Judges order release of records in Las Vegas mass shooting

Judges order release of records in Las Vegas mass shooting
FILE--In this Oct. 2, 2017, file photo, investigators load bodies from the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas. Two Nevada judges in Las Vegas have ordered the release of search warrant records and autopsy reports related to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, with some information redacted.(AP Photo/Chris Carlson, file)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Judges in Las Vegas ordered the release Tuesday of search warrant records and autopsy reports related to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, after media organizations sued in a bid to answer ongoing questions about the investigation.

Court officials were redacting the records in preparation for release later in the day.

Judge Elissa Cadish issued a written order to release documents showing what investigators told judges to obtain the search warrants after the Oct. 1 shooting.

The order followed a closed-door hearing Friday with lawyers representing Las Vegas police.

Separately, Judge Timothy Williams ruled that the Clark County coroner should release autopsy records of shooter Stephen Paddock, and the 58 people killed by gunfire, with victims’ names blacked out.

More than 800 other people were injured when Paddock opened fire from the window of the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino.

Coroner John Fudenberg maintains the records are private but county attorneys didn’t immediately respond to messages about whether he would appeal the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.

County lawyers maintain that autopsy information is confidential, with release restricted to families and to police investigating deaths.

“All records are public unless the law says otherwise,” said attorney Margaret McLetchie, who represents The Associated Press and the Review-Journal in the case.

She noted that Nevada state public records law does not directly address autopsies, and added that a deceased person has no legal right to privacy.

Clark County District Court officials also blacked out sentences that the judge agreed could affect an ongoing investigation focusing on an unnamed person and stemming from evidence found during the service of the warrants.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo on Jan. 19 released a preliminary report of the investigation and said police and the FBI believe Paddock acted alone before he killed himself as police closed in.

The police report characterized the 64-year-old Paddock — a retired accountant who amassed a millionaire’s fortune — as a high-stakes video poker player on a losing streak who was obsessed with cleanliness, may have been bipolar and was having difficulties with his live-in girlfriend.

It did not answer the key question: What made Paddock stockpile a cache of 23 assault-style weapons and fire for about 10 minutes out the windows of the high-rise hotel into a crowd of 22,000 people at an open-air concert on the Las Vegas Strip.

Authorities found explosives and ammunition in his car; 18 weapons at his home in Mesquite, Nevada;, and seven weapons at his home in Reno.

The sheriff has said he does not expect Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, to face criminal charges.

She was in the Philippines during the massacre and was the only person named a person of interest in the case. Authorities questioned her when she returned to the U.S., and said she was cooperating with the investigation.