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LAS VEGAS MURDERS - SUMMARY


LAS VEGAS MURDERS – SUMMARY


This article (blog or whatever) is a short summation of certain facts reported in the media along with some thoughts. It is lengthy, but this is a confusing case with many issues. I do not propose to tell you exactly how or why these murders happened because I don’t know. I would have to be somewhat skeptical of anyone outside of those actually investigating the case who claims they know exactly how or why the crimes were committed. If you have followed this case you probably noticed the timeline changed several times. Authorities must perform a balancing act in a situation like this. Sometimes in the rush to keep the public informed, information may be released before it has been properly verified. Those of us who have dedicated our lives to law enforcement are much better at proposing questions than we are at giving answers. We will put forth many ideas and you can decide what you think.


We will never perfectly understand incidents like this. There will always be unanswered questions.


We have heard from many experts offering their opinions and, no doubt, they are very knowledgeable in their respective field of expertise. Experts testify in criminal trials very often and typically the prosecution’s expert will have one view and the defense expert will have a little different view. They are giving their opinion based on their knowledge and experience and of course they will differ at times. In this case, we have heard many forensic psychologists, firearms experts, and police experts offer their opinions and they all are making valid points. I am going to try and look at the circumstances we have been made privy to and discuss various scenarios that could cause these circumstances.


Paddock killed 58 people, 59 counting him, but I don’t count him. I would rather he hadn’t killed himself because if he was alive he could have been interviewed and maybe we would have learned something that might keep this from happening in the future. On the other hand, he saved us from having to spend a lot of money housing him and giving him a fair trial.


OK, the allegation is he killed all those people so why do we even care why he did it? Why do we need to know his motive and what all he did to prepare for his atrocity? Once again, if we understand why he committed these cowardly murders and how he prepared, we might learn something that would allow us to spot certain behavior, tell the right people what we saw or heard, and the proper authorities might be able to intervene and stop the next jerk before he (or she) can carry out the plan. Quoting the TV show “Mindhunters”, “To get ahead of a crazy, you got to understand a crazy”.

Keep in mind, the police are not sharing everything they know with the media, and they shouldn’t because that could be harmful to the investigation. Crimes of this nature don’t always make sense to us because we don’t think like THEY do. Thanks goodness we don’t! I once took a confession from a serial killer and when he told me why he killed young women, he said they reminded him of his ex-wife. He said he had caught his wife in the bed with his father and after that, when he would pick up a young girl and start “making out” with her, the victim would suddenly “become” his wife. Then he killed them. We spent a lot of time over the course of about five years trying to figure out why these murders happened, but I can promise you we never thought of that!  We may never understand the Las Vergas killer’s motive and it may not be a single motive, but a combination of several things.


The Preparation

Picking out the right target is important to this type of crime. An outdoor entertainment venue in many ways presents a soft target meaning there are not a lot of security measures in place to deter an attack. Especially from 300 yards away and 32 stories in the air! There are strategic targets and symbolic targets. Strategic targets interrupt our way of life or kill many people. Symbolic targets don’t really affect our daily activities, but attacks on these types of targets bother us very badly. When I think of a symbolic target, the first thing that comes to mind is the Statue of Liberty. If extremists bomb The Statue today, it won’t affect how I get to work or whether I receive electricity or anything like that. Would it pull at my heart strings and make me fighting mad? You bet it would. Then there are combination targets that combine certain aspects of the other two types of targets. Perhaps that is the type of target we saw in Las Vegas. Many people were killed or wounded and hotels and entertainment venues are changing their security philosophies and procedures, which in a small way, changes our way of life.


Obviously this murderer spent a lot of time and effort preparing to commit these horrendous acts. He accumulated an extraordinary quantity of guns and ammunition. There has been much speculation concerning how he could he could get all this firepower into his room without being detected. If you consider all he did to prepare the successful execution of this crime, smuggling some guns and bullets into a motel room would have been a piece of cake. He was there for several days and could have moved “luggage” a little bit at a time during separate shifts so that employees wouldn’t pay that much attention. A couple of times a hotel employee helped Paddock carry luggage to his room. They would not have known what the luggage contained and had no reason to think there was anything unusual. Las Vegas is said to be the venue for more gun shows than any city in the country, so if anyone actually seen him with guns, he might have been able to cover it.  He could have put the firearms in a golf bag or some other type of long bag that would have looked normal. He could have taken the guns apart, put them in regular luggage and reassemble them once he got into his room. Of course, if he had partners, it would have made everything easier. But according to the evidence, there were no active partners.


