News Brief: Las Vegas Shooting, Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief

Oct 2, 2017
Originally published on October 2, 2017 12:44 pm
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All of our attention this morning is on Las Vegas, where there was a shooting at a country music concert last night. At least 20 people have reportedly been killed.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, video taken by concertgoers shows the developing scene. A band is onstage. The music is playing - thousands of people having a good time. And, suddenly, there's the steady rattle of what sounds like automatic weapons fire. Half a minute later, another burst, as people begin to flee. One person in the crowd was Mia Uribe (ph).

MIA URIBE: It kind of sounded like firecrackers. No one thought - there's cops everywhere. It'll probably just be handled. But then Jason Aldean - like, all the lights turned off. He was ducked away. Everyone rushed him off the stage. And then people started running. And then shots came out of nowhere.

INSKEEP: It all happened beneath the brightly lit facade of Mandalay Bay, a Las Vegas landmark. Uribe says she saw flashes of light from one of the hotel towers. And we've now been told by the sheriff, Joe Lombardo, that the gunman was inside that hotel.

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JOE LOMBARDO: Please bear with us. This is an ongoing investigation. But we are comfortable that the primary aggressor in this event has expired or passed away.

INSKEEP: And this is a good moment to note it's a developing story. Whatever we think is a fact may well change in the hours and days ahead. But as we're talking, anyway, about 20 people are known dead and many others injured.

GREENE: And let's see what more we know at this point. NPR's Leila Fadel is on the line from Las Vegas. Leila, anything more right now about who carried this attack out and fired the shots?

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Well, at this point, we don't know the name of the attacker. But he is a Las Vegas local resident. Sheriff Joe Lombardo says that more than 20 people are dead, more than a hundred injured - some of them off-duty police officers believed dead, one policeman critically injured, another also injured in the hospital. They found the shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, took him down. They are looking for a companion to that shooter, a woman named Marilou Danley, an Asian female, they say. And they're looking for her. They want to ask her some questions.

GREENE: OK. But at this point, they say the person they think was the primary suspect here has been killed. They're looking for someone who might have been involved somehow, which we don't know at this point.

FADEL: Right. We don't know anything else. They did say the shooter seemed to act as a lone wolf, that it's an active investigation, that they don't suspect terrorism and that reports we were hearing of shootings at different hotels on the strip or explosives have all proven to be false. So they say they believe - the sheriff said that they believe they've contained that situation. But the investigation is ongoing. The shooter is a local resident, Las Vegas resident. But we don't know much more about the person that carried out the shooting today.

GREENE: These videos - I mean, they just look like scenes of absolute fear and chaos as people were hearing this - I mean, these just rounds of gunfire - and running anywhere they could.

FADEL: Yes. I mean, it was absolutely terrifying for people. This is an outdoor concert. People were enjoying themselves. This is the strip where people are out drinking. And even lots of people didn't even realize what was going on that weren't in the direct vicinity. So it was a terrifying scene tonight for a lot of people trying to enjoy themselves in Las Vegas.

INSKEEP: And adds to a astonishing, remarkable, horrifying string of mass shootings in different locations across the United States in recent years.

GREENE: Yeah, it sure does. NPR's Leila Fadel will be bringing us much more from Las Vegas. Leila, thanks.

FADEL: Thank you.

GREENE: OK we're going to turn now to Puerto Rico. I mean, the devastation there - it just continues days and days after this hurricane.

INSKEEP: Yeah, we've been hearing about this for days. It's been a dozen days since Hurricane Maria made landfall. I just want to give you one little detail that gives a sense of the desperation that some people feel. And it's a sign - a handmade sign - that people have hung over the freeway outside a neighborhood called Playita in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And it simply says, necesita agua y comida. We need water and food - SOS - one of many cries for help that people are still expressing. And a resident of that neighborhood says, we feel like we're running out of time.

GREENE: Oh, it's just amazing. And NPR's John Burnett is there. He's actually been spending time with FEMA as they have been attempting to get water, food, supplies to people in need. Hi there, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: So how are people holding up on the island?

BURNETT: Well, as Steve said, on the 12th day after Maria hit, without power, without cell service, without enough fuel, without regular store hours, people are getting really tired of this urban camping. But they're also amazingly patient. I mean, it's warm here in the afternoons. And so everybody's hanging out on the balcony on the front stoop. Kids don't have internet or cell phones. And you see them out riding their bikes in the streets and playing with each other. So, you know, people are trying to make it through this historically difficult time.

GREENE: You say urban camping. I mean, that paints such an image. It really feels like it might capture what you're seeing.

