In Vegas, Pence praises US resolve to find hope after horror

Federal agents started removing piles of backpacks, baby strollers and lawn chairs still strewn about the site of a country music festival that Stephen Paddock fired upon last Sunday night

Doves are released for each victim of the Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting at City Hall plaza in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 7, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Vice President Mike Pence praised the heroic response by police and the resolve of the American people at a prayer service in Las Vegas, while federal agents hauled away belongings left behind by terrified concertgoers trying to escape raining bullets from a gunman who was shooting from his high-rise hotel suite.

"It was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions," Mr Pence said as he addressed nearly 300 people at Las Vegas City Hall Saturday afternoon. "Those we lost were taken before their time, but their names and their stories will forever be etched into the hearts of the American people."

At the same time, federal agents started removing piles of backpacks, baby strollers and lawn chairs still strewn about the site of a country music festival that Stephen Paddock fired upon last Sunday night.

Investigators remain stumped about why the reclusive 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player would shoot at the crowd from his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay hotel room, killing 58 and wounding hundreds before killing himself.

Investigators believe a note found on a nightstand in Paddock's hotel room contained a series of numbers that helped him calculate a more precise aim, accounting for the trajectory of shots being fired from that height and the distance between his room and the concert, a law enforcement official said on Saturday. The official was not authorised to discuss the details of the ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.


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The unity service came after dozens of people — many wearing shirts that said "Vegas Strong" — marched from Mandalay Bay to City Hall. After speeches from Mr Pence and other politicians, 58 doves were released into the air, flying in a wide arc and then disappearing into the distance as someone shouted, "God bless America!"

Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman told the audience that the focus needs to remain on the victims, not "that horrific senseless animal".

Lisa Rhoads-Shook, whose brother-in-law was inside the Mandalay Bay when the shooting broke out, said she wanted to attend the unity service to be part of the conversation about change.

"I'm so sad and it's not fair, really, for us to experience another avoidable tragedy. We have to acknowledge that there is no better time to talk about gun control," she said. "I don't think the Founding Fathers wanted the right to bear arms to become the right to build an arsenal in your home."

Investigators have chased 1,000 leads and examined Paddock's politics, finances, any possible radicalisation and his social behaviour — typical investigative avenues that have helped uncover the motive in past shootings. But Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said there is still no clear motive.

What officers have found is that Paddock planned his attack meticulously.

He requested an upper-floor room overlooking the festival, stockpiled 23 guns, a dozen of them modified to fire continuously like an automatic weapon, and set up cameras inside and outside his room to watch for approaching officers.