2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting: One Year Later
Monday (Oct. 1, 2018) marks the one-year anniversary of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in Las Vegas, Nev. -- a tragedy that left not just the country music community, but the world as a whole, stunned and grieving.
In the days, weeks and months since 58 people died and hundreds more were injured on the final night of the three-day country music festival, tributes have been made, lawsuits have been filed and the debate over gun control in the United States rages on. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, here's how things stand.
What Happened at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival?
On the final night of the three-day 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival (Oct. 1), Jason Aldean was performing his headlining, festival-closing set when, shortly after 10PM local time, a 64-year-old gunman named Stephen Paddock opened fire on the festival grounds from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel and casino. Before killing himself, the gunman fired enough rounds of ammunition to kill 58 people; additionally, a total of 851 people were injured by the gunfire and while fleeing the scene. According to the coroner's official report on the incident, all of the victims died from at least one gunshot wound; all of the deaths were ruled homicides.
At first, Aldean shared after the fact, he thought the gunshots were an audio issue. His wife, Brittany, who was pregnant at the time, later recounted how the pair took cover "behind equipment onstage with some of our road family, bullets flying past" before fleeing elsewhere. While Aldean has admitted that having Brittany present at the shooting "definitely was scary," he also says that coping with the tragedy has brought them even closer together.
Luke Combs, Jake Owen and Chris Young were also among those who were backstage when the shooting began. Combs and Owen had performed at the festival earlier in the weekend; Young was there as a fan and friend.
Remembering the Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Victims
Why Did the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Happen?
Simply put: We don't know. In early August, authorities in Clark County, Nev., closed their investigation into the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting without determining a motive for the tragedy.
A lengthy, 181-page report, explains that police looked into Paddock's financial history and actions prior to the shooting while trying to determine a motive. They spoke with a number of people connected to him as well: his girlfriend (previously a person of interest), his ex-wife, his doctor and other relatives. A primary care physician told investigators that Paddock may have been bipolar, and that he refused anti-depressants; however, an autopsy showed that the 64-year-old was healthy, and not under the influence of drugs or other substances, nor suffering from a disease that would have caused him to react violently.
The evidence also shows that Paddock acted alone and was the only shooter (and, to date, no one else has been charged in relation to the shooting). He had no ties to radical groups or ideology; his girlfriend told investigators that he was pleased when Donald Trump was elected president but did not appear to have any racial biases or discuss gun control. Many of those interviewed, the report explains, described Paddock as a narcissist, but "[b]y all accounts, Stephen Paddock was an unremarkable man whose movements leading up to Oct. 1 didn’t raise any suspicion," says Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Additionally, investigators learned that Paddock's bank accounts dropped by about $1.5 million from September 2015 through September 2017. That loss of wealth "could have been a contributing factor," according to Lombardo. Still, Paddock did not leave behind a manifesto or note of any sort; therefore, "the totality of the information that has been gathered leaves us to only make an educated guess as to the motives of Stephen Paddock," Lombard adds.
Though investigators were unable to determine a motive for the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, they did find indication that Paddock had been planning such an event for quite some time. He purchased numerous firearms and was searching online for locations in the year leading up to the tragedy; he'd also rented hotel rooms next to the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, Ill., and the Life Is Beautiful festival, also in Las Vegas.
Although the investigation has been closed, the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit is still working on a psychopathology report on Paddock. That report is expected to be released by the end of 2018.
How Did the Country Music Community Respond to the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting?
Although the tragedy wasn't the first to occur at a country music concert, it was of a completely different magnitude than anything that had previously happened at a country show. Immediately after the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival, country music artists and fans, like the rest of the world, were in mourning. Numerous artists expressed shock and sadness on social media and in interviews; Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Eric Church, all of whom performed at the festival earlier in the weekend, shared timely songs in the days after as well.
On the business side of things, the shooting, naturally, affected some touring schedules. Aldean canceled his tour dates scheduled for Oct. 6-8 “out of respect for the victims, their families and our fans;” before he resumed his tour on Oct. 12, he made a powerful, unannounced appearance on Saturday Night Live, then went to visit victims back in Las Vegas. The Josh Abbott Band, too, canceled some shows in the wake of the tragedy; the band had played at Route 91 earlier on Sunday.
The year since the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting has included a number of memorials and tributes as well: On Oct. 2, vigils were held in Las Vegas and Nashville. A few weeks later, at the 2018 CMA Awards Carrie Underwood gave a stirring "in memoriam" performance that concluded by recognizing the 58 victims; in April, when the 2018 ACM Awards took place in Las Vegas, the show opened with a simple tribute, while many attendees wore gold pins in memory of those killed and injured.
On Sept. 21, 10 days before the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, Aldean helped remember the victims and saluted the first responders who helped out during a tribute at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. On Oct. 1 itself, country music radio stations, record labels and other organizations will observe 58 seconds of silence -- in honor of the 58 people killed during the tragedy -- at 10:05AM PT (1:05PM ET / 12:05PM CT), one year minus 12 hours from when the shooting occurred.
Country Stars React Following Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting
What's Been the Wider Reaction to the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting?
The 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting is, to date, the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States, so as the country music community grieved, so did the world.
