A Las Vegas police officer responding to the shooting rampage there earlier this month accidentally fired a weapon inside the attacker’s suite but did not hit anyone, according to the county sheriff.
The revelation came as questions continue to surround the Oct. 1 massacre, during which gunman Stephen Paddock, perched in a high-rise hotel overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, fired at a country music festival far below. Paddock killed 58 people and injured hundreds more before shooting himself.
One month after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, key details remain a mystery, chief among them: What prompted the attack? Investigators have not publicly disclosed a motive for the shooting, nor have they said whether Paddock had additional plans or targets.
Uncertainty also has swirled around the timeline of what happened the night that Paddock, armed with an arsenal of rifles and a cache of ammunition, opened fire from his 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Police and the hotel’s owner have offered multiple, at times contradictory, timelines, creating confusion in the days after the attack.
News that an officer fired inside Paddock’s suite does not appear to change that timeline again or substantially alter the police account of the shooting, but it is a small additional detail that had previously not been made public.
Joseph Lombardo, the Clark County sheriff, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that an officer inadvertently fired the weapon after officers entered Paddock’s suite. The officer was not identified.
“It happened, and we’re investigating it, just like we do with any officer-involved use of force,” Lombardo told the newspaper. “Nobody was struck.”
It was not clear how many rounds the officer fired or when exactly it happened. Las Vegas police did not immediately respond to a request Tuesday for further information about the incident.
Authorities have said that Paddock fired sustained volleys into the concert crowd for 10 minutes, using devices called “bump stocks” that let rifles fire rounds at a rate more akin to automatic weapons.
According to the most recent police timeline, the first shots were fired at 10:05 p.m. Officers arrived on the Mandalay Bay’s 32nd floor at 10:17 p.m., two minutes after the gunfire stopped. More officers arrived, clearing nearby rooms and looking for other injured people, and they did not breach Paddock’s suite until 11:20 p.m.
They found Paddock dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a gun nearby. It is not clear when he shot himself.
While other shooters targeting public places have left behind bitter manifestos or patterns of troubling behavior that took on heightened significance after their attacks, Paddock did not appear to leave any such sign or trail.
Lombardo, the sheriff, said during a news briefing earlier this month that he was “frustrated” with that, saying that Paddock “purposefully hid his actions leading up to this event and it is difficult for us to find answers for those actions.” The FBI has said authorities found “no signs of ideology or affiliations to any groups.”
In an interview with “60 Minutes,” the officers who breached Paddock’s room said they found an armory that looked akin to “a gun store,” with stacks of guns and magazines. They also found wires, monitors and laptops, as authorities said Paddock had set up cameras to monitor approaching police.
Authorities scouring Paddock’s life for signs of what was to come have interviewed hundreds of people and pored over electronic devices, but few answers have emerged. Police also have said they are unable to determine why Paddock stopped firing after 10 minutes.
Other details from that night have been muddled. After police first said a security guard, Jesus Campos, was shot during the attack on the music festival, Lombardo later amended that, saying Campos was actually shot six minutes before the mass shooting began. This raised questions about when police were alerted to an active shooter in the Mandalay Bay.
But MGM Resorts, which owns Mandalay Bay, said that timeline was inaccurate and denied there was any six-minute gap. Following that, Lombardo offered still another timeline, saying there was no six-minute gap after all, while also lamenting the amount of time and attention spent on the timeline.
“Nobody is attempting to hide anything in reference to this investigation,” Lombardo said during a news briefing on Oct. 13. “The dynamics and the size of this investigation requires us to go through voluminous amounts of information in order to draw an accurate picture.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Mark Berman