WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump left for Las Vegas on Wednesday to visit a city shaken by the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history, a trip that will test his ability to console a shocked nation.
Trump’s trip will be the first time he has had to deal directly with the aftermath of a major mass shooting of the type that have killed hundreds of people in recent years in the United States.
“We’ll, it’s a very sad thing. We’re going to pay our respects and to see the police who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving on the trip.
“It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally.”
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retiree with no criminal record, was identified as the gunman in Sunday night’s attack, spraying bullets at an open-air concert from the window of his suite in a high-rise hotel and killing 58 people.
Paddock killed himself as police closed in, and investigators have so far said they do not know what motivated him.
Trump said “a lot more” was being learned about Paddock. “That’ll be announced at the appropriate time,” he said. On Tuesday he called Paddock sick and demented.
The Las Vegas shooting has reignited a debate in the United States about whether more gun control legislation might have prevented what happened. Investigators have revealed that despite initial speculation that the shooter used an illegal automatic weapon, it has since been released that his hotel room instead housed several legal firearm accessories called a bump stocks, which modify a semi-automatic weapon to fire more rapidly.
Trump, a Republican who firmly aligned himself with gun rights advocates during last year’s presidential campaign, was asked on Tuesday whether it was time to debate gun control measures. He responded, “Perhaps that will come. But that’s not for now.”
Trump held a moment of silence on the White House South Lawn after the Las Vegas attack and ordered flags lowered to half-staff. He has called the massacre “an act of pure evil.”
In Las Vegas, the president will meet with friends and family of the victims, offer support for the wounded and thank first responders, the White House said.
The quest by police to comprehend why Stephen Paddock, shot more than 50 people to death in Las Vegas has turned to the gunman’s girlfriend, who has flown back to the United States from the Philippines facing investigators’ questions about what she knew of his motives. He left no clear clues as to his reasons.
But law enforcement authorities were hoping to obtain some answers from the woman identified as Paddock’s live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo called a “person of interest” in the investigation.
Danley boarded a Philippine Airlines passenger jet in Manila, where she had traveled to before the shooting rampage, for a non-stop flight to Los Angeles International Airport, landing there as scheduled on Tuesday night.
A police official in Manila, the Philippines capital, and a law enforcement official in the United States, both speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Danley was being met by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in Los Angeles.
The U.S. source said Danley was not under arrest but that the FBI hoped she would consent to be interviewed voluntarily.
Investigators were examining a $100,000 wire transfer Paddock sent to an account in the Philippines that “appears to have been intended” for Danley, a senior U.S. homeland security official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The official, who has been briefed regularly on the probe but spoke on condition of anonymity, said the working assumption of investigators was that the money was intended as a form of life insurance payment for Danley.
Danley’s return to the United States is the latest development in a case which has baffled investigators for its lack of any apparent motive by the killer.