The Vegas shooter: Why did he do it?
“A suicide note, a manifesto, a series of social media screeds,” said Ann O’Neill and Bob Ortega in CNN.com—usually, within a day or two of a mass shooting, some evidence emerges to explain what drove “a warped mind to commit such a violent act.” Yet more than a week after Stephen Paddock, 64, committed the deadliest mass shooting in American history, killing 58 festivalgoers and injuring nearly 500 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, investigators have found no answer to the burning question: “Why did he do it?” Paddock had no strong political beliefs or history of mental illness, said Jen Kirby in NYMag.com. A numbers whiz, real estate investor, and dedicated gambler who would bet $30,000 a night playing video poker, Paddock was a loner who was nonetheless said to be considerate of his tenants, family, and live-in girlfriend, Marilou Danley. Something, says his brother Eric, went “incredibly wrong.”
Outwardly, the gunman’s life in Nevada was “utterly unremarkable,” said Sabrina Tavernise in The New York Times. Then “something seemed to change last October.” Paddock added 33 firearms to his arsenal, and apparently started scouting out concert and stadium venues, including Fenway Park. Investigators are focusing on the possibility “that Paddock was suffering from an acute mental illness,” said Toby Harnden in The Sunday Times (U.K.). In the past year “Paddock seemed to have lost a lot of weight” and became increasingly averse to human interaction. He was prescribed the anti-anxiety drug diazepam, and Danley said that in the middle of the night he would moan and cry out, “Oh, my God.”
Paddock may have killed for the same reason he gambled—for thrills, said Seth Barron in City- Journal.org. He often spent all night in “an electronically induced trance” at high-stakes video poker machines, chasing the dopamine hit that comes with “statistically predictable, periodic wins.” Over time, the rewards of this compulsion can dim, as the brain’s neurochemistry develops a tolerance. Paddock may have then turned his methodical mind to a bigger, more thrilling game: mass murder. Indeed, police found a list of numbers in Paddock’s hotel room calculating the optimal trajectory and distance of his gunfire to cause maximum fatalities. It may turn out that “Stephen Paddock killed all those people just for kicks.” ■