Deadly Shooting at Vegas Country-Music Festival Hits Close to Home

The Route 91 Harvest country-music festival in Las Vegas descended into chaos and terror late Sunday night, when a sniper began firing into a large crowd of fans who had gathered for Jason Aldean’s headlining set. According to CBS Vegas affiliate KLAS, more than 50 people have been killed and another 400-plus wounded, eclipsing the June 2016 massacre at Orlando, Florida nightclub Pulse as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Police reports say the three-day open-air festival was drawing to a close when, about 10:08 p.m., shots began coming from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino across Las Vegas Boulevard, known as the Strip, into a crowd estimated between 22,000 and 40,000 fans. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released a statement Monday morning identifying the gunman as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada. Paddock was found dead after a SWAT team used explosives to enter his room on the hotel's 32nd floor, where he had approximately 10 high-powered weapons, authorities added.

Aldean, who was onstage when the shots began hitting the crowd, said on Instagram, “tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe. My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.” Aldean last performed in Houston at the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

One fan at the festival, Monique Dumas of British Columbia, told CBS News she had been six rows from the stage and heard what she thought at first was a bottle breaking, and then more sounds like fireworks. “It took four to five minutes and all that time there was gunfire,” she said, describing the scene as “organized chaos.”

Las Vegas is home to several of country music’s top festivals and events, and the shooting left its artistic community deeply shaken. Stars including Reba, Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Charlie Daniels and Dan + Shay expressed their condolences on social media. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner added his, saying, “The city of Houston stands with Las Vegas, Nevada with a heavy heart following the horrifying mass shooting there.”

Texas country stars the Josh Abbott Band, who played Route 91 Sunday afternoon, tweeted “active shooter by us. say some prayers”; and, an hour later, “Everyone in JAB is accounted for. They evacuated us from Mandalay. My fiancée is still in room. They won't let me in but she's safe.”

The group is one of the headliners of this year's ZiegenBock Music Festival, scheduled for October 14 at Sam Houston Race Park. The band's guitarist, Caleb Keeter, withdrew his opposition to gun control on Twitter, saying, "I've been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was." His full remarks are below:

Longtime Houston concert promoter Jason Price, who partially moved to Las Vegas in 2016, was caught up in the scene as well.

“Thanks to all for reaching out. [Girlfriend] Gina Rotolo, and i are now safe but can't leave the site yet,” he posted on Facebook. “We are very fortunate. This is was a terrible tragedy. We saw some horrific things tonight. If you pray, pray for the injured, and worst. May the families that were ultimately effected [sic] find peace.”

Citing public records, the San Antonio Express-News is reporting that Paddock had previously lived in Texas and worked as a manager of the Central Park Apartments in Houston and the DFW suburb of Mesquite. Their search found he had lived at 27 different addresses.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, where Aldean played in 2014 with Florida Georgia Line, was the first major Houston concert venue to respond to the events in Vegas. About 11:15 a.m., the Pavilion issued the following statement:

We are truly saddened by the tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas last night; our thoughts are with the victims and families that have been affected by this devastating incident. The safety of our guests, staff and artists has been and will always be our top priority at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. We will continue to implement heightened security at all events. 

The statement also included a link to prohibited items at Pavilion concerts, which include backpacks, bags over 8.5 x 11 inches, pocket knives, wallet chains, spiked jewelry, and any and all firearms and explosives.

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