A GoFundMe account set up in the wake of the shooting morphed into an official fund for the victims of the shooting and their families. As of March 2, more than $31.4 million had been raised by more than 90,000 donors. Distribution of the funds began on March 5, according to protocol established after receiving input from injured victims, the families of the deceased and the general public.
In Las Vegas especially, the victims have been honored in numerous ways: A makeshift memorial popped up at the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada" sign; the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden was established shortly after the shooting; and in March, the NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights retired the number 58.
From a more practical standpoint, the shooting also led Mandalay Bay to re-number its floors. The resort's Floors 31-34 were changed to Floors 56-59, in an effort to remove the association of the 32nd floor with the tragedy, according to the owner of Mandalay Bay, MGM Resorts.
Legally, What's Happened Because of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting?
Since the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, a number of lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families. One of the first, from three victims via the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, came just days after the tragedy, against Slide Fire Solutions, a leading manufacturer of bump stocks, and other unidentified bump stock makers and retailers. That lawsuit claims that the companies misled authorities about the purpose of bump stocks -- a device that allows a semi-automatic firearm to fire continuously, as a fully automatic weapon would -- and marketed the devices to gun enthusiasts, despite telling federal regulators that the device was being manufactured to help disabled gun owners.
Shortly thereafter, one of the people injured in the shooting filed suit against Mandalay Bay and its parent company, MGM Resorts International; also named in the lawsuit were Live Nation, organizers of the Route 91 Harvest Festival; Slide Fire Solutions; and the estate of the gunman. The suit alleged that Mandalay Bay was "negligent or grossly negligent" because the hotel's employees failed to notice and report Paddock's actions in the days leading up to the shooting; the lawsuit also claims that Live Nation did not have an adequate exit strategy and did not train staff in case of an emergency.
In late November, more than 450 victims of the attack filed lawsuits against festival promoter LiveNation and Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, alleging that the hotel and LiveNation could have done more to prevent the shooting and did not respond quickly enough when a security guard was shot before the attack. According to the Los Angeles Times, these lawsuits were made in addition to more than a dozen others filed by victims previously.
Then, in July, MGM Resorts International, the parent company of Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and the Route 91 Harvest Festival grounds, filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims of the Oct. 1 shooting, arguing that the company cannot be held liable for deaths, injuries or other damages that resulted from the tragedy. The lawsuits state that all claims made against Mandalay Bay, the Route 91 venue or its other holdings "must be dismissed," citing a 2002 federal act that offers liability protection to companies that use technology and/or services meant to combat terrorism and other types of "mass violence."
“The Federal Court is an appropriate venue for these cases and provides those affected with the opportunity for a timely resolution," says Debra DeShong, a spokesperson for MGM Resorts International. "Years of drawn out litigation and hearings are not in the best interest of victims, the community and those still healing.”
How Has the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting Affected the Gun Control Debate?
Although the country music community historically leans conservative, the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting prompted a few artists on both sides of the aisle to speak out about gun control. While Aaron Lewis expressed a belief that more regulation is the way to stop mass shootings, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill spoke out in favor of further rules: "Military weapons should not be in the hands of civilians," Hill said in November.
Rosanne Cash sparked a debate on Facebook when she encouraged followers to sign a petition to ban assault weapons, then condemned country music's connection to the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an op-ed for the New York Times. Eric Church, too, chastised the NRA in a July interview; though Church is a gun owner himself, he argues that automatic and semi-automatic weapons fall outside the parameters of what the Second Amendment's freedoms allow.
In March, an NRA website redesign did away with a former list of country artists associated with the organization.
More widely, too, the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting reignited the gun control debate, specifically related to automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and bump stocks. While The Hill reports that President Donald Trump expressed a willingness to consider a ban on bump stocks in the days after the tragedy, it took another shooting -- this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, during which a student killed 17 people -- for him to act. On Feb. 20, Trump officially directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to create legislation banning bump stocks; he had previously ordered the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review bump stocks.
The Hill reports that the Bureau proposed a rule to classify bump stocks as machine guns for regulatory purposes; should the rule take effect, it would ban future sales of bump stocks and require anyone who currently owns them to surrender or destroy them. As of June, the Bureau had stopped accepting public comments on the proposal.
Will the Route 91 Harvest Festival Continue?
The Route 91 Harvest Festival began in Las Vegas in 2014, making the 2017 event the fourth annual festival. After the shooting, festival organizer Live Nation issued a statement condemning the violence that took place and vowing to support the victims and their families; the festival's official website and official social media channels were changed to another official statement as well:
On behalf of the entire Route 91 Harvest Family, we are completely devastated by the event that occurred on October 1st. Our deepest sympathies go out to the injured and the deceased and their loved ones. Senseless violence has claimed the souls of our fans, and we have little in the way of answers. Our eternal gratitude goes out to the LVMPD, emergency services, security guards and fans, for their selfless acts of bravery while trying to help those in need. While we will try and move forward, we will never forget this day. We will NOT let hate win over LOVE. We will NOT be defeated by senseless violence. We WILL persevere and honor the souls that were lost.
To date, the Route 91 Harvest Festival's website and social media accounts remain blank, except for that statement. A representative for Live Nation tells The Boot that the company has no further comment at this time.
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