Stephen Craig Paddock (April 9, 1953 – October 1, 2017) was an American mass murderer responsible for the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, in which he opened fire into a crowd of approximately 22,000 concertgoers attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. The incident is the deadliest mass shooting by a lone shooter in United States history, with 58 fatalities (excluding Paddock) and 851 injuries (including over 400 by gunfire). Paddock committed suicide in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Paddock lived in Mesquite, Nevada, and was a real-estate investor, property manager, retired accountant, amateur pilot, and avid video poker gambler.
Early years and education
Paddock was born in Clinton, Iowa. The family lived in Clinton at the time. He grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles, as the eldest of four sons of Benjamin Paddock. Benjamin was a bank robber who was arrested in 1960 when Stephen was seven years old. Benjamin was later convicted and escaped prison in 1969, subsequently appearing on the FBI’s most-wanted list. According to Stephen’s brother, they never really knew their father as he was never with their mother.
Paddock graduated from John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in 1971, and from California State University, Northridge in 1977, with a degree in business administration.
Career and gambling habits
Paddock worked as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service from 1976 to 1978. After that, he worked as an Internal Revenue Service agent until 1984. Then, he was a federal auditor for one year, in 1985, focusing on defense contractors. Toward the end of the 1980s, Paddock worked for three years as an internal auditor for a company that later merged to form Lockheed Martin. He is known to have run a real-estate business with his brother Eric. He lived in the Greater Los Angeles Area and owned personal property in areas including Panorama City, Cerritos, and North Hollywood from the 1970s to early 2000s. He also owned two apartment buildings in Hawthorne, California. In addition, he owned an apartment complex in Mesquite, Texas, which he sold in 2012.
Relatives said Paddock was worth at least US$2 million when he sold off the real-estate business. Among his most profitable investments was an apartment complex purchased in 2004, which gave him more than $500,000 in annual income by 2011. IRS records show he made $5–6 million in profits from its sale in 2015.
Paddock was an avid gambler, and although the extent to which he profited from it is not clear, his reported gambling winnings might have been substantial. He was sometimes seen in high-limit rooms, but he was not well known among high-stakes gamblers in Las Vegas and was not considered a “whale” (high roller) by the casinos. His game of choice was video poker, which he had played for over 25 years. He usually gambled after dark and slept during the day; he disliked being out in the sun.
Paddock was married and divorced twice. He was first married from 1977 to 1979, and for the second time from 1985 to 1990, both marriages in Los Angeles County, California. Family members say he stayed on good terms with his ex-wives. His brother Eric said that Stephen had no political or religious affiliations of any kind. However his last ex-wife and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo reported that he was a Trump supporter; his ex-wife also said he was an atheist.
Paddock lived in Texas and in California, and then in a retirement community in Melbourne, Florida, from 2013 to 2015. In 2016, he moved from Florida to another retirement home in Mesquite, Nevada. According to property records, he bought a new house in Mesquite in January 2015, and sold his two-bedroom home in Melbourne. Paddock lived in Mesquite for several years with his girlfriend whom he met in Reno, Nevada. According to neighbors, they also lived together in Reno. Many Mesquite residents recalled only seeing him around town; those familiar with Paddock described him as someone who did not speak much and kept a low profile. The local gun owner community never saw him at any of the gun clubs or shooting ranges, including makeshift ones in the nearby desert.
An Australian acquaintance said he met Paddock in the United States and in the Philippines. He described Paddock as intelligent and methodical. In his account, Paddock claimed to have won a lot of money by applying algorithms to gambling on machines. Paddock was conversant in gun laws and in defending his view of the Second Amendment. The acquaintance considered Paddock a generous man whenever he and his girlfriend visited him.
In 2010, Paddock applied for and received a United States passport. He went on 20 cruise ship voyages, visiting several foreign ports including in Spain, Italy, Greece, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. He was accompanied by his girlfriend on nine of them. They went to the Philippines together in 2013 and 2014. During the last year of his life, they traveled on a cruise to the Middle East. Paddock had his pilot’s license since at least 2004 and owned two small planes.
Paddock’s only recorded interaction with law enforcement was a minor traffic citation years before the shooting, which he settled in court. According to court records, Paddock also sued the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas in September 2012, claiming he “slipped and fell on an obstruction on the floor” and was injured as a result; the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice in October 2014.
Leading up to the shooting
During his last months, Paddock reportedly smelled of alcohol from early morning, and appeared despondent. He was reported to have filled three prescriptions for the anti-anxiety drug Valium, in 2013 and again in 2016, and finally 50 tablets of 10-milligrams each four months before the shooting in June 2017. The chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Recovery Center said the effects of the drug can be magnified by alcohol, as confirmed by Dr. Michael First, a clinical psychiatry professor at Columbia University.
During an interview with local CBS affiliate KLAS-TV, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Paddock had reportedly been losing “a significant amount of wealth” since September 2015, which led to him having “bouts of depression”.
