By SALLY HO
LAS VEGAS (AP) - The rapid-fire popping sounded like firecrackers at first, and many in the crowd of 22,000 country music fans didn't understand what was happening when the band stopped playing and singer Jason Aldean hustled off stage.
"That's gunshots," a man could be heard saying emphatically on a cellphone video in the nearly half-minute of silence and confusion that followed. A woman pleaded with others: "Get down! Get down! Stay down!"
Then the pop-pop-pop noise resumed. And pure terror set in.
"People start screaming and yelling and we start running," said Andrew Akiyoshi, who provided the cellphone video to The Associated Press. "You could feel the panic. You could feel like the bullets were flying above us. Everybody's ducking down, running low to the ground."
While some concertgoers hit the ground Sunday night, others pushed for the crowded exits, shoving through narrow gates and climbing over fences as 40- to 50-round bursts of automatic weapons fire rained down on them from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel.
By Monday afternoon, 59 victims were dead and 527 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
"You just didn't know what to do," Akiyoshi said. "Your heart is racing and you're thinking, 'I'm going to die.'"
The gunman, identified as Stephen Craig Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant from Mesquite, Nevada, killed himself before officers stormed Room 135 in the gold-colored glass skyscraper.
The avid gambler who according to his brother made a small fortune investing in real estate had been staying there since Thursday and had busted out windows to create his sniper's perch roughly 500 yards from the concert grounds.
The motive for the attack remained a mystery, with Sheriff Joseph Lombardo saying: "I can't get into the mind of a psychopath at this point."
Paddock had 16 rifles - some of them with scopes - and a handgun in his hotel room, Lombardo said. Two were modified to make them fully automatic, according to two U.S. officials briefed by law enforcement who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still unfolding.
At Paddock's home, authorities found 18 more guns, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Also, several pounds of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be turned into explosives such as those used in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, were in his car, the sheriff said.
An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling for the last name of witness Kodiak Yazzie. This story has been corrected to reflect that the officer in critical condition was on duty at the time of the shooting.