Everyone was horrified to see the scope of the massive carnage that followed the shooting outside The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. In a large field that held close to 22,000 people for the Route 91 Harvest Festival, 59 people were killed and over 500 wounded as Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, with wide open fields of fire and 23 weapons at his disposal. He also had a large amount of ammonium nitrate in his car, a fertilizer which is used to make homemade explosives.
The deadly carnage that followed has turned into the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. And the immediate question on everyone’s mind is why? What possessed someone to gun down nearly 600 people at an outdoor concert. But first, we have to look and see who was Stephen Paddock? It is an important question for criminal profilers who try to understand the minds of psychopathic killers and possibly identify and prevent these type of incidents from happening.
Paddock hardly fit the profile of a terrorist, disgruntled former employee or even an anti-government activist. He was retired, independently wealthy and spent the vast majority of his time at the gambling tables in Vegas. He owned homes in four different states but preferred staying for weeks at a time in the posh hotels in Las Vegas where he’d spend thousands of dollars at a time. He carried the highest rating for a “high roller” in Vegas. Which means he’d be comped rooms and other amenities.
He grew up the son of a bank robber. His father escaped from prison and was a member of the FBI’s most wanted list. But he was hardly a man who was following in his father’s footsteps. He never had any trouble with the law until that fateful Sunday night rampage that left everyone, including his family scratching their heads. Up until that final maniacal moment, nothing in his background gave the slightest indication that he was a danger to anyone least of which himself.
His brother, Eric Paddock was equally searching for answers. “If you told me an asteroid fell into Earth, it would mean the same to me. There’s absolutely no sense, no reason he did this,” he said. “He’s just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There’s no political affiliation that we know of. There’s no religious affiliation that we know of,” he added knowing the questions that would follow.
His brother knew of a few guns his brother kept at his home but claimed that he never knew his brother to own many. He said that Paddock took his children skeet shooting once, in an outing arranged by one of the hotels that his brother frequented. He said he was shocked that his brother would have 23 weapons in his hotel room, especially either automatic or ones that had been altered to fire automatically. And the thought that he had 19 more at his own outside Vegas was unfathomable.
Paddock had worked at a variety of jobs but had gotten rich buying and selling real estate. He was worth approximately $2 million dollars at the time of his death. Divorced twice, he had no children and his biggest passion was the gaming tables of Vegas. Hardly the kind of man who would apt to be radicalized into some kind of political terrorist, but a terrorist is exactly what he became on Sunday night.
He’s bought and resided in properties of his own in Florida, Texas, California, and Nevada. A records check by the FBI shows he once owned a fishing license in Alaska. He also was a licensed pilot and owned two aircraft, but according to his brother, he tired of it, and let his license lapse. In the past several years, he preferred to gamble and go on cruises.
He met his longtime girlfriend Marilou Danley in a casino where she used to work as a high-limit hostess at the Club Paradise, a rewards program at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno. While she’s not a suspect, the FBI wants to interview her as a person of interest. She left the United States on Thursday and it is unclear if she is in either Japan or the Philippines. She was actually an Australian citizen of Filipino descent.
Which brings the question back to why. Why would Paddock who was wealthy, and although cold and unfriendly to strangers, but had a comfortable life in the glitz of the Las Vegas casinos do this? What would propel him to attack a bunch of strangers at an outdoor country concert, the kind he enjoyed attending himself?
Law Enforcement and FBI criminal profilers are scouring his computer and electronic devices now in an attempt to find out what if anything would turn him into a cold-blooded murderer.
One thing he is not, however, was a radicalized Islamic terrorist. As soon as the shooting appeared, the Islamic State (ISIS) came out and claimed that he was one of their soldiers. Nothing in his background suggested the 64-year old was remotely attracted to the radicalized Islamist ideology. This was more of the terrorists just trying to take credit for every incident in the world to keep themselves relevant.
And he didn’t, as many talking heads in the media are claiming, “just snap.” The planning that had to go into this type of operation had to have taken many weeks. And it seems now that the country concert wasn’t even his first choice. Reports are surfacing that there was a large Rap/R&B outdoor show earlier in September in Vegas and Paddock tried to reserve rooms that overlooked that venue. But, those were unavailable and he moved his sights onto the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Many had speculated that he was going after conservatives who favor the country scene, but the fact that he had first targeted a Rap show belies that.
He was sure to get Danley away a few days before the terrible plans he’d concocted were carried out. He also wired tens of thousands of dollars to Danley’s family in the Philippines just prior to the shooting. He amassed an arsenal of weapons that were concealed in 32 bags that he had in his hotel room. He had weapons, ammunition an array of video cameras to watch the hallway and the inside of his suite and a large hammer that he used to break the windows of his room to begin the shooting rampage. This was hardly the action of a man who just snapped.
Danley’s testimony is key here, she knew him better than anyone and spent more time with him than even his brother. She can give the criminal profilers the needed information, that they’ll need to peer into this man’s psyche. But eventually, when they do find the cause, it will no doubt seem trivial and silly to us. But make no mistake, there was nothing silly or trivial in his actions on Sunday night. But what makes perfect sense in a demented mind will often seem as alien as Mars to the rest of us.
And why really won’t make a difference to the families of those who have suffered the loss or injuries to their loved ones. Nothing that Paddock could say would make any difference to them. Nor will it justify taking the lives of so many innocent people who just wanted to enjoy a concert. The profilers try to find out as much as they can with these mass-murderers to see what makes them tick and do the things they do. And hopefully, they’ll be better at recognizing and stopping these type of incidents before they happen. The authorities would have had time to study him and get those answers first hand from Paddock if they’d been able to take him alive.
But those cameras that told him when the Las Vegas police were outside the door was his cue. He wasn’t to be taken alive and blew his brains out on the hotel room floor. So we may never know why Paddock did that heinous crime in Las Vegas. But even if we do, will any of it make sense?