The man who shot hundreds and killed 58 at the Route 91 Harvest music festival a month ago was a narcissist who may have seen his image as a high-rolling gambler declining, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said as the investigation into the Oct. 1 shooting rampage entered its second month.
“He was going through some bouts of depression. But he was status-driven,” Lombardo said in a wide-ranging interview with 8 News Now in Las Vegas that offered the first hints of what might have driven 64-year-old Stephen Paddock to open fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
Paddock had been losing money for two years, Lombardo said, and had been showing signs of depression.
“Since September 2015, he’s lost a significant amount of wealth, and I think that might have been a determining factor on what he was determined to do,” Lombardo said in his Wednesday night interview.
“This individual was status-driven based on how he liked to be recognized in the casino environment and how he liked to be recognized by his friends and family. So obviously that was starting to decline in the short period of time and that may have had a determining effect on why decided to do what he did,” the sheriff said.
“He was going in the wrong direction.”
Lombardo said investigators still don’t understand precisely what set Paddock off a little more than a year ago when he began stockpiling weapons and scouting locations around the country. Paddock fatally shot himself at the end of his 10-minute-long attack, and the hard drives that had been removed from the computers found in his room have not been found, the sheriff said.
Lombardo used the interview to try and set straight the initially confusing timelines offered by authorities in the days after the shooting.
The chief questions have centered around the fact that Paddock was able to fire at the crowd opposite the hotel for a full 10 minutes, though a hotel security guard had been shot before the main shooting rampage began, and had reported it.
What happened was this, the sheriff said: The security guard, Jesus Campos, had been alerted that a room on the 32nd floor had a door that had been held open for a long period of time. He found that the door to that floor from the stairwell had been barricaded, and he radioed in to report that at 9:59 p.m.
Campos, Lombardo said, then took the stairs to the 33rd floor, exited, walked to the elevators and took one back down to the 32nd floor. He was shot in the leg as he walked outside Paddock’s door.
“So subsequently you have a couple minutes of him going up, going down the elevators and back down the hallway and then he encounters the suspect,” Lombardo said. “He receives a wound, he attempts to go through his radio and then he also confirms his communication with dispatch via cellphone.”
All of the timelines have shown that Paddock opened fire on the crowd at 10:05 p.m. What time did Campos report that he had been shot? Police have never said, and Lombardo didn’t elaborate on that in the televised interview.
“We didn’t know shots were fired until 10:05 pm — 10:04:55 or something like that,” Lombardo said. “That’s when we actually determined — through calls for service, computer-aided dispatch, body-worn cameras, other people’s observations through videos in Uber, taxis things like that — we feel pretty comfortable in that the large amounts of firing by the suspect occurred at 10:05 p.m.”
Two Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers already were at the Mandalay Bay on another call and began working their way up the stairs as the shooting began. They, too, came across the barricaded stairwell door.
“So that was right around 10 minutes they were able to do that. So that’s pretty amazing in public safety time you call dispatch, you get a revise, you formulate a plan, you ascend the stairwell, you have no idea what floor it is, you’re receiving information from disparate directions, and then you encounter this blocked doorway — and that was right around 10 minutes,” Lombardo said.
“And then our other officers ascended via the elevator bank and came out into the foyer or hallway from the elevator bank there — right around 12 minutes. During that time, the suspect had stopped firing. And so when we don’t hear any firing taking place, then it becomes slow and methodical.”
At that point, he said, it was important to extract people from adjacent rooms to ensure their safety and plan a breach of Paddock’s room.
By the time they entered, the gunman had shot himself. “I honestly believe that he believed the wolf was at the door — being us, LVMPD — and that is when he made the decision to take his life,” Lombardo said.
Paddock expended more than 1,000 rounds over the 10 minutes he fired, in what authorities were able to identify as 12 bursts. The pauses between them, Lombardo said, could have resulted from either jammed or faulty weapons, or the need to replace clips as they were emptied.
Paddock made money on real estate investments and described himself as a professional gambler, though he had previously worked also as a defense industry auditor. He often spent long hours playing video poker.
But Lombardo said Paddock had “gone up and down” in his wealth and had recently been losing money.
The sheriff said that while that might have been a factor in the shooting, authorities are still trying to learn if there was some triggering event in October, when Paddock first began stockpiling weapons and ammunition — including high-capacity assault rifles. He noted reports that Paddock may have scouted other locations to carry out his plan, including the Life is Beautiful event in downtown Las Vegas as well as locations in Boston and Chicago.
“Obviously he took a long time to think this out,” Lombardo said.
With so little still understood about Paddock’s motive, Lombardo confirmed that the gunman’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, a former casino concierge who lived with him in Mesquite, Nev., continues to be interviewed and is still considered a “person of interest.”
He declined to comment on Paddock’s siblings, one of whom, Bruce Paddock, was arrested in Southern California last week and charged with possession of child pornography.
The men’s father was a notorious bank robber who was on the FBI’s most wanted list during Stephen Paddock’s childhood, but Lombardo said the Las Vegas gunman had no criminal history.