After months of ISIS insisting that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was their disciple and operative, the final investigative report on the worst mass shooting in American history shut the door on religious or political motives.
Paddock, 64, “found religious people to be ridiculous,” states the 187-page Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department report’s summary of a family interview.
Fifty-eight people were killed and 869 were wounded — 413 of those suffered gunshot or shrapnel wounds — when Paddock opened fire Oct. 1 on a country music festival from his sniper’s perch in a suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. An autopsy determined the cause of Paddock’s death to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound through his mouth and into his head; kleenex was found in the shooter’s ears.
“While en route to the scene, many investigators heard multiple, chaotic emergency-only radio calls coming out in reference to active shooters at different properties along the Las Vegas Strip, fires breaking out at certain properties, actual shooters that were inside the Las Vegas Village venue at the time of the shooting. Early reporting from national news outlets reported that ISIS was claiming responsibility for the shooting,” the report states. “The investigation revealed none of this information was accurate.”
Official ISIS media persisted for a few months in claiming responsibility for the massacre. ISIS featured an update on the shooting investigation in a mid-October issue of their al-Naba newsletter, referring to Paddock both by that name and the nom de guerre Abu Abdul Bar al-Amriki, which they bestowed upon the killer the day after the attack.
Much of that update focused on how Las Vegas authorities were unprepared for the nature of the attack. “This highlights the difficulties faced by U.S. cities to protect their own Crusader citizens from attacks that can take unpredictable forms,” the newsletter said, emphasizing Paddock’s elevated firing position.
In an earlier issue of al-Naba, ISIS printed a full-page infographic on the shooting with a Mandalay Bay hotel covered in blood, claiming that Paddock had converted to Islam six months before.
Quickly after the massacre in which Paddock killed 58 people, ISIS claimed through their Amaq news agency that the “Las Vegas attacker is a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to calls for targeting coalition countries.” ISIS’ official Nashir channel and affiliated al-Batar Media Foundation also insisted Paddock acted on behalf of the terror group.
Mentions of the mass shooting eventually shifted more to jihadists using Paddock’s actions as an inspiration.
In January, the Wafa’ Media Foundation, an ISIS-supporting media group, threatened another Vegas-style massacre in a propaganda image, yet showed crosshairs and flames positioned over the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
In February, Muharar al-Ansar distributed a “kill them all” poster encouraging a mass shooting in the style of the Oct. 1 massacre. With the shadow of the Mandalay Bay in the background, the poster called an AR-15 the “weapon of choice” with a target of “festivals and large gatherings.”
“Select a high place,” the message directed. “Therefore, you will have a greater angle of vision to direct the shots.”
While “investigators were unable to uncover or discover what Paddock’s motive may have been,” the report stated, they received consistent feedback on what his motive wasn’t.
Paddock’s mother said she didn’t know her son to be affiliated with any religious or political groups; this was echoed by his brother Eric. “When asked about political and religious affiliations, Eric stated Paddock had none and was neither liberal nor conservative. Eric did not believe Paddock voted in the prior presidential election. Paddock was not a religious person, did not believe in any higher power, and found religious people to be ridiculous,” the report says.
“…Paddock would not have cared about the people he killed. It would not matter their race, religion or sex. Paddock was described by Eric as a ‘narcissist’ and only cared for people that could benefit him in some way. Eric stated Paddock needed to be seen as important and needed to be catered to. According to him, Paddock did not have anger issues and was passive aggressive toward those who angered him.”
His brother Bruce said he believed Paddock “was suffering from mental illness and was paranoid and delusional” but did not abuse drugs or alcohol. “Bruce speculated that Paddock would’ve had to be ‘very pissed off’ to commit such a violent act.”
His nephew Jacob said Paddock was a high roller at casinos yet careful with his money, and if he hit a large jackpot he didn’t want photos taken or any publicity. “Paddock did not have any political or religious affiliations that Jacob was aware of. Jacob never observed Paddock upset or angry with anyone.”
Paddock’s doctor, who last saw him a year before the shooting for an annual checkup, “described Paddock as ‘odd’ in behavior with ‘little emotion’ shown. He believed Paddock may have had bipolar disorder; however, Paddock did not want to discuss that topic further with him,” the report said. “Paddock also refused anti-depressant medication but accepted prescriptions for anxiety. He noted Paddock seemed fearful of medications, often refusing to take them. He did not believe Paddock was abusing any medications.”
Police also singled out “certain indicators of intent shown by Paddock which lead up to the mass shooting,” such as a reservation for a hotel overlooking the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago last August — canceled two days before check-in — and hotel reservations overlooking the Life Is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas. Surveillance footage of that stay showed Paddock moving several suitcases from his car to the room.
“Paddock conducted several internet searches while planning his actions. Search terms included open-air concert venues, Las Vegas SWAT tactics, weapons, and explosives. Paddock also searched for various gun stores,” the report continued. “Paddock purchased over 55 firearms, which were mostly rifles in various calibers, from October 2016 to September 2017. He bought over 100 firearm-related items through various retailers during that period.”
During a hotel stay overlooking Las Vegas Village in early September 2017, Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley told investigators, Paddock spent time looking at the venue from different angles while moving from window to window. Danley learned of the attack while she was in Manila, going to dinner with her sister. Police were clued in to Danley soon after the shooting because he had Danley’s player’s club card.
During high school and college, Paddock worked for the United States Postal Service. He worked for the IRS after college, then worked for Lockheed, the Defense Contractor Auditing Agency and McDonnell Douglas before making money as a real estate investor, a venture he undertook in partnership with family members including his ex-wife.
Eighteen of Paddock’s 67 known firearms remain unaccounted for; authorities don’t know if they may have been sold or traded. The notepad seen in crime scene photos that stirred speculation after the mass shooting had the words “unplug phones” written on it, the report said.