The murderer rented a room in the hotel for several days prior to the murders however he did not let hotel staff have access to his room. He kept a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door the entire time he was in the room. According to hotel staff, he gambled eight straight hours the night prior to the murder spree and a total of about sixteen hours that weekend. As of the time of this writing, no one has mentioned Paddock being associated with anyone at the hotel except for a couple of reports of an unknown woman and this report was unsubstantiated.


Paddock mounted surveillance cameras in the hallway outside his room, inside his room, and even on a food cart in the hall. It presents a question as to why he put surveillance cameras inside the suite he was occupying. It was a two room suite and maybe he wanted to be able to see room number two while he was in room number one. I think it is safe to say, at that point, he might have been somewhat paranoid. Remember, he fired 200 rounds at a security officer who was responding to a door alarm down the hallway.  Paddock did not have a key to the room that had the alarm set off. He drilled screws into the stairwell door to create a barricade and the drilling may have been what set off the alarm. The cameras were not recording, so the only reason to have them in place was to observe police, security, room service, or anyone else that might interrupt his mission or fantasy, or whatever he had in his warped mind.


We know he checked out possible attacks sites in Chicago and Boston and another location in Las Vegas. There is no evidence he actually travelled to Boston or Chicago but just because there is no record of his travel doesn’t mean he didn’t go and check them out. It is unknown why he picked the Mandalay Bay Hotel instead one of the other venues. Perhaps he couldn’t get the room he needed or because of something in his life he couldn’t be at those locations at the right time. He may have visited the properties and someone said something to him that made him wary. Maybe the other places had security measures in place that would have made his mission more difficult. It could have been a multitude of reasons.


He sent his girlfriend back to her home in the Philippines and then sent her $100,000. Maybe he got her out of his way because he didn’t want her to know or interfere with what he was planning to do. She has returned to the United States and has spoken with law enforcement. She says she had no idea about what he was planning on doing. She also said he was a nice guy and was very generous. I can understand why she would feel that way. He sent her $100,000. She said she thought the gift might be a sign that he was breaking up with her. I guess that is one way to break up with your girlfriend. Send her back home to her family, half way around the world and then, just for good measure, send her a cool hundred grand. She said she was surprised that Paddock gave her the tickets to go home, but his hair stylists gave a statement that the trip was discussed while he was getting his hair styled two months ago. That’s kind of a strange discrepancy. My guess is the girlfriend will be interviewed more than once, if her lawyer will allow it.


Authorities say notes inside the hotel room indicate the killer made computations concerning trajectory, distance, etc… in reference to taking aim for shots being made from the hotel room to his targets. When I attended the FBI National Academy, one of the courses I took taught us how to make these types of calculations. It was a somewhat complicated process but a person who was intelligent enough to be a muti – millionaire accountant could probably accomplish the task without a lot of trouble. Paddock unsuccessfully attempted to purchase tracer bullets so that he could aim his fire more accurately in the darkness. It has also been noted that he was firing from far enough inside his room that the muzzle flash could not be seen from below making it harder to figure out where he was located.


The Plan

If you look at the crime on its’ face, the plan appears to be very simple. Kill as many people as possible in a relatively short amount of time.


One question is why did he check in to the hotel so many days (since 9/25) before the event? Maybe he just wanted to feed his gambling habit one last time or perhaps it took that long to smuggle the equipment and get set up to operate.


Paddock may have actually thought he could escape in all the confusion and complete another mission. The ammunition and explosives in his vehicle could be a sign that he planned another attack.  In contradiction to this theory is the fact that he attempted to barricade the stairs in an attempt to make it difficult to gain access to the 32nd floor. This tactic would also have made it more difficult for him to escape.


The killer was equipped with Kevlar bullet resistant equipment in his room. Considering the amount of planning Paddock apparently did, it is unusual that he had a gas mask in the room. He should have known the SWAT officers would use explosives instead of gas when they breached the room.  There has also been speculation that ne tried to detonate fuel tanks at the nearby airport and even tried to purchase incicendiary bullets in furtherance of this part of his plan. Once again, he should have known he could not detonate these tanks with the firepower he was using. It is very possible the rounds that hit the tanks were either missed shots or ricochet rounds.


