A MOTIVE FOR THE LAS VEGAS SHOOTER
By Stephen G. Patten
What motivates a killer to kill? In the case of Stephen C. Paddock, the man identified as murdering 58 people and injuring over 500 more attending an outdoor country music concert in Las Vegas, what motivated him from his perch in that luxury hotel casino, Mandalay Bay, overlooking the concert to rain death and destruction on his victims by repeatedly firing his arsenal of weapons through his hotel window as he mowed down those below?
Make it 59 dead if you count Mr. Paddock, 64 years old, who apparently took his own life after his murderous rampage Sunday, October 1st.
This was a militarily precise operation by a man who had never served in the military but who successfully smuggled in over 20 firearms into his hotel room and then fired them competently enough to take the lives he did and injure so many others. And he methodically set up an early warning system of cameras that would alert him to anyone attempting to enter his hotel room to disrupt the execution of his battle plan.
This is what makes the claim of the Islamic terrorist organization, ISIS, that this was one of its operations gain some credibility when its boast seemed at first outlandish and self-serving.
Consider that Mr. Paddock was seemingly well off financially, lived comfortably in retirement in Mesquite, Nevada, about an hour outside of Las Vegas, and a dedicated gambler who, it was reported, sometimes won big at the video poker slot machines he played. This is not the picture of a desperate man looking to end his own life and take as many others as he could with him.
In a television interview October 8th on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, Steve Wynn, one of the best known figures in Las Vegas, Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, said Mr. Paddock and his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, were frequent guests at the casinos Mr. Wynn owns and operates. Describing the couple as well known by his staff, Mr. Wynn said not once was either Mr. Paddock or his girlfriend observed imbibing any liquor in an environment where the drinks are free and flow easily for big gamblers like Mr. Paddock.
Mr. Wynn added, “Their behavior was conservative, private, understated in every way.”
Presumably, his keen-eyed staff would have noted errant behavior associated with drug use if Mr. Paddock and Ms. Danley were so inclined. Mr. Wynn did not mention seeing such behavior in his interview with Chris Wallace.
What does that leave us with as a motive if we have a retired teetotaler with money in his pocket, a steady girl, a gambling avocation that apparently he really enjoyed, especially the jackpots he is said to have occasionally won, and an otherwise routine and unremarkable lifestyle?
Bring back in ISIS bragging this was its show. Also think about Mr. Paddock’s girlfriend, Ms. Danley, who is from the Philippines, a country in Southeast Asia that has had its own Islamic insurgency in its southern region, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), since the 1960s.
In a New York Times interview published October 5th Stephen Paddock’s brother, Eric, talked about his brother’s relationship with Ms. Danley: “Steve expected people to wait on him for the most part. But he waited on her sometimes. He would do what she wanted to do. He would defer to her in the way that he wouldn’t do to the rest of humanity. Even me.”
Now, engage in some conjecture. Could Marilou Danley be a MNLF sympathizer who influenced her boyfriend, Stephen Paddock, to similar views on Islam? Did these sympathies lead to contact with ISIS, who then recruited Mr. Paddock and packed him off for his deadly mission in Las Vegas?
Again, this is conjecture. Perhaps farfetched. But so is the scenario that actually played out: a gambler with a comfortable life that many would envy and eagerly emulate ends it all for himself and so many other Americans who just wanted to have fun at a music concert in what is often called “Sin City,” Las Vegas, Nevada.
In his interview of Steve Wynn on Fox News Sunday Chris Wallace asked Mr. Wynn if he had any theory on what motivated Stephen Paddock. Mr. Wynn replied:
“No. No. But I have this feeling, Chris. This is a man who behaved rationally, privately, a little introverted, liked to play video poker. But he was a rational man. And every, every historical review of his behavior indicates that he was a rational man. So was his girlfriend. And yet he prepared over an extended period of time a totally irrational act. Now this sounds like someone either totally demented, a behavior which he never evidenced, or someone who is sending a message. This is a plan. We don’t know what that message is or, or if there is one. But this behavior according to my employees is as stunning, as unexpected, as anybody, any of them have ever met.”
Stephen Patten (email@example.com) is a former reporter for CBS News and served with the U.S. Marine Corps in South Vietnam. He speaks Iraqi Arabic and currently is editor of Lee & Grant International that reports on the Middle East and the War on Terror.