Las Vegas pauses but looks ahead a year after mass shooting
By TIM DAHLBERG
Monday, October 1
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A small bouquet of dried flowers was wedged inside the padlock on Gate 5 of the killing ground that was the Route 91 Harvest Festival one recent day, the only visible reminder that it was the site of the worst mass shooting in modern American history.
A peek inside the chain-link fence, covered in green sheeting to keep out prying eyes, revealed a sprawling patch of asphalt and little else. Towering above were the gold windows of the Mandalay Bay, where a gambler spent the last minutes of his life in room 32-135 taking the lives of 58 others in a meticulously planned slaughter.
Around Las Vegas, there are scattered remembrances of the horrors of that night a year ago.
Almost every week, there’s another court-ordered release of police body-camera videos that provide flashbacks to the night the gunman turned the fun of the glittering Las Vegas Strip into a nightmare of death and despair. And lawsuits by MGM Resorts International to force survivors to give up their right to sue the casino company that owns Mandalay Bay opened fresh wounds over the summer.
But the “Vegas Strong” T-shirts and car stickers have largely been put away. The original handmade white crosses for each victim have long since been taken away from the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to eventually reside in a museum in neighboring Henderson, though some new ones were brought in for the anniversary.
There has been no closure, at least officially. Authorities say they will likely never be able to determine what it was that turned a high-limit video poker player into a mass murderer.
But in a city that has always looked ahead relentlessly, there’s not a lot of time devoted to reflection. Even while pausing to remember the victims on the anniversary of the shooting, Las Vegas moves forward.
“A lot of the feeling among people is more, ‘Let’s move on,’” said Pauline Ng Lee, a community activist and chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Men’s Club. “We don’t have a lot of long traditions here. You can see it with buildings. Casinos come up, casinos get knocked down. People tend to look forward, not back.”
Indeed, a look out one side of the high windows of the Mandalay Bay shows the normal sight of dozens of tourists lined up to have their pictures taken in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. A glance to the left draws the eye to the vacated and somber site of the shooting on 15 acres of valuable Las Vegas Strip land that for the foreseeable future simply cannot be used for anything.
Owner MGM Resorts International has no plans for the venue and no timeline for making any decisions.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the hotel, work goes on around the clock on a new $1.9 billion stadium that will be the home of the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders beginning in 2020. It’s a reminder that Las Vegas moves on like it always has, through the good times and the bad.
It’s not that the city has forgotten the shooting or the victims. The white crosses adorned with pictures of those killed were moved recently for the anniversary to the rotunda of the Clark County government building, accompanying a heart-wrenching display of paintings of each person.
The victims are portrayed as surviving relatives wanted them to be. One young woman is wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey; a man is strumming a guitar. There’s a police officer in his uniform, and a man smiling while enjoying a day on the beach.
Gathered together for one night to enjoy country music , they are now linked together in eternity.
There’s a makeshift memorial garden downtown, just around the corner from an adult bookstore, where painted stones and pictures hung in newly planted trees tell stories of lives lost.
“Rest easy with my grammy, Beebra,” read the inscription on one framed picture of a smiling woman and her young children.
On a recent day, a few workers were digging a hole for a 3,000-pound (1,360-kilogram) rock with the victims’ initials. A permanent memorial will eventually be located elsewhere — no word from MGM on what will happen to the shooting site itself — but has yet to be planned and is likely years away.
Everybody has a story about how a community came together in the wake of the shooting. Strangers loaded victims in the back of their pickup trucks and rushed them to the hospital. Doctors and nurses rushed in to try to save the wounded, and people — including players from the city’s newly minted NHL team — lined up by the hundreds to donate blood. Residents dug deep into their pockets to donate to the victims and their families .
It was, former Las Vegas Review-Journal gossip columnist Norm Clarke said, reminiscent of the response to the 1980 MGM Grand fire that killed 85, when there was a community outpouring for those killed.
As with the fire, most of the shooting victims were tourists. Only five were from the Las Vegas area.
But Las Vegas itself is a city that largely is a collection of immigrants from around the nation and the world, many with no ties to each other before the shooting seemed to bring them together, at least temporarily.
Lee, the community activist, remembers neighbors in gated communities who had done little but nod at each other over the years gathering to talk afterward. And a ceremony at the first Golden Knights hockey game a few days later had anyone who watched shedding tears.
Soon, though, “Vegas Strong” largely morphed into “Vegas Born” with the hockey team. Its improbable run into the Stanley Cup Final became more of a story than the way the team helped bring a city together to heal.
And through it all, the fun never really stopped on the same Strip where the massacre unfolded. A city that attracts 42 million visitors a year kept the welcome mat out following the shooting as tourists drank, partied and threw the dice inside bustling casinos.
