Given the proliferation of the 24/7/365 news cycle facilitated by almost universal internet access, it is ordinarily easy to discover a lot of things in a very short time about almost anyone. We learned much about the background and likely motives of the perpetrators of mass killings in Orlando, Charleston, San Bernadino, and other places in short order.
But two days after Stephen Paddock mowed down 59 people and injured more than 500 others at a country music concert in Las Vegas, the motive behind the more than hour-long assault from a sniper’s lair high atop a resort hotel remains a complete mystery. We have learned much about Paddock’s background, but nothing yet about the reason he would patiently and masterfully execute a plot described by President Trump and others as pure evil.
We did discover on Tuesday that Paddock set up a camera inside his hotel room to capture his deadly assault on the killing fields below, though the footage is not available to the public. But perhaps the most shocking thing we have learned – though it may have nothing to do with the motive for this mass murder – is that Paddock’s father was a convicted bank robber who was considered dangerous:
“Benjamin Hoskins Paddock was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, described on a 1969 wanted poster as “psychopathic’’ with suicidal tendencies. He escaped from prison that year and, according to news accounts, was not captured until 1978, when he was nabbed while running a bingo parlor in Oregon.”
By most accounts, the younger Paddock did not engage in any illegal activity like his father, and he apparently stayed away from trouble for most of his life. We know Paddock was an inveterate gambler who would drop thousands of dollars at a time in casinos across Nevada. We also know he was a childless, retired millionaire who owned four homes and two planes, and would spend lavishly in extended stays at resort hotels. He may have been deeply in debt due to gambling losses, but we have yet to see any hard evidence of such, and we don’t know whether overwhelming gambling debts may have led to a psychotic break.
Police discovered 23 guns in Paddock’s hotel suite following the massacre and later found 19 more at one of his homes, but we have no evidence to date that he was an avid hunter or fired his guns with any frequency.
Paddock had no known political or religious views or affiliations, no police record, and no history of mental illness, disturbed behavior, or even instability. He had apparently been living out his retirement years actively but quietly, until Sunday.
We can guess about a political motive given that his targets were country music fans, who tend to be more conservative than liberal. But he was also reportedly a fan of country music, so at this point, any political motive is nothing more than rank speculation.
His brother Eric Paddock said of the shooter. “He’s just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There’s no political affiliation that we know of. There’s no religious affiliation that we know of.”
And Paddock’s brother summed up the situation succinctly: “I’m hoping they cut open his brain and find something. There’s a data point missing.”