite or if they were two rooms down the hall or adjacent to each other, but that's -- they had said he used a hammer like device to break those windows for his shooting position. And this is something that they are investigating right now.

Have a listen to them as they got to the point when they were able to go in there. And eventually found him inside dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound.


OFFICER: We have sight on the suspect's door, I need for everybody in that hallway to be aware of it and get back. We need to pop this and see if we can get any type of response from this guy. See if he's in here or if he's actually moved somewhere else.

DISPATCH: Copy. All units on the 32nd floor, SWAT has explosive breach. Everyone in the hallway needs to move back. All unites move back.

OFFICER: Breach, breach, breach.


SCIUTTO: That sound there, the popping, the explosives they used to break into that door. I should note this. There was security at this event. They had perimeter security. They did not have, they did not prepare for an elevated shooter, some couple of hundred yards away, several hundred feet away, as the crow files, but also distance off the ground, and the deputy sheriff there said and admitted as much earlier that this is not a threat that they had prepared for, in her words exactly. They did not see this coming.

And typically for this events, that is one that you think. You might think of it if you're the Secret Service and you're talking about the president somewhere, but for an event like this, they didn't. And I'll tell you, I've spoken to a number of people today who said that going forward for events like this, that's going to have to be something that they factor.

TAPPER: Horrific. Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

We're just beginning to learn more about the shooter and arsenal he was able to purchase and able to get into his hotel room.

Stay with us for that.


[16:26:14] TAPPER: And we're back with more on the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas as authorities dig into the background of the 64-year-old man who brutally murdered concert-goers last night in what appears to have been a meticulously planned attack.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider joins me now.

And, Jessica, it's relatively unusual for a mass shooter to be in his 60s. What more are officials finding out about him?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, investigators are working to piece together all of his movements over the past few days and months, all to try to figure out his motive. But for now, the Clark County sheriff put it this way, saying, he, quote, can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point.

Stephen Paddock had no criminal history and officials say there's no connection right now to international terrorism. So, the questions here linger. Why did he open fire from his hotel room killing more than 50 people?


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock had been in Las Vegas for four days before opening fire from his 32nd floor hotel room window Sunday night.

He killed more than 50 people with rifles that were stockpiled in his Mandalay Bay Hotel room. Law enforcement forces say Paddock had more than 10 weapons and that some rifles may have been altered to function as an automatic weapon. The weapons found so far included .223 caliber and .303 caliber rifle.

One gun shop owner in Utah says he's sure he sold Paddock a shotgun earlier this year.

CHRIS MICHAEL, UTAH GUN STORE OWNER: I recognized him immediately. His name, of what it was. He's been in my store. He's frequented here a couple of different times.

We sold him a shotgun. And so, I was starting to get nervous, going, did that get used in this rampage?

SCHNEIDER: Investigators believe the firearms were purchased legally.

SHERIFF JOE LOMBARDO, CLARK COUNTY, NEVADA: This is an individual that was described as a lone wolf. I don't know how it could have been prevented if we didn't have any prior knowledge to this individual. It wasn't evident that he had weapons in his room. We have determined that there has been employees going to and fro from his room and nothing nefarious was noticed.

SCHNEIDER: Paddock lived 81 miles from Las Vegas, in a quiet 55 and older retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. His brother says he moved there several years ago from Florida. FBI agents interviewed Eric Paddock hours after the massacre, but Paddock says he never knew his brother owned anything more than a few handguns. Officials say Paddock was a sportsman and purchased two sport fishing licenses in Alaska in 2009 and 2010.

ERIC PADDOCK, BROTHER OF ALLEGED SHOOTER: He did not own machine guns that I knew of in any way, shape or form. He didn't own them when he moved him from Melbourne to Mesquite. OK? This is something just incredibly wrong happened to my brother.

SCHNEIDER: Stephen Paddock lived in his Mesquite home with a girlfriend, a woman identified as Marilou Danley. Police say they have located her in the Philippines and law enforcement officials tell CNN as of now they don't believe she was involved in the shooting.

Paddock visited Vegas often, according to his family, regularly playing $100 a hand poker.

And while Paddock didn't have a criminal history, according to officials, his now deceased father had a colorful criminal past. Benjamin Hoskins Paddock spent eight years on the FBI's most wanted list for bank robbery. The wanted poster describes the elder Paddock as psychopathic with suicidal tendencies who is considered armed and very dangerous.

His son, Stephen Paddock, though, is described by family as a well off accountant who had a pilot license and two single engine aircraft registered with FAA. But Paddock was not up-to-date on his medical certification, meaning he couldn't legally fly a plane.

Eric Paddock is still baffled at the revelation his brother unleashed a barrage of bullet that ended in the deaths of dozens.

PADDOCK: I mean, he's never even drawn his gun. I mean, it makes no sense. He's never hit anybody.