A day after a massacre, Vegas is not quite Vegas

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Investigators load a truck next to a body from the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
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Debris is strewn through the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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Visitors take in a view of the Las Vegas Strip over the Tropicana Hotel, left, and Mandalay Bay resort and casino, top right, in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a music festival Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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A broken window is seen at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, on the Las Vegas Strip following a mass shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas. Authorities say Stephen Craig Paddock broke the window and began firing with a cache of weapons, killing dozens and injuring hundreds. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Flowers are placed near the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino, top left, on the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Updated 03 October 2017
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A day after a massacre, Vegas is not quite Vegas

LAS VEGAS: The slot machines were still ringing and the drinks still flowing but the party didn’t feel quite the same along the world-famous Las Vegas Strip on Monday evening, 24 hours after a gunman staged the bloodiest shooting in modern US history.
The somber mood was especially pronounced at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where police say a retiree with an arsenal of assault rifles rained hundreds of bullets into a crowd of concert-goers below his room, killing at least 59 and injuring more than 500.
A hush had descended over the Mandalay hotel lobby that, in normal times, bustles with excitement at nearly every hour of the day or night. The shrieking gamblers, the bachelorettes with oversized cocktails, the high-rollers spruced up for an expensive evening out, all were nowhere to be seen.
Instead, a few solitary gamblers sat with glassy eyes in front of slot machines in the lobby. Four security officers unceremoniously escorted a Reuters reporter out when she tried to interview a casino guest.
“It’s eerie. People are trying to enjoy it, but there’s a cloud hanging over the city right now,” said Greg Hartnett, 31, who had arrived for his first visit to Vegas earlier in the day.
Hartnett, who lives near the site of the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university, said Sunday’s rampage reminded him of that bloodbath.
“It really shows the dark side of humanity,” he said.
Vegas cabbie Alex Sanchez said his passengers were much less chatty than usual, and there were many fewer cars on the road.
“People come here for an escape. They want to leave their stresses behind,” Sanchez said. “And this really puts a damper on it.”
Despite the overall gloominess, people along the Strip appeared more ready than on a more carefree day to hold a door or share a quiet smile with strangers.
“I’ve been thanking every police officer I see,” said Hartnett. “I feel like it’s bringing people together.
Sheriffs deputies and their gleaming white motorcycles were parked on the sidewalk in a show of force, perhaps intended to reassure anxious tourists.
“Thanks for last night, guys,” shouted one passing woman.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.