A veteran Marine put his quick wit, brave heart, and combat training to use Sunday night and used a stolen truck to rush dozens of critically wounded victims to a hospital in the wake of the deadly Las Vegas shooting massacre.
Taylor Winston attended the country music concert with his friends and girlfriend Jenn Lewis, CBS reported. He was dancing with Lewis near the stage when the first shots rang out.
“People started scattering and screaming and that’s when we knew something real was happening,” Winston said.
Winston, 29, joined the U.S. Marine Corps when he was 17 and served two tour in Iraq. He described the scene of the massacre as a “mini war zone.”
“The shots got louder and louder, closer to us and saw people getting hit, it was like we could be hit at any second. Once we got to the fence, I helped throw a bunch of people over, and got myself over,” Winston said. “It was a mini war zone but we couldn’t fight back.”
Winston was honorably discharged from the Marines as a sergeant in 2011. But the training stayed with him, so the escape turned into a rescue mission.
“I saw a field with a bunch of white trucks. I tested my luck to see if any of them had keys in it, first one we tried opening had keys sitting right there. I started looking for people to take to the hospital,” Winston said. “There was just too many and it was overwhelming how much blood was everywhere.”
When they dropped the victims off, Winston decided to go back for round two right away.
“I transported probably 20 to 30 people injured to the hospital,” he said. “I think a lot of my training in the military helped me in the situation. We needed to get them out of there regardless of our safety.”
Winston refused to be labeled a hero, saying that he saw bravery and selflessness all around during the brutal night.
“There was a lot of bravery and courageous people out there,” he said. “I’m glad that I could call them my country folk.”
Winston returned the car keys to the owner on Monday night. He doesn’t know how many of the wounded people he transported survived, but feels his choice made a difference.
Police sought clues on Tuesday to explain why Paddock, a retiree who enjoyed gambling but had no criminal record, set up a vantage point in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and sprayed bullets onto the concert below in what became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Paddock left no immediate hint of his motive. He was not known to have served in the military, to have suffered from a history of mental illness, or to have registered any inkling of social disaffection, political discontent, or radical views on social media.
“He was a sick man, a demented man,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters. “Lot of problems, I guess, and we’re looking into him very, very seriously, but we’re dealing with a very, very sick individual.”
U.S. officials also discounted a claim of responsibility by the ISIS terrorist group.
Police said they believed Paddock acted alone.
“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters on Monday. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”
Although police said they had no other suspects, Lombardo said investigators wanted to talk with Paddock’s girlfriend and live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who he said was traveling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.
Lombardo also said detectives were “aware of other individuals” who were involved in the sale of the weapons Paddock had acquired.
The closest Paddock ever appeared to have had a brush with the law was for a traffic infraction, authorities said.
The death toll, which officials said could rise, surpassed last year’s record massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a gunman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
Paddock seemed atypical of the overtly troubled, angry young men who experts said have come to embody the profile of most mass shooters.
Public records on Paddock point to an itinerant existence across the U.S. West and Southeast, including stints as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker. But Paddock appeared to be settling in to a quiet life when he bought a home in a Nevada retirement community a few years ago, about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas and the casinos he enjoyed.
His brother, Eric, described Stephen Paddock as financially well-off and an enthusiast of video poker games and cruises.
“We’re bewildered, and our condolences go out to the victims,” Eric Paddock said in a telephone interview from Orlando, Florida. “We have no idea in the world.”
Las Vegas’s casinos, nightclubs, and shopping draw more than 40 million visitors from around the world each year. The Las Vegas Strip was packed with visitors when the shooting started shortly after 10 p.m. local time on Sunday, Oct. 1, during the Route 91 Harvest music festival.
The gunfire erupted as country music star Jason Aldean was performing. He ran off stage as the shooting progressed.
Video of the attack showed throngs of people screaming in horror and cowering on the open ground as extended bursts of gunfire strafed the crowd from above, from a distance police estimated at more than 500 yards.
The bloodshed ended after police swarming the hotel closed in on the gunman, who shot and wounded a hotel security officer through the door of his two-room suite and then killed himself before police entered, authorities said.
Lombardo said a search of the suspect’s car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer compound that can be formed into explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people.
They also obtained a warrant to search a second house connected to Paddock in Reno, Nevada.
Chris Sullivan, the owner of the Guns & Guitars shop in Mesquite, issued a statement confirming that Paddock was a customer who cleared “all necessary background checks and procedures,” and said his business was cooperating with investigators.
“He never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time,” Sullivan said. He did not say how many or the kinds of weapons Paddock purchased there.
Lombardo said investigators knew that a gun dealer had come forward to say that he had sold weapons to the suspect, but it was not clear if he was referring to Sullivan. He said police were aware of “some other individuals who were engaged in those transactions,” including at least one in Arizona.
Reuters contributed to this report.