How did this happen? Hunt for answers to Stephen Paddock’s unfathomable Vegas mass murder

  • Attack killed 59 people and left 527 injured
  • Killer was a regular high stakes gambler who had a stockpile of over 40 firearms

As Las Vegas and the US generally tries to come to terms with the worst mass shooting in its history – the authorities’ investigation has inevitably turned to the perpetrator and what was going through his mind.

WATCH: How could this happen? Brother of mass murderer Stephen Paddock as dumbfounded as anyone.

As US police work to uncover the motive behind Sunday night’s violence, more details have been released about mass murderer Stephen Paddock

An undated photo of Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock
An undated photo of Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock

The man, who had no reported history with authorities for crime, fired on the crowd at the open-air Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of MGM’s Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing at least 59 people and injuring 527 before killing himself.

Millionaire

Paddock lived in the small town of Mesquite, to the north-east of Las Vegas, in a retirement community.

According to reporting by the New York Times, the former accountant was a high stakes gambler who had become a millionaire through property redevelopment. He owned four properties, spent months at a time living in hotels, and was well known at many of Nevada’s casinos, though there is no evidence that he had any significant gambling debts.

Las Vegas police found 23 guns in his hotel room and when they searched his property they uncovered another 19 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and Tannerite – an explosive.

Police also discovered ammonium nitrate – a chemical compound often used in explosives – in Paddock’s car and SWAT teams are due to search a second property in Nevada.

According to reporting by the BBC, David Famiglietti, the owner of the New Frontier Armory, confirmed that Paddock had bought firearms at his North Las Vegas store earlier this year, and met all of the necessary federal and state regulations, which included an FBI background check, although Mr Famiglietti also said that the shotgun and rifle he had sold to Paddock would not have been capable of the rapid firing that caused such devastation on Sunday.

Background Checks

Bishop Joe Pepe of the Diocese of Las Vegas led a multi-faith vigil in front of the Guardian Angel Cathedral on the Las Vegas Strip for 300 mourners on Monday night.

There was an outpouring of grief across social media as politicians and celebrities offered their condolences to the families of the victims, though there was some anger among the reactions.

Jimmy Kimmel addressed the massacre in his home town during an emotional monologue on his Monday night show.

Referring to the shootings in Orlando, Newton, Aurora and San Bernardino, the visibly upset host said that he didn’t agree that nothing can be done.

He went on to show photos of the 56 U.S. senators who voted against tightening up the rules around background checks for gun purchases following the Orlando shooting, telling politicians that their thoughts and prayers after this latest massacre were insufficient.

Gun laws

Nevada has some of the most lenient gun laws in the United States and allows people to carry weapons without registering as gun owners. The state does require background checks at the point of sale from gun shops, but gun owners are also allowed to sell their weapons privately, and it is relatively straightforward for any resident of the state to build up a large arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived a shooting six years ago, urged political leaders in Washington to bring forward tougher gun laws in the wake of the Las Vegas attack. Her husband Mark Kelly read a statement outside the Capitol saying that thoughts and prayers from the White House would not prevent the next shooting.

Meanwhile, Congress is due to vote on a provision known as the Hearing Protection Act which would relax rules around the purchase of gun silencers. The Republican House leadership are yet to schedule a vote on the provision, having previously been forced to postpone a hearing on the bill after the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise in June.

Islamic State

On Monday, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the massacre, stating that Paddock had converted to Islam, but they did not provide any evidence to back up these claims.

Mina al-Lami, an expert who monitors jihadist groups, told the BBC that Paddock does not fit the profile of the usual ISIS supporter and that his suicide would be deemed to be ‘un-Islamic’ by the group.

Addressing the potential link with terrorist organisations, Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo described Paddock as a ‘lone wolf’. The FBI also ruled out any link with terror group ISIS.

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