The country singer who was on stage at the Las Vegas country music concert when the first shots rang out, issued a heart-wrenching statement following the worst shooting in U.S. history.
A lone gunman fired from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto an outdoor crowd of some 22,000 country music fans, killing more than 50 and wounding at least 406 people.
Aldean had to flee the stage as rapid fire, likely from a machine gun, continued to rattle from high above the crowd.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still don’t know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that Me and my Crew are safe,” Aldean wrote on Instagram.
“My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight,” he added. “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 was the last act in a three-day country music festival. In videos posted online, he is seen singing as rapid gunfire erupts. The stage then goes dark and chaos ensues.
Aldean’s wife Brittany Aldean also posted a brief message on Instagram.
“We are safe,” she wrote. “Our angels were definitely watching over us tonight. No words for what happened… Just horrific. Praying for everyone.”
64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who was identified as the lone gunman, had an arsenal of at least 10 rifles in his hotel room. He rained down bullets from a 32nd-floor window of Mandalay Hotel for several minutes before killing himself as police burst into his room.
The death toll, which police emphasized was preliminary, would make the mass shooting the deadliest in U.S. history, eclipsing last year’s massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub by a gunman who pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Some 22,000 people were in the crowd when a man police identified as Stephen Paddock opened fire, sparking a panic in which some people trampled on others, as law enforcement officers scrambled to locate the gunman.
Shocked concertgoers, some with blood on their clothing, wandered the streets afterward.
Police said they had no information about Paddock’s motive, that he had no criminal record and was not believed to be connected to any militant group. Paddock killed himself before police entered the hotel room he was firing from, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Lombardo said.
A senior U.S. government official told Reuters that Paddock’s name was not on any database of suspected terrorists.
Lombardo said there were more than 10 rifles in the room where Paddock killed himself after checking into the hotel on Thursday.
The dead included one off-duty police officer, Lombardo said. Two on-duty officers were injured, including one who was in stable condition after surgery and one who sustained minor injuries, Lombardo said. Police warned the death toll may rise.
As sunrise approached, police were still finding people who had taken cover during the attack, Lombardo said.
“It’s going to take time for us to get through the evacuation phase,” Lombardo said.
‘Just Kept Going on’
Video of the attack showed panicked crowds fleeing as sustained rapid gunfire ripped through the area.
“People were just dropping to the ground. It just kept going on,” said Steve Smith, a 45-year-old visitor from Phoenix, Arizona, who had flown in for the concert. He said the gunfire went on for an extended period of time.
“Probably 100 shots at a time,” Smith said. “It would sound like it was reloading and then it would go again.”
Las Vegas‘s casinos, nightclubs, and shopping draw some 3.5 million visitors from around the world each year and the area was packed with visitors when the shooting broke out shortly after 10 p.m. local time (0400 GMT).
Shares of U.S. casino operators fell in early trading on Wall Street, with MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, down 4 percent. Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd, Wynn Resorts Ltd, and Las Vegas Sands Corp each fell 1 to 2 percent.
Mike McGarry, a financial adviser from Philadelphia, was at the concert when he heard hundreds of shots ring out.
“It was crazy – I laid on top of the kids. They’re 20. I’m 53. I lived a good life,” McGarry said. The back of his shirt bore footmarks, after people ran over him in the panicked crowd.
The shooting broke out on the final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest festival, a sold-out event featuring top acts such as Eric Church, Sam Hunt, and Jason Aldean.
“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean said in a statement on Instagram. “It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone.”
The suspected shooter’s brother, Eric Paddock, said the family was stunned.
“We have no idea. We’re horrified. We’re bewildered and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a brief telephone interview, his voice trembling. “We have no idea in the world.”
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the victims via a post on Twitter.
“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” said Trump, who was due to address the nation at 10:30 a.m. ET.
As with previous U.S. mass shootings, the incident sparked anger among advocates for gun control. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and gun-rights advocates staunchly defend that provision.
The rampage was reminiscent of a mass shooting at a Paris rock concert in November 2015 that killed 89 people, part of a wave of coordinated attacks by ISIS terrorists that left 130 dead.