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 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.” the statement said.
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 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 hie “girlfriend,” Marilou Danley, on Thursday night.
Before dawn Monday, police searched his home in Mesquite, Nev., 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, and said they found firearms and more ammunition but did not provide details.
He lived there Danley, who police initially believed 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.
In her LinkedIn profile, Danely said she was a “gambling and casino professional” who had lived in Reno, Nev., and worked between 2010 and 2013 as a “hostess” for the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, then as a “high-limit hostess” at Vegas’s members-only Club Paradise, which caters to big spenders in the casino.
Paddock moved to Mesquite in June 2016 and had lived before that in Reno, Melbourne, Fla., Texas and California.
Eric Paddock said nobody saw the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history coming, eclipsing the June 2016 at the gay Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando killed 49 people.
“We have no idea how this happened,” Paddock, 55, told reporters outside his Orlando, Fla., home Monday. “It’s like an asteroid just fell on top of our family. 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.
“There is no reason we can imagine why Stephen would do something like this,” his younger brother said. “‘All we can do is send our condolences to the people who died. Just no reason, no warning.”
He said he last heard from his brother when he checked to make sure family members were safe during Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida last month. “He texted me to ask about my mom after the hurricane,” Eric Paddock told reporters. “He sent her a walker.”
Authorities said Monday that Craig Paddock had no criminal history.
But he grew up in the shadows of violence: His father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, who appeared on the FBI’s most-wanted list for eight years after escaping prison in 1969 while serving 28 years for armed robberies in Phoenix. At the time, the FBI labeled Benjamin Paddock — who died in 1998 — “armed and very dangerous” and noted he had attempted to run down a federal agent with his car.
Jason Aldean MGM Resorts International, which owns Mandalay Bay, released a statement Monday from Jim Murren, the company’s chairman and CEO.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of last night’s shooting, their families and those still fighting for their lives,” Murren said. “We are working with law enforcement and will continue to do all we can to help all of those involved.”
Muslim organizations condemned the Vegas massacre.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, denounced the claim by Islamic extremist terrorist group ISIS that Paddock committed the atrocity acting as one of its “soldiers” of the terrorist after recently converting to Islam.
CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement Monday, ““That the terror group ISIS would — without evidence — claim ‘credit’ for this heinous crime is an example of evil exploiting evil and is further evidence of that group’s depravity,”
Local and federal authorities, including the Trump administration, dismissed ISIS claims that Paddock committed an act of terrorism acting on behalf of the group. ISIS has falsely claimed responsibility for a series of 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 quality as domestic terrorism.
And authorities concede that with the suspect dead, they may never know the answer to that question.