Editor’s Note: At end of this story, see statement from Mark Freedman, executive director of Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
(JTA) — At least 58 people are dead and more than 500 wounded in Las Vegas in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The attack took place at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Strip late Sunday night.
The gunman has been identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, who apparently killed himself in a standoff with police. Paddock reportedly shot at the crowd with automatic weapons from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay at around 10 p.m. while singer Jason Aldean was performing. Police said at least 10 firearms were found in the hotel room. Aldean was the final performer of the night and of the festival.
Some 22,000 people were at the venue at the time of the shooting, though not all were at the concert. Among the dead and injured are police officers.
President Donald Trump in a nationally televised news conference called the attack “an act of pure evil.” He offered his and wife Melania’s condolences to the families of the victims of the attack and prayers for the recovery of the injured.
Trump said the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are working with local officials to investigate the attack. The president said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday to meet with investigators, first responders and families of the victims.
Twelve Israelis are unaccounted for and considered missing in the wake of the attack, Israel’s Foreign Ministry told the nation’s Channel 2.
Emmanuel Nachshon, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a tweet sent “love and solidarity from Jerusalem.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement of solidarity with Americans.
“On this terrible day, the people of Israel stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people in mourning and sorrow. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families and we wish a speedy recovery to the wounded. We grieve with you.”
An FBI official at a media briefing in Las Vegas said the investigation has determined there was no connection between the shooter and any international terrorist group but the probe would continue.
The Jewish mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, in a tweet asked her followers to “Pray for Las Vegas.” She also thanked the first responders.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo in a news conference said that Paddock was a “local individual” and police were assessing whether the shooting was an act of terrorism. Several news outlets later identified Paddock as being from Mesquite, Nevada, about 80 miles from Las Vegas, along Nevada’s border with Arizona.
Paddock reportedly was not known to police, was not a veteran of the military and lived in a retirement community.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in the wake of the attack called for gun control legislation.
“This latest mass shooting cannot be termed a random act of violence,” he said in a statement. “Even before all the facts are known we know this: rather than revere gun rights our country must finally revere human life.”
“We mourn those callously slaughtered in Las Vegas and pray for the wounded. But our prayers must be followed by action, long overdue limits to the easy access to fire arms.”
There are over 70,000 Jews and at least 19 synagogues located in Las Vegas, according to the JewishVegas.com website.
From Your Federation:
I woke up early this morning to compose my monthly message in the hope of telling you about the wonderful programs we have coming up at the Jewish Federation and a few others being offered by our community partners during this month of October.
Then comes the absolutely horrific news of the mass murder in Las Vegas last night.
Once again, our hearts are broken.
Once again, we are numbed by the ferocity of the violence.
Once again, we are deeply shocked by the magnitude of the carnage.
Once again, we find ourselves offering our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed who at this time number more than 50.
Once again, our thoughts and prayers for healing go out to the hundreds of individuals who have been injured.
Once again, we express our thanks to law enforcement and the first responders in Las Vegas who risked their own lives to save so many others in the wake of tragedy and danger.
Once again, we wonder, how many more times we will have to utter, “once again?”
Mark S. Freedman, Executive Director