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An FBI Evidence Response Team investigates the scene in front of the stage area. REUTERS/Mike Blake(reuters_tickers)
By Sharon Bernstein
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - The FBI on Sunday started returning thousands of purses, phones and other property left behind by concertgoers in Las Vegas fleeing the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, as the Red Cross stepped up efforts to reach those traumatized by the Oct. 1 massacre.
Investigators still lack a clear reason why Stephen Paddock, 64, unleashed a torrent of gunfire into a crowd of 22,000 at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The suspect shot himself to death before police stormed his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Casino and Resort, high above the concert venue.
"We're past the response portion of this horrible incident," Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said at a news conference. "We're moving into the recovery now."
Fifty-eight people died and nearly 500 were injured.
To honour the victims on Sunday night, marquee lights along the Las Vegas Strip will dim for 11 minutes from 10:05 until 10:16 p.m., the exact time and duration of the gunfire one week ago, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said in a statement.
Unlike so many other perpetrators of deadly mass shootings before him, Paddock left behind no suicide note, no manifesto, no recordings and no messages on social media pointing to his intent, according to police.
Paddock used a device known as a bump stock to make 12 of his rifles operate more like automatic weapons, which are outlawed in the United States. On Sunday, the powerful U.S. gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, said it would oppose an outright ban on bump-stock devices.
On Sunday, teams of counsellors fanned out across the city, attending church services and gathering at a family assistance centre set up at the Las Vegas Convention Center as the Red Cross set out to find those in need of comfort. Spiritual and legal advisers were also available.
"A week into this, a lot of people have been numb," said Red Cross spokesman Bill Fortune, who flew in from Colorado to help with the recovery effort. "Some of those emotional crises are just showing up today, where people can't get out of bed. People have called saying they can't be in crowds."
The process of returning items left behind by those who fled in the chaos could take weeks, authorities said.
So many phones, backpacks, lawn chairs and other items were left behind that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has divided the huge crime scene into four quadrants, releasing items from only one of them at a time, starting on Sunday, FBI Victims Services chief Paul Flood said.
Before release, the items had to be cleaned of blood and other substances, as well as categorized, Flood said. Property from just one quadrant of the scene filled seven delivery-sized trucks, he said, and required the attention of dozens of investigators.
Authorities began returning vehicles left at the concert grounds to their owners last week.
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Peter Cooney)