LAS VEGAS – US President Donald Trump was unwilling to discuss gun violence Wednesday during a three-hour visit to Las Vegas to meet with law enforcement officials and victims of the deadliest mass shooting in US history.
A reporter raised the issue at the University Medical Center, where the president and first lady Melania Trump spent time with doctors, nurses and patients hurt in Sunday’s massacre, which left 59 people dead and more than 500 wounded.
“Well, we’re not going to talk about that today. We won’t talk about that,” Trump said.
Asked whether officials have idea of the motive for the crime, the president replied: “Not yet, and we’re looking. I can tell you, it’s a very sick man. He was a very demented person.”
Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old Nevada resident, opened fire with automatic weapons on people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sunday night. The shooter killed himself as police burst into the hotel room.
Trump was full of praise for the staff at University Medical Staff.
“What I saw today is just an incredible tribute to professionalism, and what they have done is incredible. And you never want to see it again, that I can tell you,” he said.
“And the patients, the bravery – some were very, very badly wounded, and they were badly wounded because they refused to leave. They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over,” the president added.
“I have to tell you it makes you very proud to be an American when you see the job that they’ve done,” Trump said, surrounded by doctors.
The president said he told the victims that “we’re there for you” and invited some of them to visit the White House.
“And believe me, I’ll be there for them,” Trump said.
Looking ahead to his next stop, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Trump lauded the officers who found Paddock.
“The fact that they were able to locate that zone and get in there – they say 11 minutes – whatever it was, it kept him busy and he stopped firing because he knew they were coming into that door at some point. And I think they did an incredible job,” the president said.
At police headquarters, Trump was introduced to the officers who were first to enter Paddock’s room and asked Sheriff Joe Lombardo about the progress of the investigation before leaving for the airport to board Air Force One for the return flight to Washington.
Since the shooting, Trump and his fellow Republicans – who receive substantial electoral and financial support from the National Rifle Association – have sought to steer the conversation away from the subject of gun control.
Paddock had 17 guns, most of them military-grade rifles, in his hotel room and owned more than two-dozen firearms in all. He was also in possession of materials that can be used to make bombs.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on Wednesday that Paddock was prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine that can make users behave aggressively.
“Records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program obtained Tuesday show Paddock was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam tablets by Henderson physician Dr. Steven Winkler on June 21,” the newspaper said.
Paddock obtained the medicine, which is sold under the brand name Valium, at a Walgreens pharmacy in Reno, Nevada, on the same day it was prescribed by Winkler.
“If somebody has an underlying aggression problem and you sedate them with that drug, they can become aggressive,” Dr. Mel Pohl, chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, told the Review-Journal. “It can disinhibit an underlying emotional state. It is much like what happens when you give alcohol to some people, they become aggressive instead of going to sleep.”
FBI investigators were talking on Wednesday to Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, in the hope she could shed light on the motives for the massacre.
Danley just returned to the US from the Philippines.