Hours after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, morning TV news programs were full of amateur video and witnesses describing the horrific scene at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas where more than 50 were killed and more than 400 injured.
News outlets across the dial went wall-to-wall with coverage of the aftermath in Las Vegas, where a big section of the Strip was cordoned off as a crime scene. In addition to gunshot wounds, Las Vegas authorities said many victims were trampled in the panic after the shooting started from a window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. The suspected shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Nevada, was found dead in his room as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, per police.
“CBS This Morning” and “Good Morning America” extended their regular 7-9 a.m. broadcasts into the 9 a.m. hour. NBC also preempted 9 a.m.’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” which was set to begin its second week today, for continuing coverage of the massacre with “Today” anchors Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie.
Concert-goer Gail Davis was clearly still in shock as she spoke live with “CBS This Morning.” Like so many attendees, Davis said she and her husband assumed the pop-pop-pop sound was “firecrackers” when it first started during singer Jason Aldean’s closing set at the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival. About 22,000 people were present at the time of the attack, Las Vegas officials said.
Davis’ voice trembled as she described in chilling detail the sight of a young woman standing next to her who suddenly clutched her stomach and then saw that her hands were bloodied. “She just screamed and she fell back,” Davis said. “Everybody started screaming and started to run.”
Davis also recounted the terror of hearing the automatic gunfire shots stop and restart several times during the shooting rampage that police have said lasted about four and a half minutes. “It happened a couple of times,” she said. “It kept stopping.” Police said some 200 rounds were fired into the crowd.
Davis, who wore a Jason Aldean T-shirt and repeatedly professed her appreciation for the singer, said she could “see people falling” as she and her husband ran for cover in the concession stand area behind the crowd. She recalled seeing one man cradling a woman who had been shot in the head and telling her: “Oh god, baby, it’s my fault.”
The concert setting of Sunday night’s massacre ensured that there were plenty of people in the crowd recording digital video at the time the shooting started. Morning news programs served up dozens of such videos depicting the festive atmosphere of an outdoor concert transformed into a war zone in a matter of seconds. After the music stopped and stage lights went dark, screams, shouts of “get down” and other sounds of trauma took over.
Witnesses described hiding in bushes, trucks and other coverings for a half-hour or more out of dread fear that the shooting was not over. Recordings of the Las Vegas police scanners as the shootings unfolded also provided a timeline of the terror that forced a rare lockdown of the entire Vegas strip as police searched for potential additional shooters.
Even national news outlets carried toll-free information numbers for those who are trying to find missing family members and friends who may have been at the concert. There were also pleas for blood donations at trauma centers overwhelmed by the volume of victims.