Stephen Paddock's position in Mandalay Bay room amplified massacre

The massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday was especially deadly because the shooter positioned himself high above the crowd he was targeting, according to an NBC News law enforcement expert.

The gunman's spot on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino gave him an unobstructed and protected view of thousands at the Route 91 Harvest festival at the Las Vegas Village, and was effectively a sniper's perch, according to MSBNC law enforcement analyst Jim Cavanaugh.

“Shooting from such an elevated position into such a dense crowd, one would expect this carnage,” he said.

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LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A man lays on top of a woman as others flee the Route 91 Harvest country music festival grounds after a active shooter was reported on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 2 people dead. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02: A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People run for cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01:  A person lies on the ground covered with blood at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01:  A person lies on the ground at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: (People carry a peson at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: People take cover at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 01: A man in a wheelchair is taken away from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was heard on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. There are reports of an active shooter around the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
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At least 58 people were killed when Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire into a crowd of approximately 22,000 at the outdoor festival, police said. More than 500 people were wounded, they added.

Authorities believe Paddock killed himself before police entered his room.

In the aftermath of the mass shooting, local police told reporters the suspect shot multiple rounds virtually uninterrupted.

Witnesses said they heard shots that appeared to be firecrackers, followed by what sounded like a machine gun. The intense gunfire caused many people to drop to the ground and scramble for cover amid chaos and confusion about where the shots were coming from.

“It sounded like it was coming from the sky above,” Megan Kearney, who managed to escape the scene with her two sisters, told MSNBC.

While still isn't known what kind of weapon Paddock used, officials said more than 17 weapons were recovered from his hotel room.

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What we know about Las Vegas shooting suspect Stephen Paddock
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Stephen Paddock, 64, allegedly opened fire from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, leaving at least 59 people dead and hundreds injured.

(Social media/Handout via REUTERS)

He reportedly used a hammer-like tool to break out two windows at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Stephen Paddock was reportedly a high-stakes gambler that lived in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada.

(REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus)

His father was Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, a bank robber and former FBI Most Wanted Fugitive.

(FBI/Handout via REUTERS)

Paddock killed himself before authorities breached his hotel room and investigators say he acted alone.

(REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus)

Paddock's girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was in the Philippines at the time of the shooting but he reportedly used her identification to check in at the Mandalay Bay hotel.

(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/Handout via REUTERS)

Stephen Paddock lived in this home in Melbourne, Florida from 2013 to 2015.

(Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Police said Paddock had no criminal record.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

NBC News reported that Paddock made several large gambling transactions in recent weeks, but that it wasn't clear if they were wins or losses.

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Paddock reportedly purchased firearms at  Guns & Guitars, a gun shop in Mesquite, Nevada. 

(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

Paddock's brother, Eric, said his sibling belonged to no political or religious organizations, and had no history of mental illness.

 (Photo by Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Paddock's brother described him as a "wealthy guy" and said he liked to play video poker and go on cruises.

(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

He worked as an accountant and had real estate investments, according to the Washington Post. 

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Paddock had his pilot license and owned at least one plane, according to Reuters.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
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Cavanaugh said that it was likely a submachine gun fired from a position very high up in the hotel, which allowed the attacker to "rain down death," he said. A submachine gun is a handheld, magazine-fed weapon that fires more than one bullet with a single pull of the trigger.

Submachine guns previously had to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), but since 1986, a federal law prohibits their sale or transfer to civilians. They are available on the black market, however.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who also oversees the Las Vegas police, later characterized ammunition recovered from the scene as .308 caliber to .223 caliber. Such rounds are used in larger weapons — .223-caliber rounds typically are associated with AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles, while .308-caliber rounds typically are associated with big-game hunting rifles.

On the state level, Nevada has fairly lax gun laws. No state permit is required to purchase or possess a rifle, shotgun or handgun. There is no gun registration, and state law doesn’t prohibit the open carrying of a firearm.

As to the people running for their lives on the ground, there was not much they could do to protect themselves in an open field.

“They did what they could and ran to any cover or concealment,” Cavanaugh said.

Bill Bratton, former New York City Police Commissioner, told MSNBC the fact that the gunman fired his rounds from the hotel indicates a degree of planning.

“Getting a room that would be facing the venue, if that in fact was to be his target; the weaponry quite obviously was capable of traversing the distance of what has been described as about 300 yards, which would indicate a military-style weapon," he said.

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