Las Vegas shooting: Gun dealer says, 'my gut fell out from underneath me'

St. George gun shop owner Chris Michel said he sold a gun earlier this year to Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old Mesquite resident believed to have been the gunman in a mass shooting late Sunday that left more than 50 people dead. David DeMille/The Spectru

ST. GEORGE, Utah — Waking up to read that one of his former customers had opened fire on a crowd and killed nearly 60 people at a Las Vegas concert, St. George gun shop owner Chris Michel said he had an awful feeling.

"My gut fell out from underneath me," he said. "I mean, it was the worst thing I could ever imagine."

Michel, who owns Dixie GunWorx, said he recognized Stephen Paddock, the apparent shooter, immediately, recalling how he'd sold the man a shotgun earlier this year.

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It became clear that Paddock had not used a shotgun, having fired into the crowd from several hundred yards away, but Michel said he was still overwhelmed by sadness for the victims, their friends and family.

Like several others interviewed Monday who had interacted with Paddock, Michel said he noticed nothing unusual about the man.

"He was a normal, average 'Joe Blow' kind of guy," Michel said. "There was nothing special that happened. He came in a couple of different times, we dealt with him as a normal customer."

Paddock, 64, was found dead by police on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, where he had minutes before opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 people crowded into a parking lot for a country music festival. Authorities reported finding 10 rifles in the room.

As of late Monday, 59 people were confirmed dead and authorities were reporting more than 500 wounded.

Firearms experts suggest Paddock may have been using easily-accessible modification equipment so he could fire semi-automatic weapons at a faster clip. He may also have been using fully automatic weapons illegally. Authorities had not released information on the specific weapons found inside the hotel room.

Paddock is believed to have purchased a number of weapons at Cabela’s in Verdi, Nev., a federal law enforcement official said late Monday.

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The official who is not authorized to comment publicly said that a number of big box gun dealers, including Cabela’s, have voluntarily contacted law enforcement authorities to provide information about the shooter’s gun purchases.

Nevada gun laws don't require buyers to get a permit to buy or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun, according to the National Rifle Association, and firearms can be carrying openly in the public.

Nevadans can also purchase machine guns or silencers, banned in some other states, as long as they're legally registered and within federal compliance.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY. Follow David DeMille on Twitter: @SpectrumDeMille

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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