LAS VEGAS (TNS) — In a visit to victims and police in Las Vegas on Wednesday, President Donald Trump praised the first responders who rushed into action during the deadly shooting spree that claimed 59 lives, and he told family members of the victims, "You are not alone, we will never leave your side."
The remark came at a news conference in Las Vegas where Trump and first lady Melania Trump were flanked by local law enforcement officials and dignitaries including Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
"We're hurt. We're hurt badly. But we're not broken," Sandoval said at the televised news conference. "The future's going to come one day at a time. We must be glad. We must be good. We must be brave. And we must have faith."
In an earlier public appearance at a local hospital that had treated more than 100 victims from Sunday's attack, Trump characterized the gunman as a "very sick man, he was a very demented person." Investigators are still trying to find a motive, he said. "You will know very soon if we find something, we're looking very, very hard."
The girlfriend of the gunman behind the massacre in Las Vegas was met by federal agents when she arrived in the United States on a late-night flight, and investigators were to interview her Wednesday in the hope that she can shed light on an attack whose motivation is still a mystery to law enforcement authorities.
Officials have not found any clues "that would indicate the shooter's ideology or motivation or really what compelled him to get there," FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CNBC in a televised interview Wednesday morning.
Regarding the motive of gunman Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., "anything is possible, at this point we just don't know," McCabe said. "This is an individual who was not on our radar, or anyone's radar, prior to this event."
Meanwhile, a federal source told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that although Paddock first began buying guns two decades ago, the majority of the 47 he owned had been purchased since October 2016.
Paddock brought at least 23 weapons, mostly rifles, to the Mandalay Bay hotel room from which he opened fire on a country music concert across the street Sunday night, an attack that left 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, officials said.
Twelve of the guns were modified with "bump-fire" stocks, which are legal accessories that allow guns to fire at nearly fully automatic speed, officials said.
Little is known about Paddock's relationship with Marilou Danley, who had lived with him but was outside the U.S. at the time of the attack.
Danley's sisters told Australia-based news outlet Channel 7 that Paddock had "sent her away" before the attack.
"She didn't even know that she was going to the Philippines until Steve said, 'Marilou, I found you a cheap ticket to the Philippines,'" said one sister, whose name and face were concealed by the news outlet.
Another sister, whose identity was also concealed, said: "I know that she don't know anything. ... He sent her away so that he can plan what he is planning without interruptions. In that sense, I thank him for sparing my sister's life, but that won't (compensate for) 59 people's lives."
Danley arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday night on a flight from the Philippines, where she held an account that received significant bank transfers from Paddock over the last week, according to a federal law enforcement source not authorized to speak publicly about the details of the investigation.
The pair were not well known by their neighbors in Reno and Mesquite, where they had homes, and Paddock had a history of berating his girlfriend publicly "a lot," according to baristas at the Starbucks inside the Virgin River Casino in Mesquite, where the couple were frequent customers.
"He would glare down at her and say — with a mean attitude — 'You don't need my casino card for this. I'm paying for your drink, just like I'm paying for you,'" said Esperanza Mendoza, supervisor of the Starbucks. "Then she would softly say, 'OK,' and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us."
The president and first lady arrived at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas shortly after 9:30 a.m. and were greeted by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and other dignitaries.
At a memorial site outside the airport before Trump arrived, Mekhaly Rassavong, 50, said she was worried about the president's visit. She said Trump's abrasive tweets in the past — and the comments he made downplaying Hurricane Maria while visiting Puerto Rico — made her think he may fail to show genuine compassion for Las Vegas.
Puerto Rico "lost 16 people and he's saying their losses aren't as bad as (Hurricane) Katrina and that they're messing with the (U.S.) budget," she said, shaking her head. "If he's not genuinely going to show compassion here, it's almost like you shouldn't be here because it's just going to make people more upset."
Mark Rumpeler, 58, a reverend who impersonates singer Elvis Presley, disagreed.
"He's going to salute the first responders and Americans who helped, as he should," he said.
Rumpeler said he's happy that the president is visiting, because it takes someone of Trump's caliber to address what has happened in the city.
"He represents all Americans, whether you voted for him or not," he said. "I think he will strengthen America and remind us to keep rowing our boat in one direction."