It’s been more than a month since Stephen Paddock smashed two windows in his hotel suite and opened fire on a crowd of 20,000 unsuspecting country music fans, and investigators are still desperately grasping for something that sounds like a motive in the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Extrapolating from the evidence that’s been presented to the public, it seems whatever Paddock’s motive might’ve been, he took it to his grave. Indeed, it seems logical to assume that any hints of Paddock’s state of mind in the moments leading up to the attack were encoded on the hard drive he reportedly smashed (or maybe even clues that might’ve led investigators to a possible accomplice).
Still, the pressure is building to find something to close the narrative, so to speak, as victims of the attack have begun filing lawsuits against MGM resorts. The company has been suspiciously tight-lipped about the attack, with reports suggesting the company forced Jesus Campos, the security guard whom Paddock shot in the leg – allegedly the first person to discover the shooter – into hiding, presumably to keep him from sharing details with the press that had not been vetted. He later made his first public appearance on the Ellen Show, reportedly because MGM execs felt Ellen wouldn’t ask too many penetrating questions about the still-murky timeline of events.
Among other details, it’s still unclear when, exactly, Campos happened on Paddock. And this is important because it would help to determine how long it took for the SWAT team took to get to Paddock’s room after hotel security was first alerted.
Meanshilw, as lawsuits against the company mount, strange details like a report earlier in the week that one member of the SWAT team responding to the incident “accidentally discharged” his gun in Paddock’s room. Paddock reportedly killed himself minutes before the police arrived. He shot Campos in the leg – and reportedly fired 200 rounds into the hallway – after being alerted to his presence thanks to a series of cameras he had rigged in and around his room.
So in a surprising update on Friday, the Associated Press reported what appears to be a trial balloon (and a weak one at that) hinting that, after weeks of intensive scrutiny, investigators are finally slouching toward a motive.
Gunman Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old high-stakes gambler and real estate investor, had lost a “significant amount of wealth” since September 2015, which led to “bouts of depression,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said in an interview this week with Las Vegas news station KLAS-TV.
Depression would fit with other hints that Paddock suffered from untreated mental illness. But more importantly, it would satisfy the public’s craving for closure that would also remedy the uncertainty that there may have been something more sinister afoot. While Police aren’t calling it a motive, they’re saying the loss of wealth could’ve been a “determining factor” in the shooting, which is notably vague.
“This individual was status-driven, based on how he liked to be recognized in the casino environment and how he liked to be recognized by his friends and family,” Lombardo said. “So, obviously, that was starting to decline in the short period of time, and that may have had a determining effect on why he did what he did.”
Investigators still have not determined exactly what led Paddock to unleash a barrage of gunfire at concertgoers from his high-rise suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino on Oct. 1.
Of course, judging by the caveat, authorities still don’t feel comfortable citing this as the definitive motive, at least not yet. Still, it’s a useful hedge if, three months from now, they haven’t found anything else more compelling.
They still might: Tellingly, the AP also reported that investigators are once again putting the screws to the shooter’s longtime girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who has repeatedly insisted she saw no indication that he might be planning this horrible attack. Sheriff Joe Lombardo also casted aspersions on Paddock’s brothers, with whom he reportedly had little contact. One brother, Bruce Paddocks, was recently arrested in connection with a child pornography sting.
Marilou Danley is still considered a “person of interest” in the investigation and was being questioned again this week, Lombardo said. The FBI previously questioned her about Paddock’s gun purchases and what she may have noticed about his behavior, Danley has repeatedly denied knowing anything about the attack and said Paddock never said or did anything that would have led her to believe he was going to carry out a massacre.
But the sheriff said he had doubts about her story, calling it “hard to believe.”
“You would think Ms. Danley would have some information associated with that,” Lombardo said. “Currently, we haven’t been able to pull it out of her, if she has it in her.”
The sheriff also described Paddock’s younger brother, Eric, as “manic” in interviews with news reporters outside his Florida home following the shooting but didn’t elaborate. Eric Paddock has called his brother a multimillionaire
“You can see there’s something associated with the family,” Lombardo said without elaborating.
A second brother, Bruce Paddock, was arrested in Los Angeles on Oct. 25 on suspicion of possessing child pornography.
Whatever happened that night, the public might soon learn more of the details that investigators at the FBI and LVPD have so far refused to share. The AP is suing for radio dispatches, security camera footage and other records relating to the police response to the shooting. And as lawsuits move forward, some more evidence may well be made public during discovery.
Which only adds more pressure for investigators to have some defense – something they can turn to to explain the shooting and, in doing so, obviate any suspicions of incompetence that might color the public’s perception of both the investigation, and the actions of first responders.