Las Vegas shooting: Gunman used cameras to monitor police and ‘extensively’ planned massacre
But on the second full day after Stephen Paddock smashed out the windows of a high-floor suite on the Las Vegas Strip and opened fire on a crowd of unsuspecting concertgoers, authorities still were trying to understand what drove him to such evil.
Several new details emerged Tuesday about Paddock — a 64-year-old retired accountant — and how he worked methodically to thwart law enforcement as he killed scores of people and injured hundreds more.
As he fired round after round during an 11-minute stretch from a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Paddock used video cameras to keep an eye out for police storming his hotel room, according to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.
Paddock hid one camera in the peephole of his suite and two more in the hall, at least one of them disguised on a service cart, authorities said. At one point, he shot numerous rounds through the door, wounding a security guard. Paddock eventually put a gun in his own mouth and pulled the trigger as SWAT officers closed in. They found him with blood pooling behind his head and around the empty shell casings that littered the carpet, a handgun near his body.
“It was preplanned, extensively, and I’m pretty sure that he evaluated everything that he did in his actions, which is troublesome,” Lombardo said.
The sheriff said investigators were “making progress” on determining a motive, but complete answers remained elusive. There were precious few clues in Paddock’s background.
Neighbors in several states where Paddock owned homes in retirement communities describe him as surly, unfriendly and standoffish. Paddock was the son of a bank robber who was once on the FBI’s most-wanted list and who authorities described at the time as a “psychopath,” but Paddock’s brother said their father was not involved in their lives when they were children.
Relatives say the roots of Paddock’s loner lifestyle might have been planted on July 28, 1960. On that day, when Paddock was 7, a neighbor from across the street took him swimming. The neighbor told a local newspaper at the time that she knew authorities were coming for his father, and she wanted to spare the young boy from the trauma of seeing his father taken away. From that point on, Paddock’s family was never the same.
Until carrying out the massacre Sunday night, Paddock had no criminal history himself. Despite repeated claims by the Islamic State to the contrary, he also had no ties to international terror groups, authorities said. He had done some government work during his career, as a letter carrier for the Postal Service, an agent for the Internal Revenue Service and an auditor for the federal government’s Defense Contract Audit Agency in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was divorced twice and recently had been dating a woman from the Philippines who has Australian citizenship. He was known to gamble routinely and extensively.
Some public officials seemed to suggest Paddock’s mind was troubled, though there were no immediate indications that he had been diagnosed with a mental illness or was anything other than fully aware of what he was doing.
“A normal person would not cause this type of harm to innocent people,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.). “Clearly, there was something wrong with this man.”
People close to the investigation also said that in the weeks before the attack, Paddock transferred a large amount of money — close to $100,000 — to someone in the Philippines, possibly his girlfriend. The significance of that development was not immediately clear, though investigators said they were interested in probing Paddock’s finances and his avid interest in high-stakes gambling.
The girlfriend, Marilou Danley, returned to the United States from the Philippines Tuesday night and was met at Los Angeles International Airport by FBI agents, according to wire reports. Investigators considered her a “person of interest,” Lombardo said. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said that police are eager to talk to her, as Paddock “doesn’t meet any profiles” and the “best lead is through this girlfriend.”
“They don’t know a lot about who the girlfriend is and why she left the country a week prior to the shooting,” said Heller, who has been briefed by authorities. “She is someone they need to have this discussion with to better understand the shooting and what his thought process was.”
At his home in Orlando, Eric Paddock, Stephen Paddock’s brother, said he doubts Danley had any prior knowledge of the incident and speculated that Stephen might have been trying to quietly ensure her financial stability. Stephen Paddock loved and doted on his girlfriend, whom he had met when she was a hostess at a casino, Eric Paddock said. The couple often gambled side by side.
“He manipulated her to be as far away from here and safe when he committed this,” Eric Paddock said. “The people he loved he took care of, and as he was descending into hell he took care of her.”
The shooting — which left 59 people dead and injured more than 500 others — reignited the debate on Capitol Hill and across the country about whether lawmakers should impose new restrictions on firearms. Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg on Tuesday evening clarified that Paddock was among the 59 slain in the incident; previously, authorities had said he wasn’t.
Undersheriff Kevin C. McMahill, speaking after Fudenberg, warned that the number of dead and injured could fluctuate as the investigation progresses.