The gunman responsible for the worst shooting attack in modern U.S. history made attempts to buy ammunition that illuminated after it was fired, a U.S. official briefed on the ongoing investigation told CNN.
Stephen Paddock tried to make the purchase at a gun show in Phoenix weeks before the massacre in Las Vegas. He was not able to do so because the seller of the equipment was out of stock, the official said.
The bullets, known as tracer ammunition, emit a pyrotechnic charge when fired and leave a trail of illumination. Paddock may have been planning to use the bullets as a guide to where his shots were ending up as he fired into the Vegas night, the official told the broadcaster.
Police found 23 weapons in Paddock’s sniper’s nest on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel. His attack killed 58 people dead and left more than 500 injured.
Paddock was only stopped when an unarmed security guard, Jesus Campos, became the first person to reach the retired 64-year-old accountant, distracting him from his shooting rampage. Campos took the elevator to the 32nd floor, approaching the room where Paddock had barricaded himself. When the gunman saw the guard approaching the room, he shot through the door, hitting Campos in the right leg and leaving him wounded.
Police are still unsure of Paddock’s motive. He stocked up on arms and meticulously planned the assault, and investigators now believe he had planned to survive. Authorities said that he initially wanted to escape from the hotel but shot himself dead after realizing police were close to entering his room.
They found a note as well as more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition and 50 pounds of explosive material in his car parked at the hotel.
“He was doing everything possible to see how he could escape,” Las Vegas Police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
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The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the assault, but experts and law enforcement officials have cast doubt on any involvement on the part of a jihadi group, which is seeking attention as it suffers a series of battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria. The FBI said it had found “no connection” between the shooter and an extremist group.
Police are yet to identify any accomplices of Paddock. They believe that he had acted on his own but may have received some assistance in acquiring his arsenal in the months before the attack.
Security services are questioning Paddock’s 62-year-old girlfriend Marilou Danley, who was in the Philippines when he carried out the attack.
Danley’s sisters say that she was “sent away” to the Philippines by Paddock, who wired $100,000 to the country before the massacre. Authorities believe the money was intended for her. She has not been charged with any criminal offense and is not believed to be a suspect in the case.
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