Man charged for illegally selling ammunition to Las Vegas shooter

Douglas Haig, 55, of Mesa, Ariz., became the first person arrested and charged in connection with the October 2017 massacre, which ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Douglas Haig of Mesa, Ariz., is the first person charged in connection with the October 2017 massacre

Douglas Haig takes questions from reporters at a news conference Friday in Chandler, Ariz. Haig spoke about his experience selling ammunition to the gunman who killed 58 people and injured hundreds more in the Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history. (Brian Skoloff/Associated Press)

A man suspected of selling armour-piercing bullets to the Las Vegas gunman who killed 59 people, including three Canadians, at a music festival was charged on Friday with conspiracy to manufacture and sell such ammunition without a license.

Douglas Haig, 55, of Mesa, Ariz., became the first person arrested and charged in connection with the October 2017 massacre, which ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The gunman, Stephen Paddock, who strafed a crowd of concert-goers from his high-rise suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel, killed himself before police stormed his room. No clear motive for the massacre has ever been determined.

According to the criminal complaint against Haig, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, he met with Paddock on more than one occasion, including once at Haig's home the month before the shooting to sell ammunition to Paddock, the U.S. attorney's office in Las Vegas said in a statement.

It said Haig previously ran an internet business, called Specialized Military Ammunition, selling armour-piercing bullets — some consisting of high-explosive and incendiary rounds — throughout the United States, but lacked a licence to manufacture such ammunition.

Haig is charged with a single count of conspiracy to manufacture and sell armour-piercing ammunition, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the statement.

Prosecutors said Haig's fingerprints were found on some of the unfired high-calibre rounds at the crime scene and that armour-piercing casings recovered from Paddock's hotel room bore tool marks matching the "reloading" equipment they said Haig used to assemble ammunition cartridges.

Haig, a 55-year-old aerospace engineer who sold ammunition as a hobby for about 25 years, was charged 35 minutes before holding a news conference where he said he didn't notice anything suspicious when he sold the tracer rounds to Paddock.

This October 2017 file photo released by the Las Vegas Police Department shows the kitchenette in the 32nd floor hotel room of Mandalay Bay, where the shooter set up to fire down on people at street level. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

Used gloves to handle ammunition

Haig told investigators that when Paddock bought the ammunition at his home in suburban Phoenix, Paddock went to his car to get gloves and put them on before taking the box from Haig, the complaint said.

"I had no contribution to what Paddock did," Haig told reporters earlier Friday, adding that there was nothing unusual about the type or quantity of ammunition the shooter bought. "I had no way to see into his mind."

Haig made an initial court appearance before a federal magistrate in Phoenix and was freed under conditional release pending a Feb. 15 status conference set for the case, prosecutors said.

People leave flowers at a makeshift memorial on the Las Vegas Strip for victims of the Route 91 music festival mass shooting next to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. October 4, 2017. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

In addition to the 59 people killed by Paddock in the Las Vegas massacre, nearly 500 people were injured, some by gunfire, others trampled or otherwise hurt while running for cover.

Police said Paddock had equipped 12 of the weapons found in his room with bump-stock devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to be fired as if they are fully automatic machine guns.