Some aspects of Paddocks plan mirrors the tactics of radical extremists. He had an extraordinary amount of firearms and ammunition plus explosives. He attacked a ‘soft target” which has become the norm for extremists in the last few years. The murderer also died in the attack and appeared to be “mission oriented”. A coupe of the reasons extremists do what they do is to kill as many people as possible and to instill fear into our society and change our way of life. To a certain extent Paddock may have accomplished these objectives. The story of the murders dominated the media for a couple of weeks and everyone in the casino and entertainment industry is reviewing security issues. Usually when a follower of extremist philosophy resorts to violence there is some kind of statement publicizing the mission. We have not seen anything of that nature nor has there been mention of Paddock espousing extremist beliefs.


The Murderer

The killer had no violent criminal history. He was not affiliated with the military or law enforcement and it is a mystery how he became so prolific with firearms. He was 64 years old and most people who engage in this type of mass murder tend to be in their twenties or thirties. He was apparently a very successful business man. I am not a psychiatrist but it seems probable that Paddock may have been a psychopath or a sociopath and people with these personality disorders can be very good actors and very persuasive when they want to be. This type of person must be in control and going to jail would not be an acceptable option.


He described himself in a deposition four years ago as the world’s biggest video poker gambler and he said it was not unusual for him to gamble one million dollars in a night. According to a casino employee Paddock gambled eight straight hours the night before his cowardly rampage. Those familiar with his gambling habits say he did not drink to excess while he was playing.


The killer’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, and his brother, describe him as being very generous to those he cared about and distant to others. The girlfriend also said he was a very nice man even though others say Paddock downgraded her in public. He had been taking Valium to counter feelings of anxiety but Marilou says she saw no real changes in his behavior because of him taking the medication. Other evidence indicates Paddock may have been taking Valium for 3-4 years and medical experts say if he suddenly stopped the medication, it could produce serious depression. The girlfriend also describes the killer as exhibiting symptoms of some type of mental illness such screaming and moaning in his sleep.


The murderer had been a gun collector for years but records show him purchasing 33 weapons within the last year.


One person familiar with the investigation describes Paddock’s internet profile as “weird” because there is basically nothing there.


Paddock’s brother has been very open in talking to the media and  traveled to Las Vegas. He said he came to the city to take care of his brother’s remains, help police understand the murderer and keep the FBI from following “bad leads”. I’m not sure what he would consider a “bad lead”. Perhaps that would be a lead that indicated that he might have some involvement or knows more than he is telling about the massacre.


The Motivation

The murderer appeared to be “mission oriented” which means nothing really mattered to him but his mission. The only way to stop a person in this mind frame is to neutralize them or make it impossible for them to commit their intended act. They have what is known as “tunnel vision” and that means collateral damages such as orphaned children and people being disabled for the rest of their life, don’t matter. When one of the killers responsible for bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City was asked about the Day Care facility where innocent children were killed, he simply said they were collateral damage. He compared them to being casualties of war.


Even though the killer was a successful multi – millionaire he may have still felt he had something to prove and that killing others was the ultimate expression of his superiority.

Resentment against something that he believed caused him harm or resulted in him being mistreated in some fashion. It could be political, religious, gender, etc… In an earlier blog we discussed the man who shot the congressman at the congressional softball game was apparently motivated by what he believed were oppressive financial regulations imposed by Republican politicians.


We have seen no evidence of this motive, but the murderer may have wanted to further a cause. There is a possibility he left a message to explain his actions and we haven’t discovered the message yet. Maybe we have discovered the message but we did not understand it. Maybe there was a partner who was supposed to publicize the message but she became afraid to say anything!


One forensic psychiatrist speculated Paddock may have wanted to create a spectacle or fulfill a fantasy.


Similar acts have been designed to bring the killer notoriety, but that motive is normally seen in a younger person in their twenties or thirties.


Whatever the motive is, the killer may be a copycat, nut, or wannabe. He may have seen an event committed by an extremist and actually admired what the extremist accomplished.


There may not be a single motivator. One former FBI personality profiler referred to a process she called “slow radicalization” in which many things affect a person’s thinking and the cumulative result is violent behavior. Some of the factors involved may be feelings of paranoia, family or social problems, financial problems, mental illness, extreme attitudes toward certain religions, races, or philosophies.


Former FBI special agent and noted author Joe Navarro says he dealt with a psychopathic criminal who explained his actions by saying, “I did it because I could.”


Questions

We have yet to hear from the autopsy except to say that no abnormalities were observed in the brain in the initial examination. The killer’s brain has been sent to another lab for further analysis. Some of the tests performed in an autopsy require time. Forensic pathologists may be able to address whether or not Paddock actually killed himself, whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and if he had some type of physical ailment such as a brain tumor that might have affected him. Any other trauma to the body, besides the gunshot wound, will be discovered during an autopsy.


