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A fire alarm from gun smoke led police to the Las Vegas shooter’s room, retired officer says

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

October 2, 2017 at 10:51 AM

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At least 58 people are dead and hundreds are injured after a gunman opened fire at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. Here's what you need to know about the shooting. (Elyse Samuels, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

It wasn’t the hundreds of muzzle flashes that exploded from the shooter’s rifles that gave away his position.

Nor was it the panicked 911 calls from people reporting the rhythmic thundering of gunfire.

It was the smoke.

As the gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, fired round after round, gun smoke filled his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, said Randy Sutton, a retired lieutenant with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, citing police sources.

The SWAT team used the alarm triggered by the smoke to zero in on Paddock’s position in about 20 minutes — not nearly enough time for a floor-by-floor search of the hotel, which has 3,309 rooms and a 135,000-square-foot casino.

After they located his room, the SWAT team members used explosives to get inside, the sheriff’s office said. Paddock, 64, killed himself before the officers entered, according to Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

Related: [How the Las Vegas Strip shooting unfolded]

Paddock had already killed 50 people and injured more than 400 at the Route 91 Harvest festival, where 22,000 country music lovers had gathered.

It has been deemed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Paddock’s room had a bird’s-eye view of the concert grounds.

“He rained down hell on those people,” Sutton told The Washington Post. “Hundreds of rounds. The sheriff said that there were several firearms found in the room. He was extremely well armed. He must have brought plenty more ammunition, already loaded into magazines.”

Police think Paddock had been staying at the Mandalay Bay hotel since Thursday, concealing a cache of weapons.

It does not take long for the smoke from a fired round to fill a room, especially a small one without any ventilation.

There was an intense police presence along the Las Vegas Strip near the site of the shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas. (John Locher/Associated Press)

“Each shot fired releases a small quantity of harmful dust and gases,” according to guidelines from the National Air Filtration Association.

Gases and particulates can build up even in firing ranges where there is appropriate ventilation, sparking concerns that officers could be sickened during training.

This post has been updated.

Read more:

Route 91 Harvest Festival: The Las Vegas ‘sleepover’ that ended in a nightmare

How far-right trolls named the wrong man as the Las Vegas shooter

Las Vegas gunman enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before massacre

How a Domino’s pizza crust led police to a suspect in mysterious D.C. slayings

After shootings, police fear being ‘a public target’ — even at lunch

Police officers advise people to take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A police officer takes cover behind a truck at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01 People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People scramble for shelter at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A man in a wheelchair is taken away from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A person takes cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01 People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run for cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains graphic content.) People carry a peson at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
A police officer takes cover behind a police vehicle during a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People take cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
People assist a wounded woman at the Tropicana during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Stirp in Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
A wounded woman is moved outside the Tropicana during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Las Vegas police stand guard along the streets outside the the Route 91 Harvest country music festival grounds after a active shooter was reported on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
A pair of cowboy boots is shown in the street outside the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers stand near an ambulance as medical personnel treat a person in the parking lot of the Hooters Casino Hotel after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
An ambulance leaves the concert venue after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 1, 2017. REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Police run to cover at the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People are searched by Las Vegas police at the Tropicana Las Vegas during an active shooter situation on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02: Police and rescue personnel gather at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave. after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 2 people dead. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a shooting outside of a music festival along the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02: Police officers stop a man who drove down Tropicana Ave. near Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave, which had been closed after a mass shooting at a country music festival that left at least 2 people dead nearby on October 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The man was released. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Photo Gallery: A man in a high-rise hotel opened fire on concertgoers on the Las Vegas Strip late Sunday, killing at least 50 people and injuring more than 200.

Cleve Wootson is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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