Two years and three days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a group of prosecutors from across the country gathered Friday less than 5 miles from where 58 concertgoers were killed in Las Vegas.
The coalition, known as Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, titled its one-day summit at Sahara Las Vegas “The New Norm: Mass Shootings in America.”
They heard from psychologists, victims’ advocates and Clark County’s most powerful officials — including District Attorney Steve Wolfson, Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Coroner John Fudenberg, who spoke about how their offices responded to the Oct. 1, 2017, murders.
Wolfson said he was conflicted about the fact that the gunman, Stephen Paddock, shot and killed himself. Wolfson wanted answers, a conviction and a death sentence.
“I had very mixed emotions about the fact that this mass shooter took his own life,” Wolfson said, explaining that a trial in such a case could have taken more than a year. But, he added, Paddock “got off too easy. My personal preference? I prefer that he was captured alive and prosecuted.”
The gunman had opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival from his suite at Mandalay Bay. Authorities have said he spent several days amassing an arsenal of assault-style weapons and ammunition in a two-room suite at the high-rise resort.
Paddock was a 64-year-old retired accountant and high-stakes video poker player.
Police and the FBI said he acted alone, firing out of the windows with guns equipped with rapid-fire bump stocks, then killing himself before officers reached his room. Paddock did not leave a note or a manifesto, and authorities closed investigations saying they could not identify a motive.
In a breakout session on Friday titled “Case Study: 1 October,” Lombardo pivoted from speaking about Paddock to grumbling about the pressure that media coverage adds to investigations, while acknowledging the importance of keeping the community informed.
On the media, he added: “They could be your friend, but more often than not, they’re your enemy.”
Lombardo then acknowledged the presence of reporters at Friday’s event and said: “I’m not afraid. They know me.”
Fudenberg urged the crowd to consider mental health resources for staff who regularly work with the most gruesome moments of tragedy.
“It’s something we’re lacking all over the country,” he said. “It’s something we don’t focus on.”
Before the event was closed to media, retired Metro Detective Rick Golgart shared his own story of the Las Vegas shooting.
He was at the festival with his family when shots rang out. At first, he thought: fireworks. But then a man hobbled toward him. He shouldered the man into the bed of his pickup truck and rushed to University Medical Center. On the way, he received a call informing him that his teenage daughter, Riley, had been shot. He sped back to the venue, found his daughter and drove her to Valley Hospital Medical Center.
“Two months later, she walked out,” Golgart told the prosecutors. “So I’m lucky she’s here, but she’s still got a long way to go. And so do we.”