Frustrated police appeal for public’s help in Vegas case
LAS VEGAS — After five days of scouring the life of Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock and chasing 1,000 leads, investigators confessed Friday they still don’t know what drove him to mass murder, and they announced plans to put up billboards appealing for the public’s help.
Investigators have examined Paddock’s politics, his finances, any possible radicalization and his social behavior — typical investigative avenues that have helped uncover the motive in past shootings.
“We still do not have a clear motive or reason why,” Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said. “We have looked at literally everything.”
The FBI announced that billboards would go up around the city asking anyone with information to phone 800-CALL-FBI.
“If you know something, say something,” said Aaron Rouse, agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI office. “We will not stop until we have the truth.”
Paddock, a reclusive 64-year-old high-stakes gambler, rained bullets on the crowd at a country music festival Sunday night from his 32nd-floor hotel suite, killing 58 and wounding hundreds before taking his own life.
McMahill said it was unusual to have so few clues five days after a mass shooting. He noted that in past mass killings or terrorist attacks, killers left notes, social media postings or information on a computer, or phoned police.
What officers have found is that Paddock planned his attack meticulously.
He requested an upper-floor room overlooking the festival, stockpiled 23 guns, a dozen of them modified to fire continuously like an automatic weapon, and set up cameras inside and outside his room to watch for approaching officers.
In a possible sign he was contemplating massacres at other sites, he also booked rooms overlooking the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in August and the Life Is Beautiful show near the Vegas Strip in late September, according to authorities reconstructing his movements leading up to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
His arsenal also included tracer rounds that can improve a shooter’s firing accuracy in the dark, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. It wasn’t clear whether Paddock fired any of the illuminated bullets during the high-rise massacre.
Paddock bought 1,000 rounds of the .308-caliber and .223-caliber tracer ammunition from a private buyer he met at a Phoenix gun show, a law enforcement official not authorized to comment on the investigation said on condition of anonymity.
Tracer rounds illuminate their path so a gunman can home in on targets at night. But they can also give away the shooter’s position.
Video shot of the pandemonium that erupted when Paddock started strafing the country music festival showed a muzzle flash from his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay resort, but bullets weren’t visible in the night sky.
A federal official said authorities are looking into the possibility Paddock planned additional attacks, including a car bombing. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Paddock had 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his car, along with fertilizer that can be used to make explosives and 50 pounds of Tannerite, a substance used in explosive rifle targets.
His girlfriend, Marilou Danley, told FBI agents Wednesday that she had not noticed any changes in his mental state or indications he could become violent, the federal official said.
Paddock sent Danley on a trip to her native Philippines before the attack, and she was unaware of his plans and devastated when she learned of the carnage while overseas, she said in a statement.
— Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix; Michael Balsamo in Las Vegas; Don Babwin and Michael Tarm in Chicago; Andrew Dalton, in Los Angeles; Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston; Jonathan J. Cooper in Reno contributed to this report.