With every passing day, the Las Vegas police department releases new details about Stephen Paddock, the gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, who according to the latest update, spent decades stockpiling guns and living a “secret life” and may have planned other attacks, including a car bombing, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said, after suggesting that it was only logical to “make the assumption” that Stephen Paddock had “some help at some point” in pulling off Sunday’s massacre.
As evidence, Lombardo pointed to gunman Paddock’s huge arsenal, explosive materials found in his car and his meticulous planning. “What we know is Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” the sheriff said. Lombardo also revealed that Paddock had an escape plan, even though he turned the gun on himself as police closed in on his suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Meanwhile, authorities are still searching for a motive. “Anything that would indicate this individual’s trigger point, that would cause him to do such harm, we haven’t understood it yet,” Lombardo told reporters Wednesday. “Don’t you think the concealment of his history of his life was well thought out?”
Analyzing Paddock’s computer, cellphone and other electronic devices, investigators have found no obvious ideological motive, no clear connection to extremists or activist groups or outward display of mental illness, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier in the day, an Australian man who claimed he met Paddock several times in the Philippines told the Guardian that the shooter was “extremely intelligent, methodical, conservative — guarded — and strategic. A planning, thinking type of guy.” The man, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity from his Brisbane home, said the encounters came through their respective girlfriends, both Philippine-born sisters, who had family reunions.
He said he and Paddock had “robust” discussions about American gun laws and said Paddock mentioned a “gun room” during one stay in his home in Mesquite, Nev. “His comments were that it’s a substantial hobby that needs to be protected: ‘a gun room’,” the man told The Guardian.
Separately, NBC reported that Marilou Danley, Paddock’s girlfriend, said she remembers him exhibiting symptoms such as lying in bed and moaning, according to two former FBI officials who have been briefed on the matter. “She said he would lie in bed, just moaning and screaming, ‘Oh, my God,'” one of the former officials said. The other former official said Danley spoke about Paddock displaying “mental health symptoms.”
Investigators believe Stephen Paddock, who claimed nearly 60 lives and injured hundreds more in Las Vegas on Sunday, may have been in physical or mental anguish, the sources said.
Investigators are also examining approximately six media devices left behind by Paddock, one of the former officials said. Included in that search is an inquiry into Paddock’s web browsing history.
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Meanwhile, as Fox News reports, the materials found in Paddock’s car – 1,600 rounds of ammunition, fertilizer that could be used to make explosives and 50 pounds of the explosive substance Tannerite — led authorities to believe the Paddock was possibly planning a car bombing.
Authorities also revealed that the weekend before the shooting, Paddock had rented a high-rise condo in a building that overlooked the Life is Beautiful alternative music festival featuring Chance the Rapper, Muse, Lorde and Blink-182. Lombardo offered no other details on what led Paddock there. Paddock also rented a room in August at Chicago’s downtown Blackstone Hotel, but never checked in. The hotel overlooks Grant Park where the Lollapalooza festival is held each year with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance.
Addition to the confusion is that as the AP notes, where other mass killers have left behind a trail of plain-sight clues that help investigators quickly understand what drove them to violence, Paddock had nearly no close friends, social media presence or other clear connections to the broader world. Even the No. 2 official in the FBI said Wednesday he was surprised investigators have not uncovered more about why a man with no obvious criminal record would cause so much bloodshed.
“There’s all kinds of things that surprise us in each one of these events. That’s the one in this one, and we are not there yet,” FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
They wonder if he had some sort of mental break at the time that drove him to start making plans for mass murder. Authorities were looking for hints in the details of the kind of life he lived, and the kind of victims and venue he targeted, said David Gomez, a former FBI national security and criminal profiler.
“We may never know to 100 percent certainty,” he said. “But they will find out.”
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In a tangent, overnight the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Paddock reportedly also took aim at nearby aviation fuel tanks during the rampage. The bullets fired by the killer left two holes in one of two circular white tanks. One of the bullets penetrated the tank, but did not cause a fire or explosion near the Route 91 Harvest country music festival. The tanks are roughly 1,100 feet from the concert site, where Paddock killed 58 people. Several airplane hangars belonging to prominent corporations are also near the tanks.
Within the past couple of days, a construction crew repaired the holes, and FBI agents inspected the tanks and took measurements of the line of fire from Mandalay Bay, the sources said. The bases of private aircraft companies are also close to the tanks, which sit on property owned by McCarran International Airport.
The tanks are operated by Swissport, the company that runs the fueling operations for the airport, according to McCarran spokeswoman Christine Crews. They primarily are used to provide fuel to the private aircraft operators.
According to the Journal, jet fuel is hard to ignite and tanks like those across from Mandalay Bay have mechanisms in place to prevent fires. Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation consultant, echoed those words. “A machine gun is not going to blow up a tank of fuel,” Boyd said. “Jet fuel itself sitting there in a big wet pile is very hard to ignite. You have to be a very amateur terrorist to think anything like that.”
Which would make sense: earlier in the day ISIS “tripled down” on allegations that Paddock was both a convert to Islam and operating on its behalf in its just published edition of its weekly Naba newsletter. The Islamic State propaganda newsletter featureed infographs and new specific claims concerning Paddock, who the terror group identifies according to the Muslim name, Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki (or Abu Abdul Barr “The American”) and claimed “converted six months ago” to ISIS.