While law enforcement has begun releasing details regarding how a 64-year-old retired accountant was able to take the lives of nearly 60 people and injure hundreds more from his 32nd floor hotel room above the Las Vegas strip, very little has surfaced thus far regarding why.
The scene police found inside Steven Paddock’s room, which included multiple modified firearms equipped with “bump-fire” stocks that allowed him to sustain a rate of fire more comparable to a fully automatic weapon, as well as cameras within the room and the hallway, paints the picture of a devious mastermind, rather than an everyday Joe that simply cracked, as some expected to learn. The financially successful retiree maintained a ghostly small social media footprint, and had no known ties to extremist organizations that may have worked to radicalize him over time. It seems, at least at present, as though Paddock planned and executed the horrible attack for days, or weeks in advance, all while maintaining the outward appearance of a normal guy.
Usually, when someone decides to make such a dramatic exit from this world, as it seems likely that Paddock had seen ending his life as a foregone conclusion when he began to slaughter innocent people attending a country music concert, they leave some indication as to what drove them to such anger. These types of horrible incidents are often intended as statements about something, whether it’s a person’s inability to keep their own mental illness at bay, or a political rallying cry to attempt to force some type of change, conveying a message is often the real intent behind this type of massacre, with the loss of life intended as the means by which to transmit. It doesn’t appear that was this case in this, now considered the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, as motive remains the most elusive piece of this tragic puzzle.
There’s all kinds of things that surprise us on these kinds of events, that’s the one on this one,” FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said of the lack of apparent motive. “This individual … didn’t leave the sort of immediate thumbprints you find on these kinds of attacks.”
Police now hope that questioning Marilou Danley, the gunman’s longtime girlfriend, will shed some light onto Paddock’s mindset leading up to the attack. While many theories have been posed online, with everything from politics to religion to gambling debts being floated as potential possibilities, thus far none have had enough evidence to put this mystery to bed.
Interestingly, Danley was in the Philippines at the time of the attack, and Paddock had wired nearly $100,000 to someone in the country before he went on his killing spree, seeming to indicate that the was trying to ensure his loved one would be safe from reprisal in the fallout of his plan, legal or otherwise. Further muddying the waters, however, are reports from businesses the couple frequented, like the Starbucks in Mesquite, Nevada, where Paddock was seen regularly being verbally abusive to his girlfriend.
“He would glare down at her and say — with a mean attitude — ‘You don’t need my casino card for this. I’m paying for your drink, just like I’m paying for you.’ Then she would softly say, ‘Okay’ and step back behind him. He was so rude to her in front of us.” Esperanza Mendoza, supervisor of the Starbucks told the media.
Paddock had met Danley in a casino, where she worked as a high-limit hostess for Club Paradise, a rewards program in the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno.
Many in the media have postulated as to whether or not Paddock’s family history may have played a role in Sunday’s tragic events, as his father was once a bank robber on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. His father was taken away by authorities one day while Paddock was swimming with a neighbor, and although he managed to escape from prison twice, Paddock reportedly had very little contact with his dad after that day. His mother then struggled to support her three sons, making Paddock a real American success story in many ways, as despite a strained relationship with his brothers, he and brother Eric managed to build a lucrative real estate investment business together.
“We didn’t talk much. We talked when there was something to talk about,” Eric Paddock said. “Steve had no help. Steve did not take help. He was a stand-alone guy.”
Marilou Danley returned to the United States on Tuesday, where she was met at the Los Angeles airport by a cadre of FBI agents, who made sure to tell the press that she is not currently suspected of being an accomplice to the crimes her long-time boyfriend committed. Authorities hope her insights can shed some light onto what would drive a man to kill and maim so many, as hundreds of grieving family members struggle to make some sense out of their loss.
Learning why this tragic incident occurred can do little to stymie the pain of loss, but as is the case in any such incident, learning what led to it will hopefully help prevent such an attack from occurring again.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press