Stephen Paddock did the unthinkable. He broke out two windows on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, aimed a rifle at a crowd of 22 thousand open air concert goers and fired into their midst. His attack killed 58 people and wounded 546, some of whom remain critically injured, many lifelong. Why did he do it?
The answer is all about Stephen Paddock’s personality. But first let’s look at all the things he wasn’t . . .
Stephen Paddock Wasn’t An ISIS Operative
Various fighting forces have defeated or back-footed ISIS in their former Middle Eastern “safe havens.” The terrorists’ claim that Mr. Paddock killed in their name reflects ISIS’s growing desperation. Nothing more.
There’s no evidence linking the Islamic terrorist organization to the 64-year-old Silver State killer, or indications that he “self-radicalized.” If Mr. Paddock had been a radical Islamic terrorist, he would’ve announced his religious affiliation or left behind a statement of some sort identifying his “cause.”
Stephen Paddock Wasn’t A Gun Control Advocate
Mr. Paddock’s heinous act was a gift to the civilian disarmament industrial complex. But there’s no evidence that Mr. Paddock was a homicidal anti-gun crusader (like LA cop turned mass murderer Christopher Dorner). Mr. Paddock had no known known affiliation with a gun control organization, nor did he make any pronouncements about gun control on social media.
Stephen Paddock Wasn’t An Antifa Operative
It’s safe to assume that a large portion of the 22 thousand people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival were Republican-leaning conservatives. But there’s no evidence Mr. Paddock engaged in progressive political activity prior to his attack.
Months before the Mandalay Bay attack, Mr. Paddock reserved multiple suites in the Ogden hotel overlooking Vegas’ Life is Beautiful Festival. He also booked a room in the Blackstone Hotel overlooking Chicago’s Lollapalooza gathering. Neither of those events attract a “right-wing” or conservative crowd.
So Why Did He Do It?
Assuming the police aren’t covering up evidence pointing to any of the motivations listed above, we’re left with a simple fact: Mr. Paddock’s motives were personal. But how can you call the killer’s attack “personal” when he shot at a swirling mass of strangers from 32 floors up and hundreds of yards away?
You can’t. The Mandalay Bay shooting was an act of indiscriminate slaughter, the kind of attack that can only be carried out by a man who lacks the ability to create or maintain emotional connections with other people. Soon after the Mandalay Bay shooting cnn.com offered these insights into Mr. Paddock’s personality:
“Steve was a private guy — that’s why you can’t find any motive,” his younger brother Eric told reporters . . .
He met [his girlfriend Marilou] Danley after he started buying up properties around Reno, Nevada, in 2012. She worked as a hostess for high rollers at Club Paradise at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa.
Some people, including Eric Paddock, said they were a devoted couple, but others sensed a cold disconnect between them.
For someone who led such an adventurous life, Paddock didn’t seem to like other people much. If he was often generous with friends and loved ones, he was taciturn with others.
Real estate agents said he paid cash for the Mesquite house. Neighbors seldom saw him, and when they did, he rarely waved. He erected a privacy fence, telling a neighbor that he didn’t want to see anybody and he didn’t want anybody seeing him . . .
He favored a private suite reserved for high-bet video poker players, tucked away from the main casino floor, behind low walls lined with slot machines.
According to CNN, law enforcement labeled the killer’s bank-robbing father “a dangerous psychopath with suicidal tendencies.” And there you have it. Like father, like son. Stephen Paddock was a psychopath.
While the definition of psychopathy is subject to debate, experts agree that psychopathy has a genetic component, and that psychopaths lack the ability to experience empathy with their fellow man. They’re beyond selfish. They’re emotionally disconnected from human society.
Most psychopaths aren’t violent. Some are. Psychopaths are fully capable of committing horrific crimes without hesitation, guilt or remorse.
Experts connect psychopathy with antisocial personality and obsessive–compulsive disorders. The former accounts for Mr. Paddock’s lack of a social conscience (enabling mass murder). The latter explains his decision to bring 23 firearms into his hotel room, including 12 equipped with bump fire stocks.
And now the two questions vexing victims, investigators, media pundits and the nation at large: why did he do it and why did he stop?
“He was a gambler, that was his job,” Stephen Paddock’s brother Eric told nytimes.com. “He was a wealthy guy, playing video poker, who went cruising all the time and lived in a hotel room.”
The Las Vegas Gaming Commission revealed that Mr. Paddock made 16 “transactions” of $10lk or more with various casinos leading up to his death. Before his suicide, Mr. Paddock transferred $100k to his girlfriend’s bank in the Philippines.
The police and casinos have refused to disclose whether Mr. Paddock ended his life as a debtor. Given that he’d been gambling for over thirty years, it’s entirely possible that Stephen Paddock was that most valued of casino customers: a successful gambler. By which I mean one who didn’t go bankrupt. A man who parlayed real estate speculation into decades of video poker.
And got bored.
At some point, months before the Mandalay Bay attack, Mr. Paddock found a new, more interesting and more challenging pursuit than flipping houses or endless rounds of soulless, isolated, all-night video poker: mass murder.
Over a period of years, Stephen Paddock acquired dozens of firearms (in three states) and thousand of rounds of ammunition. He equipped twelve rifles with bump fire stocks, secured a stack of 100-round magazines and practiced firing his weapons.
As stated above, he scouted multiple locations (that we know about). When Stephen Paddock eventually settled on the Mandalay Bay hotel, he ferried firearms and ammo to his suite, readied a hammer to break the windows, secured a nearby door with hardware and placed wifi-enabled cameras in the hallway.
When security guard Jesus Campos interrupted Mr. Paddock’s final preparations, the killer repelled the threat by shooting through his door. Some time after — reported as both six minutes and forty seconds — he broke two windows and opened fire on the crowd below.
Ten minutes after he started, Stephen Paddock stopped shooting. He did so for the same reason the gambler ended his marathon video poker sessions: he was done. He’d done what he’d set out to do. More to the point, he quit while he was ahead.
The psychopath with suicidal tendencies wanted to die by his own hand. He didn’t want arriving police to shoot him to death or, worse, take him alive. That would be “losing.” So he stopped shooting at the crowd and killed himself before the first police officers arrived at his door.
Some pundits have suggested the former IRS worker was motivated by a desire for notoriety/immortality, achieved by racking up the highest-ever body count for a single shooter in the U.S. I doubt it. Mr. Paddock was a psychopath, a self-made killer who didn’t care what anyone thought of him before, during or after his attack.
I believe Stephen Paddock viewed mass murder as something to do. An interesting and challenging way to vent some personal frustrations and end his cold monotonous life. Such is the banality of evil, against which we should always be vigilant.