Unraveling the Las Vegas Massacre

What motivated Stephen Paddock to kill so many?

Stephen Paddock’s massive attack on a country music concert in Las Vegas on Sunday was “obviously premeditated,” as Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters in a Tuesday evening update. “The fact that he had the type of weaponry and amount of weaponry in that room, it was preplanned extensively, and I’m pretty sure he evaluated everything that he did and his actions, which is troublesome.” 

Besides the weaponry, Paddock had set up two security cameras outside his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. He rigged one of the cameras on a service cart and mounted another by the peephole in the door. He wanted to see if anybody was coming. 

Inside the room he deployed 23 firearms, including 12 with “bump stocks” that enable rapid fire from a semiautomatic weapon. All told, police found 47 firearms in three locations, including Paddock’s residence in Mesquite. He purchased the shotguns, pistols and rifles in four states: Utah, California, Texas and Nevada. 

The 64-year-old Paddock began firing about 10:08 pm and ceased at 10:19. In that period of about 10 minutes, he unleashed a rapid-fire barrage that wounded more than 520 and claimed 58 lives, 59 counting Paddock himself, Las Vegas law enforcement officials said Tuesday. That much they knew, but Paddock’s motive remained elusive and did not turn up in profiles in the establishment media. 

As the New York Times noted, Paddock was a high-stakes gambler who dabbled in real estate. He was a low-profile guy who had made some money and spent a lot of money. He owned two airplanes and was licensed to fly them. He moved around and was accustomed to living in hotel rooms, though he was not a flashy type.

Many profiles noted that Paddock was the son of bank robber Benjamin Paddock, an armed psychopath who once earned a spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Even so, Stephen Paddock had no criminal history of any significance. 

From 1975 to 1985 Paddock worked for the federal government as a postal carrier, as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service and defense contract auditor. No profile turned up any military experience, and neighbors did not describe him as a “gun guy.” 

The Washington Post found that Paddock was worth more than $2 million and made a “small fortune.” He also worked for defense contractor Lockheed Martin and as an accountant and property manager. In retirement, he took up gambling.  According to neighbors his house was like the residence of a college freshman, and he was always ready to move on. 

In the early going after the attack, ISIS claimed he was one of their fighters, with nothing of substance to back it up. No ISIS connection emerged in the Al Jazeera profile, which cited his brother Eric that the shooter had “No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff.” 

Paddock never hung out with white supremacists. In the event that he does turn out to be a Muslim convert, Daniel Greenfield noted, the parallel could be Terry Lee Loewen. The 58-year-old airport worker planned a bombing at the Witchita Airport in Kansas.  

On Fox News, Col. Tony Shaffer said the Las Vegas massacre appeared to be a “very deliberate act of terror” and that Paddock had “political motivations.” Many Trump supporters and Second Amendment types would be among the country music crowd. Claims that Paddock was spotted at an anti-Trump rally do not boast strong support. 

Shaffer alluded to James Hodgkinson, who shot congressman Steve Scalise. Hodgkinson is in the same age bracket but as a high-profile Bernie Sanders acolyte, he bore little in common with Paddock.  

The Las Vegas shooter had no military experience but like former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald he knew that an elevated shooting position allowed easy acquisition of the target. All Paddock had to do was spray bullets and he did. The key factor, on the other hand, is not the weaponry but the will to kill. 

Paddock clearly had it, but his exact motive for targeting the Las Vegas crowd remains a mystery. His brother Eric told reporters “Something broke in his head is the only thing possible.” He might have had a stroke and “there’s a data point missing.” 

In their update Tuesday evening, Las Vegas officials mentioned Marilou Danley, Paddock’s live-in girlfriend. She was not in the United States at the time of the shooting and Paddock reportedly wired $100,000 to her in the Philippines. 

Danley is now a person of interest and as Sheriff Lombardo said, “We anticipate some information from her shortly.” Maybe she can supply some of the missing data points on the deadliest mass murderer in recent memory. As President Trump said, it was an act of pure evil. 

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