BURNETT: Right. It's just - you're living without everything. And this is a very modern island. And they have all the comforts that that we do. And so, as U.S. citizens - and so it's really tough.

GREENE: And you spent yesterday with FEMA. I mean, that's the big question. How are they responding? Are they getting this island what people need or are at least starting to? What did you learn?

BURNETT: Well, FEMA has a really challenging job here. In natural disasters in the States and, you know, most recently, hurricanes Harvey and Irma, communication can be a problem, you know, for a while before they get people cell phones or get the towers back up. But in Puerto Rico, it's composed of 78 different municipalities. These are the, like, little political fiefdoms. And the vast majority of these mayors have been totally out of communication.

So how do you know what's going on in Florida or Guayama our Utuado? You don't. I talked to John Rabin. He's the acting administrator in charge of FEMA Region II, which encompasses New York, New Jersey and the U.S. territories in the Caribbean. And he has been frustrated about the response so far. Here's what he says.

JOHN RABIN: We all join the government to help people. So, of course, no one's happy when people are dying. And no one's happy when response doesn't go as quickly as we would like it to be.

BURNETT: But I can tell you, David, things are definitely starting to pick up and move now, as John Rabin told me.

GREENE: And then we have President Trump, who is scheduled to visit the island tomorrow to, I guess, see this firsthand. What do we expect the response to be to his visit?

BURNETT: Well, I think some people will be angry that he's gotten into a feud with the San Juan mayor at this incredibly difficult time for the city. They won't appreciate his overconfident tweets that, quote, "we have it under really great control in Puerto Rico." And I think they'd like for the president to see that no one has the situation, quote, "under really great control." And this island is still staggering and very much in a humanitarian crisis.

GREENE: All right. NPR's John Burnett speaking to us from Puerto Rico. Thanks, John.

BURNETT: You bet.

GREENE: And I guess, Steve, we should talk about what President Trump's response was to everything happening in Puerto Rico from his golf resort over the weekend, right?

INSKEEP: Yeah, absolutely. He was at his golf resort. He's on Twitter, criticizing the mayor of San Juan, who had criticized his response to the hurricane. Now, the president faced on social media over the weekend an awful lot of denunciation for being at a golf resort during this emergency situation, which would seem a little unfair. I mean, the president can take a vacation. It would seem unfair except that, of course, before he was president, Trump himself constantly criticized the president for playing golf. He did over the weekend dedicate a golf tournament trophy to recent hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to just remember them. And we're going to dedicate this trophy to all of those people that went through so much - that we love. A part of our great state - really, a part of our great nation.

GREENE: All right. NPR's Scott Detrow is with us. Scott, talk about the optics here. You're on a golf resort. You're criticizing the mayor of San Juan when the island's coming back. I mean, fair, unfair, obviously, can be debated. But this is an optics thing that the president needs to deal with.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Yeah. I mean, we just heard about the massive challenges that remain in Puerto Rico, the amount of people without food, without water, without basic modern-life necessities. But yet again, this has become a story about a political fight between President Trump and someone else. In this case, it was the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz. She had criticized the federal response, saying it's not enough, that people are in danger of dying.

So over the weekend, President Trump lashed out at this on Twitter, decrying fake news. He said Cruz's response was nasty. That's the term he used. And he also said people on the island, quote, "want everything to be done for them." He later talked about politically motivated ingrates. Some very charged language. Trump often responds to criticism. But a lot of the response to this is, this is not a time to pick fights. It's a time for everybody to work to rescue people.

GREENE: Well, and what a moment now because as he gets ready to go to Puerto Rico, we're now dealing with all of this news from Las Vegas. At least 20 people dead. And, obviously, the president's going to have to weigh in here in some way.

DETROW: That's right. And that's a big question as to how President Trump will weigh in. After the shooting on congressmen in June, he spoke in broad, calm, unifying tunes - tones after that shooting. But that has not been the norm in these situations. We can recall his divisive response to Charlottesville. And during last year's campaign and now he often gets on Twitter and says things that local emergency responders and law enforcement have to walk back and say, that's not actually the case. We don't know that yet. So that's where a lot of people are curious as to how he'll respond.

INSKEEP: Strikingly different tone on Facebook, actually, from a Homeland Security spokesman over the weekend, who wrote about the U.S. military response and the Homeland Security response. And he simply said - he was trying to defend that response. He simply said, we've sent thousands of people. We're making an effort - but also acknowledged that much, much more needs to be done. Completely different tone from the president of the United States.

GREENE: OK. Waiting following the situation in Puerto Rico - also Las Vegas, the president's response and all of that news. NPR's Scott Detrow with us in the studio. Thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Thank you.

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