It’s taken the Mandalay Bay some time to recover its footing, and tourism numbers are down slightly this year. But Las Vegas’ reinvention continues with the new stadium and the resumption of construction at two big hotel projects.
And now, as the popular local Twitter feed Vital Vegas asked: How do you commemorate something you don’t want to think about?
“A lot of people have probably put it out of their minds,” said Steve Sisolak, a Clark County commissioner who in the hours after the shooting spearheaded a victim’s fund that raised millions and is now running for governor. “The anniversary is going to bring up a lot of feelings, good and bad.”
The city will mark the anniversary with a string of events in the days surrounding Oct. 1. And at 10:01 p.m. — the time the shooting began — the lights on gleaming marquees will dim along the Strip.
It’s not closure, but it is one more tribute in a way only Las Vegas can give.
Then, as always, the city that never sleeps will move forward once again.
Find complete AP coverage of the Las Vegas mass shooting here: https://apnews.com/tag/LasVegasmassshooting .
Supreme Court term amid starts in shadow of Kavanaugh
By MARK SHERMAN and JESSICA GRESKO
Monday, October 1
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s the storm before the calm at the Supreme Court.
Americans watched Thursday’s high court nomination hearing of Judge Brett Kavanaugh with rapt attention. The televised spectacle was filled with disturbing allegations of sexual assault and Kavanaugh’s angry, emotional denial.
On Monday, the court will begin its new term with the crack of the marshal’s gavel and not a camera in sight.
The term’s start has been completely overshadowed by the tumult over Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Republicans had hoped to have Kavanaugh confirmed in time for the court’s first public meeting since late June, an addition that would cement conservative control of the court.
Instead, there are only eight justices on the bench for the second time in three terms, with a breakdown of four conservatives and four liberals. The court was down a member in October 2016, too, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the court in April 2017, after all but about a dozen cases had been argued
It’s unclear how long the vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement in July will last. Consideration of Kavanaugh’s nomination by the Senate has been delayed while the FBI undertakes an investigation of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982.
An empty seat on the bench often forces a push for compromise and leads to a less exciting caseload, mainly to avoid 4-4 splits between conservatives and liberals.
The cases the court has agreed to hear so far this term look nothing like the stream of high-profile disputes over President Donald Trump’s travel ban, partisan redistricting, union fees and a clash over religious objections to same-sex marriage that the court heard last term.
“It’s a time of transition for the Supreme Court,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, told a Federalist Society meeting in Washington recently.
Kennedy won’t be on the bench for the first time in more than 30 years, meaning lawyers will not have to aim their arguments at attracting his swing vote. Now, Chief Justice John Roberts probably will be the justice closest to the center of the court, although he is far more conservative than Kennedy on most issues.
“All eyes ought to be on the chief justice,” said Greg Garre, a solicitor general during George W. Bush’s presidency. Roberts’ votes in favor of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic legislation, the Affordable Care Act, show “he’s willing to buck other conservatives on hot-button, high-profile issues,” Garre said.
In addition, even if Kavanaugh or another Trump nominee eventually joins the court, Roberts’ concern about the public’s perception of the court might make him unwilling to move the court too far, too fast in any direction, Garre said.
So far, the court has agreed to hear about 40 cases, and could add a few dozen more to decide by the end of the term in June.
The very first case involves the federal government’s designation of Louisiana timberland as critical habitat for the endangered dusky gopher frog, though the frog is found only in Mississippi.
Two cases involving the death penalty will be argued in the first two months, including one on Tuesday in which lawyers for Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison argue he shouldn’t be executed because strokes and dementia have left him unable to remember the details of the killing of a police officer in 1985. In November, Missouri inmate Russell Bucklew says he shouldn’t be subjected to execution by lethal injection because he has a rare medical condition that could cause him to choke on his own blood during an execution.
The court stopped both executions on the days they were supposed to take place, which often suggests the inmate will prevail in the end. But Kennedy was a vote for the inmates in both cases, and it’s not clear there is a majority of five justices for either Madison or Bucklew.
The court will also take on issues including the detention of immigrants, uranium mining in Virginia and the settlement of a class action lawsuit involving Google where the settlement largely directed money to organizations rather than search engine users.
Supreme Court terms often get off to a slow start, then roar to their finish.
Francisco, in his Federalist Society talk, suggested that could be the case over the next few months.
“The real key to the coming term is what’s in the pipeline,” he said.
Lawsuits over the Obama-era program that shields young immigrants from deportation, a new challenge to the health care law, anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, the Trump policy on transgender service members and a new fight over partisan gerrymandering all are percolating in federal courts and could reach the justices this term.
Another wild card is special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the possibility that he could try to force Trump to testify to a grand jury or, perhaps less likely, indict him. The court has never directly addressed either issue regarding a president.
For more coverage of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, visit https://apnews.com/tag/Kavanaughnomination