The broader public, surviving victims, and victims' families have remained baffled for five and a half years by the motivations of Stephen Paddock, who perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history on October 1, 2017.
But there are now a few more clues that were never publicly disclosed, thanks to some new reporting and a public-information dig by the Wall Street Journal. Paddock was an inveterate gambler who had, as has previously been reported, lost something along the lines of $1.5 million of his savings in the two years leading up to the shooting at the Route 91 Festival outside of Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. That was mostly likely a contributing factor to his state of mind in October 2017, but in the absence of any note or manifesto, or any direct statements to people he knew, we can't know for certain.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department concluded their investigation in 2018 and issued a report concluding that there was no known motive for Paddock's attack. Separately, an FBI report released in 2019 concluded only that Paddock wanted to kill himself and wanted to go down in infamy by killing many other people at the same time. But, the FBI said, there was "no clear single motivating factor," and there was nothing to point to a grievance against "any specific casino, hotel, or institution in Las Vegas."
The FBI further concluded that the "decision to murder people while they were being entertained was consistent with [Paddock's] personality," and Paddock may have wanted to emulate his criminal father and make sure he wasn't forgotten. The FBI report had also indicated that Paddock had been told by doctors that he had a "chemical imbalance" and could not be cured, though he was prescribed antidepressants that he refused to take.
But, as the Journal reports, an interview with an acquaintance of Paddock's and a fellow gambler pointed to one specific grievance: Paddock was bitter that Las Vegas casinos had ceased offering extra-special perks and free trips to high rollers like him.
That fellow gambler said Paddock was "very upset at the way casinos were treating him and other high rollers,” and he suggested the financial stress he was under could “easily be what caused Paddock to 'snap.'"
As the Associated Press reports after reviewing the same documents as the Journal, by the time October 2017 came around, "the red carpet treatment had faded" for high-rollers, and this unnamed gambler acquaintance told investigators that casinos had begun banning certain high rollers "for playing well and winning large quantities of money." And, per the AP, "Paddock himself had been banned from three Reno casinos."
If Paddock had a grievance against Mandalay Bay, he did succeed in harming them financially — both in the months following the shooting because of all the press, and in the $800 million that MGM Resorts ended up paying out to settle claims from shooting victims.
But Paddock had also, possibly, considered committing his atrocious crime well outside the realm of these casinos. As was reported earlier, in the months leading up to the shooting, Paddock had also flown to Chicago and rented a hotel room overlooking the Lollapalooza festival — though perhaps that was just some sort of visual "practice" for taking aim at the festival he would have known was scheduled a couple months later in Vegas. (He also likely would have had to drive from his home in Nevada to Chicago if it were his intention to shoot people at Lollapalooza in a similar fashion, given that his trove of weapons and ammunition would have likely set off alarm bells at any airport.)
Despite the many hundreds of mass shootings that have taken place in the intervening years, the events of October 1, 2017 remain seared into our collective memories for their sheer atrocity. Locked in a hotel suite on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay, Paddock used semi-automatic rifles equipped with bump stocks that made them operate like fully automatic weapons to rain a torrent of bullets down on the crowded festival over the course of 10 minutes. 58 people were killed and around 900 others were injured, after he fired well over 1,000 rounds. He would then take his own life as authorities came to break down his hotel room door.
The Las Vegas PD gave a statement to the Associated Press following the Journal's report saying, "We were unable to determine a motive for the shooter. Speculating on a motive causes more harm to the hundreds of people who were victims that night." And one former official with the department who had led the investigation into the shooting told the AP, "There's no way that LVMPD would have hidden any potential motive from our victims and survivors for five years," and added, "If we ever discover a motive, whether it's 10 years from now, 20 years from now, I have faith that LVMPD would contact victims first before making something public."
Multiple residents of the Bay Area were among the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, as well as among the survivors. One woman who had been at the Route 91 festival and survived the shooting, Michella Flores, came home to Santa Rosa and then saw her home destroyed in the Tubbs Fire a week later.
In the absence of a clear motive for the shooting, Paddock's brain was sent to Stanford University for forensic analysis and "a neuropathological examination of Paddock’s brain tissue."
Photo via MGM Resorts