Forensic inspection of the body and the crime scene can produce evidence. As mentioned in a previous blog, a crime scene investigation in a hotel room can be somewhat compromised due to the fact that other people have populated the room legitimately and left evidence of themselves such as hair and fiber. Evidence from spent shell casings can provide DNA samples and firing and extractor markings which can link the casings to a gun and/or a person. Striation markings on a fired bullet can also be matched to a particular weapon. Any DNA, fingerprint, or ballistic evidence which can not immediately be identified will be entered into national data bases in an attempt to identify the contributor of the sample.


It stretches the imagination to think Paddock’s girlfriend did not see or hear anything that would provide clues as to what the murderer was thinking. I mean, after all, he bought 33 guns in the last year. He gave her $100,000. He gave her a ticket to travel the Philippines and she said it was a surprise. Paddock’s hair stylists says there was a conversation about the trip two months prior to the incident and the girlfriend was present and heard the plan to send her away. This discrepancy may mean nothing but it could be a sign, that for some reason, the girlfriend is afraid to acknowledge the trip was planned for a while.


The killer’s financial records could be very interesting. It has been said he was a multi-millionaire and he testified in a deposition it was not unusual for him to gamble a million dollars in a night. You can lose a lot of money very quickly gambling that much money. Sometimes people who are actually deep in debt can continue to operate in a fashion suggesting they still have a lot of money. If he lost a bundle at the Mandalay Bay, he might blame the casino for his losses and wanted to exact revenge. It was said the Hotel lost one billion dollars in stock value the day after the shooting.


We know he had several computers and at least a couple of cell phones. Many times much information is learned from a forensic search of electronic devices. If Paddock performed research or communicated with others over these types of media, he may have been smart enough to utilize the devices in a fashion so that the communication could not be directly tied to him.


Did Paddock have partners? It is hard to see how another person could have been in the room during the event. Police say Paddock was alone in the room. The wounded guard and the maintenance man were both in the hallway and they should have seen anyone leaving the room. Nobody else used Paddock’s room key and surveillance cameras showed no one who was considered to be a person of interest.


There could have been partners who helped him prepare for the attack.. If there were partners involved in the preparation for the event there should be data exchange of some type, either digital or interpersonal. We have seen no evidence of this. Somebody, somewhere usually talks. It is kind of hard to keep something like this quiet, especially if an investigative federal grand jury gets involved!

I have spoken with two firearm experts and one of them said there was no way for one person to shoot that many people that accurately, that quickly, especially in the dark without night vision equipment. The other guy I talked to said the venue would be well lighted enough to allow the killer to see as much as he needed to see. This guy also said if you have 22,000 people packed into a concentrated area, basically shoulder to shoulder, you just aim for somewhere in the middle, pull the trigger, and begin spraying the crowd. Once you feel the gun beginning to “climb” (this will happen when shooting fully automatic), simply stop shooting and aim it toward center mass of a crowd of 22,000 once again.


Some people are saying the murders are the result of a government conspiracy. One person spoke of a video on You Tube that indicated multiple shooters at different places and different distances. I am sure some of the most expert forensic specialists on the planet will study shot angles, etc… Most people will automatically look toward the noise of a gun going off and videos of the crowd should show this reaction. Everyone was confused with rounds being fired from so far away and from such an altitude. If the gun was being fired 50 yards to their right, instead of 300 yards away, it wouldn’t be nearly so confusing. The victims would look in the direction of a shot from 50 yards away.  A government conspiracy that resulted in the death of 58 citizens and the wounding of about 500 hundred others would be kind of hard to keep quiet. Especially when some of the people who would have to be involved (elected officials) can’t keep an extramarital affair quiet or get a questionable campaign contribution without making national news.


Did shooting the guard, Jesus Campos, actually trigger the start of the massacre? The timeline now indicates the killer began firing on the crowd within forty seconds of wounding Campos. Paddock had obviously planned the operation well and the appearance of Campos on the scene may have made the murderer begin firing before he had planned. He had to be in a very emotional state and an unexpected change in his plan may have infuriated him and caused him to alter his operation. That might explain why he stopped firing after 10 minutes and killed himself.


The author, Jim Leach, formerly served as Director of Criminal Investigations for the Tennessee Highway Patrol. His first book, “You Can Tell ME, a simple guide to effective interviewing”, can be found at Amazon.com

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