Paddock’s gun purchases spiked significantly between October 2016 and September 28, 2017, just 2 days before the shooting. He purchased over 55 firearms, the majority of them rifles, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He also purchased a number of firearm-related accessories. Prior to that, he purchased approximately 29 firearms between 1982 and September 2016, mainly handguns and shotguns.
At his suggestion, two weeks before the attack, his girlfriend went to her native country, the Philippines. Paddock bought her a surprise airline ticket and soon after wired her $100,000 to buy a house there. He was spotted in Las Vegas with another woman, reported by investigators to be a prostitute. It has been confirmed that she was not an accomplice and was not considered a suspect. Her name has not been released. Two days prior to the shooting, Paddock was recorded by a home surveillance system driving alone to an area for target practice located near his home.
In a jailhouse interview with an unemployed chef who claimed that he had offered to sell Paddock schematics for automatic firearms, the chef said that Paddock had spoken of anti-government conspiracies, and had claimed FEMA’s actions after Hurricane Katrina were “a dry run for law enforcement and military to start kickin’ down doors and … confiscating guns.” The man went on to say he thought Paddock was “another internet nut, you know, watching too much of it and believing too much of it.”
Las Vegas shooting
On the night of October 1, 2017, at 10:05 p.m., Paddock opened fire from his hotel room onto a large crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 people and wounding 851 others.
Paddock meticulously planned the attack. On September 25, six days before the shooting, he checked into a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with 10 shooting range bags and a computer. On September 29, he moved into another suite connected to the first one; both rooms overlooked the festival grounds. He stayed in both in the days leading up to the shooting. After Paddock killed himself, the police found 23 rifles and one handgun inside his rooms. They included 14 .223-caliber AR-15-type rifles, eight .308-caliber AR-10-type rifles, one .308-caliber Ruger American bolt-action rifle, and one .38-caliber Smith & Wesson Model 342 revolver, all very expensive, according to a law enforcement source. His arsenal included a large quantity of ammunition in special high-capacity magazines, holding up to 75, or up to 100 cartridges each. Some of the rifles were resting on bipods, and were equipped with high-tech telescopic sights. All fourteen AR-15-type rifles were outfitted with bump fire stocks that allow semiautomatic rifles to fire rapidly, simulating fully-automatic gunfire. Audio recordings of the attack indicated Paddock used these stocks to fire at the crowd in rapid succession.
At some point during the attack on the concertgoers, Paddock – who had placed a baby monitor camera on a service cart outside his room – fired about 200 rounds through his door. The shots wounded approaching hotel security guard Jesus Campos. The unarmed Campos had attempted to enter the 32nd floor first at 9:59 p.m. on an unrelated matter, but he found the door to the hallway screwed shut by Paddock. At 10:05 p.m., Paddock began firing thousands of rounds in rapid succession at the crowd below. He stopped shooting ten minutes later at 10:15 p.m. It is unclear why.
According to chronology of the events established by the authorities in the following days, the first two police officers reached the 32nd floor of the hotel at 10:17 p.m. A minute later, they were shown the location of his door. Between 10:26 and 10:30 p.m., an additional eight LVMPD officers joined them and began clearing other suites along the 32nd floor hallway. At 10:55 p.m., eight SWAT team members entered the 32nd floor through the second stairwell nearest to Paddock’s suite. Once all the other rooms on the floor had been cleared, at 11:20 p.m. more than an hour after the first two officers arrived, and 65 minutes after Paddock had ceased firing, the police breached his door with an explosive charge and entered the room. Paddock was found dead inside his suite from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
In addition to the firearms and accessories found in Paddock’s hotel room, there was a note that reportedly included handwritten calculations about where he needed to aim to maximize his accuracy. The note contained only the actual distance to the target, his own elevation, and the bullet trajectory relative to the line of fire. There were also a number of laptops in the suite, one of which was missing a hard drive. Computer forensics discovered hundreds of images of child pornography. Coincidentally his brother Bruce was arrested in North Hollywood on charges of possessing over 600 child pornography images.
Ammonium nitrate, often used in improvised explosive devices, was found in the trunk of his car, along with 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of tannerite, a binary explosive used to make explosive targets for gun ranges. However, investigators clarified that while Paddock had “nefarious intent” with the material, he did not appear to have assembled an explosive device. An additional 19 firearms were found at his home.
According to police, Paddock acted alone. His motive remains unknown. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility, but United States law enforcement officials have given no evidence of a connection between Paddock and ISIL. There has been some discussion around brain pathology initially thought to be benign as a possible contributor. Paddock’s remains were sent to Stanford University to receive a more extensive analysis of his brain. The Stanford pathologists found no abnormalities present within the brain.
Investigators believe that he was obsessed with cleanliness and possibly had bipolar disorder. Although a doctor did offer him antidepressants, he only accepted anxiety medication. The doctor also described Paddock as “odd” and showing “little emotion”. Psychologists ex post facto have noted a distinct similarity between Paddock’s demeanor and the psychological construct alexithymia, which might have modulated his decision to conduct the shooting given its association with various mass murderers throughout history. It was reported that he was fearful of medication and often refused to take it.