LAS VEGAS (AP) — The high-stakes gambler who opened fire on a concert crowd on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 60 and injuring hundreds more, was angry over how the casinos were treating him despite his high-roller status, according to FBI documents made public this week.
The cache of new documents offers the strongest indication yet of why gunman Stephen Paddock carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
But Kelly McMahill, a former Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department official who headed the agency's criminal investigation into the shooting, said there was no strong indication that Paddock’s motive was anger at the casinos.
“There’s no way that LVMPD would have hidden any potential motive from our victims and survivors for five years,” McMahill said.
A fellow gambler, whose name is redacted from the hundreds of pages of new documents, told the FBI that casinos had previously treated high rollers like Paddock to free cruises, flights, penthouse suites, rides in “nice cars” and tours in wine country.
But in the years leading up to the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting in Las Vegas, the red carpet treatment had faded, the gambler said, and casinos even began banning some high rollers “for playing well and winning large quantities of money." Paddock had been banned from three Reno casinos, the gambler said.
The gambler said he believed “the stress could easily be what caused” Paddock “to snap.”
The revelation comes years after the FBI in Las Vegas and the local police department concluded their investigations without a definitive motive, although both agencies said Paddock burned through more than $1.5 million, became obsessed with guns, and distanced himself from his girlfriend and family in the months leading up to the shooting.
In a statement Thursday, Las Vegas police defended their inconclusive findings and dismissed the importance of the documents released this week in response to an open-records request from the Wall Street Journal.
“We were unable to determine a motive for the shooter,” the statement said. “Speculating on a motive causes more harm to the hundreds of people who were victims that night.”
Paddock acted alone, killed himself as SWAT officers closed in, and left no manifesto or “even a note to answer questions” about his motive for the rampage, then-Sheriff Joe Lombardo said in 2018. Lombardo, now the governor of Nevada, declined to comment Thursday.
The 10-minute massacre unfolded on the final night of the three-day Route 91 Harvest Music Festival across the street from the Mandalay Bay resort.
Authorities have said Paddock, 64, unleashed a barrage of bullets into the crowd of 22,000 people from his corner suite on the 32nd floor of the hotel.
His gambling habits made him a sought-after casino patron. Mandalay Bay employees gave him a free $590-per-night suite with a commanding view of the Strip and the music festival and let him use a service elevator to take up his multiple suitcases. Hidden inside those suitcases were the guns he’d use for the massacre.
A dozen of Paddock's weapons were modified with rapid-fire “bump stocks,” attachments that effectively convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automated weapons. Some had bipod braces and scopes. Authorities said his guns had been legally purchased.
But before setting up his perch in the Mandalay Bay, Paddock also researched other large venues. He booked rooms overlooking Chicago's Lollapalooza festival in August 2017 and the Life is Beautiful festival in downtown Las Vegas near the Strip.
“What we know from (Paddock’s internet) search history is that he was looking for a large crowd of people, which, of course, he ended up finding," said McMahill, the former Las Vegas police official.
The FBI, in its final report released in 2019, said Paddock had sought notoriety in the attack and maybe wanted to follow in his father’s criminal footsteps. The report also said his physical and mental health was declining as his wealth diminished.
“If we ever discover a motive, whether it’s 10 years from now, 20 years from now, I have faith that LVMPD would contact victims first before making something public,” McMahill said. "It’s the right thing to do.”
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
Rio Yamat, The Associated Press