It’s hard to overstate how strange it is that we’re now 36 hours removed from the worst mass shooting in American history and there’s still not a wisp of hard evidence about a motive. No criminal record, no manifesto, no revealing angry outburst in front of the neighbors, no social media accounts littered with half-coherent polemics. Nada, so far as we know. He didn’t snap either: This guy carefully outfitted a sniper’s nest in the Mandalay Bay hotel overlooking a concert venue over the course of several days and then executed his plan, with no one the wiser. Even Charles Whitman left a note.
The bizarre vacuum where a motive’s supposed to be has invited some creative attempts to fill it. At HuffPost today someone semi-seriously argues that maybe meticulously avoiding any evidence of motive was all part of Paddock’s plan. He wanted to teach us a lesson about how easy it is for a determined lone wolf to use loose gun laws to inflict mass casualties, so he … killed a bunch of innocent people and then killed himself to leave us all baffled. Or something. Yesterday at Mediaite, John Ziegler speculated that maybe Paddock’s motive was nothing more or less than the ultimate sinister hedonistic “fun” in Vegas. He was a gambler who spent lots of time in the city. Maybe the thrill he got from risk finally turned pathological and led him to play the most dangerous game.
Today NBC offers a more prosaic possibility. Maybe Paddock was deeply in debt, saw no way out, and decided to vent his frustration spectacularly as his dying act.
The suspected gunman behind the Las Vegas massacre made several large gambling transactions in recent weeks, according to multiple senior law enforcement officials and a casino executive.
On several occasions, Stephen Paddock gambled more than $10,000 per day — and in some cases more than than $20,000 and $30,000 a day — at Las Vegas casinos, according to an NBC News source who read the suspect’s Multiple Currency Transaction Reports (CTR) and a casino gaming executive.
According to a U.S. statute, a CTR is a Treasury- and IRS-mandated report that casinos have to file when “each transaction in currency involving cash-in and cash-out of more than $10,000 in a gaming day.”
So there you go. Paddock had major losses, felt desperate, and his despair turned morbid. Except … there’s no evidence that these were losses. NBC says they could have been wins. And there’s also no evidence that Paddock would have gone bust even if he had been losing $30,000 a pop. According to his brother he was a wealthy man, a multi-millionaire who’d done well for himself in buying properties. There’s also a chicken-and-egg problem. Rather than sizable gambling losses driving Paddock to murder/suicide, the opposite may be true — it could be that he was planning the attack for months and therefore felt comfortable gambling big bucks in the weeks leading up to it. He knew he’d be dead soon. What did he have to lose by gambling $30,000 at a time?
So, no, still no solid evidence of a motive. But maybe not for much longer: A source told ABC News that “Paddock had a camera mounted in the room, apparently to record himself.” I haven’t seen that reported elsewhere; we knew that Paddock had cameras positioned somehow, presumably outside his room, to let him know when the cops were closing in but not that he may have recorded the actual attack. If he did then it’s a cinch he said something on the recording about motive. Why leave a document of your final act without explaining why?
In lieu of an exit question, a postscript to the story about the mystery woman supposedly overheard telling people at the concert they were going to die around 45 minutes before the shooting began. An eyewitness claimed the woman had been removed by security. BuzzFeed decided to check. Result:
— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) October 3, 2017