WASHINGTON — Before he fired a fusillade of hundreds of rounds of ammunition from a 32nd-flooor hotel room into a crowded country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip — killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 500 — Stephen Craig Paddock lived a quiet life as a professional gambler who traveled often from his home in an upscale senior community to place high-stakes wagers at Strip casinos.
Today, across the globe, Paddock, 68, is the face of unspeakable horror.
What possessed him to fire into the mass of 22,000 people — three football fields away — at the annual Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival? Among his victims: two police officers, one of whom remained in critical condition Monday afternoon.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo described Paddock as a “lone wolf” and “sole aggressor” in Sunday night’s attack, but said his motives remained a mystery.
Asked about possible motives, including politically motivated domestic terrorism, Lombardo said: “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point. We have no idea what his belief system was.”
Paddock had worked in the 1980s at Lockheed Martin Science Co., the predecessor of Lockheed Martin, from 1985-88, the defense contracting giant said in a statement Monday.
“We’re cooperating with authorities to answer questions they may have about Mr. Paddock and his time with the company.”
Paddock holed up in the room at the glitzy Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino overlooking the Vegas Strip for four days with an arsenal of at least 10 high-powered rifles, Lombardo said. With SWAT teams converging in helicopters and police storming the room late Sunday night, Paddock shot himself to death.
Police said he had checked into the hotel using the ID of the woman his brother, Eric Paddock, described as his “girlfriend,” Marilou Danley, on Thursday night.
Before dawn Monday, police searched his home in Mesquite, Nevada, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, and said they found firearms and more ammunition but did not provide details.
He lived there with Marilou Danley. Police initially believed Danley was with him on his latest gambling junket and sought her for questioning, but later announced she was out of the country.
“We still consider her a person of interest. We have been in contact with her and we plan to engage her upon her return to the country,” Lombardo said.
Her LinkedIn profile said she was a “gambling and casino professional” who had lived in Reno, Nevada, and worked between 2010 and 2013 as a “hostess” for the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.
Eric Paddock said nobody saw the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history coming.
“We have no idea how this happened,” Paddock, 55, told reporters outside his Orlando, Florida, home Monday. “It’s like an asteroid just fell on top of our family.”
“There is no reason we can imagine why Stephen would do something like this. All we can do is send our condolences to the people who died. Just no reason, no warning.”
Local and federal authorities, including the Trump administration, dismissed claims by the terrorist group ISIS that Paddock had converted to Islam and acted on the group’s behalf. ISIS has falsely claimed responsibility for other recent attacks.
But was Sunday night’s shooting rampage domestic terrorism?
The answer hinges on motives: If domestic political motivations underlay the attack, it could qualify as domestic terrorism.
And authorities concede that with the suspect dead, they may never know the answer to that question.
This article is republished with permission from Talk Media News.
Gary Gately, a seasoned journalist, has won 15 national, regional and local awards for reporting and writing news, investigative, public service, feature, business and travel pieces. Gately’s work has been published by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun (where he worked in reporting and editing jobs for 11 years), Baltimore Examiner, the Chicago Tribune, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Newsweek, Arrive Magazine, The Center for Public Integrity, CBSNews.com, CNBC.com, ABCNews.com, USAToday.com, HealthDay, The Crime Report, United Press International and numerous other newspapers, websites and magazines. His coverage has received awards from the Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Society of American Travel Writers (first-place Lowell Thomas Award for best newspaper travel story/U.S.-Canada (immigrant New York). Gately also has extensive experience editing for newspapers and websites, has taught college journalism courses in news writing, magazine writing and travel writing and is the author of Maryland: Anthem to Innovation, a book on the state’s history, industries and attractions.