The Las Vegas mass gun massacre that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured was “in many ways, a miracle,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday morning.
Trump pinned that assessment on the local law enforcement officers who located the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, and eventually entered his 32nd-floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino — but only after he had orchestrated the carnage on concertgoers and then apparently killed himself.
“What happened in Las Vegas is, in many ways, a miracle. The police department has done such an incredible job,” the president told reporters. “But I do have to say how quickly the police department was able to get in was, really, very much of a miracle. They’ve done an amazing job.”
Trump’s praise for local police came as he left the White House en route to Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage and meet with local officials and storm victims.
From the time of the first 911 calls until Paddock was discovered dead inside the room, more than an hour (72 minutes) of chaos had passed, according to reports and law enforcement officials’ accounts.
Shooting survivors have credited law enforcement officials with helping guide them to safety even as Paddock flooded the concert venue with automatic rifle rounds.
Watch Trump’s Full Remarks After the Las Vegas Shooting
Notably, the president on Tuesday did not rule out considering stiffer gun laws — but at some point down the road: “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
Just how the retired accountant-turned-professional gambler either obtained those weapons or rigged semi-automatic ones to fire constantly is under investigation. Also undergoing scrutiny, Trump said, is America’s latest mass murderer.
“He was a sick man, a demented man. Lot of problems, I guess,” the president said. “We’re looking into him very, very seriously. But we’re dealing with a very, very sick individual.”
Puerto Rico crisis
Meantime, Trump continued his tough-love approach for helping Puerto Rico recover from two hurricanes, most recently Maria. The U.S. territory completely lost power, and drinkable water, supplies of cash, and commodities such as fuel remain in short supply.
“We need their truck drivers. Their drivers have to start driving trucks,” Trump said, holding a white baseball cap with USA in large blue letters that has become a staple of his post-hurricane trip attire despite criticism. “So on a local level, they have to start giving us more help.”
The president gave his administration high marks — despite widespread criticism — for its handling of the Puerto Rico crisis, and pressed local officials and workers there to step up.
“In Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus. I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico,” he said. “And it’s actually a much tougher situation. But now the roads are cleared, communication’s starting to come back.”
Trump was asked about San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who late last week criticized him and his administration for what she described as a sluggish response to the disaster. Trump responded by slamming her in a Saturday morning tweetstorm.
The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
“I think she’s come back a long way. And, you know, I think it’s not acknowledged what a great job we’ve done. …Whether it’s her or anybody else, they’re all starting to say it. I appreciate very much the governor (Ricardo Rosselló) and his comments. He has said we’ve done an incredible job, and that’s the truth,” the president said.
But Trump’s own military leaders helping oversee the response effort and some Republican members have acknowledged the administration has not done enough.
“In hindsight, we all wish we could get those three or four days back,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Monday in Miami of the administration’s initial response two weekends ago, according to local reports.
During that weekend, Trump spent much of it firing off tweets lambasting NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest perceived social problems such as police brutality. But the president has denied being distracted.