A gunman released an unrelenting spray of bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino and hotel in Las Vegas, aiming at the more than 20,000 concertgoers at a country music festival down below. The shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after killing at least 58 people and hurting more than 500 at the Route 9 Harvest music festival. The death toll, already staggering, is likely to rise higher still in what is already the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Police, who classified this a “lone wolf” attack, have not identified a motive for the shooting, and though ISIS has claimed credit for the attack, FBI officials have said there is no evidence that Paddock had ties to international terror groups. And, in the early stages of the investigation, Paddock’s biography yields few clues as to what might have prompted him to carry out such mass murder. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath at this point,” Clark County sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday.
Police found Paddock dead of apparent suicide in hotel room 135 on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, after SWAT teams blasted into the room. Inside, investigators found an arsenal of up to 20 firearms, some outfitted as fully automatic weapons that pump out bullets nonstop – a weapon intended to maximize carnage. According to the New York Times, two rifles were mounted on tripods and aimed out of two windows in the hotel. Paddock allegedly used a hammer-like tool to smash the hotel windows so he could fire on the celebratory crowds below.
Paddock reportedly checked into the room on September 28, and investigators are still trying to piece together his comings and goings. Hotels employees reportedly entered his room at points during his stay, but did not notice anything unusual.
Paddock was a frequent visitor to the casinos along the Las Vegas strip, and lived about 80 miles away in a planned community in Mesquite, Nevada. NBC News reports that he had gambled more than $10,000 a day several times in recent weeks, though it’s not clear whether he made or lost money on those bets.
Reporters spoke to the suspect’s brother Eric Paddock outside his home in central Florida, who described his brother as a multi-millionaire who invested in real estate. He told reporters that he knew his brother owned firearms, but was not “an avid gun guy at all.”
“Not an avid gun guy at all…where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He has no military background,” gunman’s brother says pic.twitter.com/EMSKLQGYFM
– CBS News (@CBSNews) October 2, 2017
“He’s just a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite who drove down and gambled in Last Vegas. He did stuff. He ate burritos,” Eric Paddock told CBS News. He said he last heard from his brother after he texted to check in on their 90-year-old mother in Florida after Hurricane Irma. “No religious affiliation. No political affiliation,” he added. “He just hung out.”
“No religious affiliation. No political affiliation. He just hung out,” brother says of Las Vegas gunman https://t.co/czfMSEMkpu pic.twitter.com/NUxv0xYaxX
– CBS News (@CBSNews) October 2, 2017
Paddock was not currently employed, though his brother said he had been an accountant for many years. He worked for Lockheed Martin in the 1980s, and had a pilot’s license, with at least two small-engine planes registered in his name. And in other bizarre twist, Paddock’s father was a notorious armed robber once on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Paddock does not have a criminal background, with the exception of a minor citation. Gun sellers in both Nevada and Utah confirmed they had sold firearms to Paddock within the past year, and indicated he had passed all background checks. It’s unclear if those weapons were used in the massacre.
As officials stressed, Paddock wasn’t on any terror-related watch lists and there is no evidence he had any links to terror groups. Still, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency, the terror group’s wire service, claimed responsibility for the mass shooting, calling Paddock a “soldier of the Islamic State.” That claim has not been verified, and is being met with a heavy dose of skepticism among experts, who say it would not be the first time in recent months the group has tried to take credit for a completely unrelated attack – a strategy extremists have undertaken as they’ve been squeezed on the battlefield.
15. There’s 0 evidence to date that Vegas was ISIS-linked. I don’t know what to make of ISIS’ loud insistence.
– Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) October 2, 2017
Law enforcement descended on Paddock’s home in Mesquite on Monday, where the shooter lived with his girlfriend. Police found a firearm and some ammunition in the empty house, reports the New York Times.
In the initial chaotic hours after the shooting, police were searching for Paddock’s girlfriend, identified as Marilou Danley. Police cleared her of involvementearly Monday, saying they they had questioned Danley, who has been out of the country in Tokyo. Officials are looking to bring her back to Las Vegas for additional questioning, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
In addition to the home in Mesquite, SWAT teams are raiding a home in Reno, Nevada, also owned by Paddock. In addition to weapons found in the two homes and the hotel room, investigators found several pounds of ammonium nitrate, an ingredient sometimes used in explosives, in the shooter’s car, according to sheriff Lombardo.
This post has been updated throughout.