New FBI records offer detailed insights into Las Vegas Harvest festival mass shooting

Tribune Content Agency

LAS VEGAS — New FBI documents reveal a more detailed account of the Route 91 Harvest festival gunman’s final days before he fatally shot 60 people and injured hundreds more on the Las Vegas Strip.

Stephen Paddock, who opened fire on concertgoers in a 10-minute-long rampage, was “very upset at the way casinos were treating him and other high rollers,” one gambler told the FBI.

The stress could “easily be what caused Paddock to ‘snap,’” the gambler said, noting that casinos had reduced the number of perks they gave to VIP customers in the years leading up to the shooting.

The Oct. 1, 2017, attack ended when Paddock, who was positioned inside a Mandalay Bay hotel suite across from the country music festival, killed himself with a revolver.

Since then, the motive for the worst mass shooting in modern American history has largely been a mystery.

The FBI records, widely reported for the first time just two days after a Nashville shooter killed three adults and three children at a private Christian elementary school, shed light on Paddock’s gambling and mindset before the massacre.

But Las Vegas police, which conducted a joint investigation of the shooting with the FBI, wrote in a statement Thursday that the documents don’t add anything of substance to the case, “that speculating on a motive causes more harm to the hundreds of people who were victims that night.”

Paddock, 64, had lost thousands of dollars gambling, according to records from Nevada gaming regulators. About a month before the shooting, he lost $38,000 in two days at the Tropicana Las Vegas, one employee told the FBI.

The heavily redacted report has done little to quell the unanswered questions from survivors who have spent years trying to heal.

Brittany Castrejon, now 34, who survived the shooting with her then 14-year-old cousin, said the idea that Paddock snapped because he felt disrespected by casinos sounded to her like “bulls–t.”

“The only thing I can chalk it up to is that he was just pure evil,” said Castrejon, who works as a court reporter in Las Vegas.

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, who served on the Clark County Commission at the time of the shooting and helped raise money for victims in the immediate aftermath, said he believed mental health issues had to be a factor.

“It’s still a tragedy that we live every day here,” Sisolak said. “It’s obviously going to live with us forever, what happened.”

Those who knew Paddock described him as a strange, prolific video poker player who always wore gloves, according to the FBI documents. Neighbors in Mesquite said he only came out at night and had tried to put up a solid fence so no one could look at his house. One woman told authorities that he never made eye contact or shook her hand.

A longtime friend told the FBI that Paddock referred to gambling as his main source of income, earning so much that he bought a handgun for protection, the documents state.

Other previous reports from law enforcement have also provided a narrow glimpse into who Paddock was.

Authorities revealed Paddock had rented rooms overlooking music festivals in Chicago and downtown Las Vegas in the months before shooting.

A three-page summary report released by the FBI in 2019 reiterated that he acted alone. A panel of experts with access to troves of evidence also failed to determine a motive. At the time, a spokeswoman said no other reports related to the investigation would be released.

The FBI listed 10 key findings in the summary report, which painted a picture of a largely apathetic man, declining in physical and mental health as he aged, who may have seen the attack as a way to attain infamy.

“Throughout his life, Paddock went to great lengths to keep his thoughts private, and that extended to his final thinking about this mass murder,” the report stated. “Active shooters rarely have a singular motive or reason for engaging in a mass homicide.”

The report noted that he may have been influenced by his father, a convicted bank robber who escaped from federal prison in 1968 and landed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He was arrested nearly a decade later, largely absent from Paddock’s life, and died in 1998.

In 2018, Las Vegas police released a 187-page investigative report, which also found no clear motivation for what happened.

“What we have been able to answer are the questions of who, what, when, where and how,” said then-Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who is now governor. “What we have not been able to definitively answer is the ‘why’ Stephen Paddock committed this act.”

Lombardo declined to comment on the new FBI records Thursday.

Police have said Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds that night, using about a dozen different rifles equipped with bump stocks, which replicate automatic fire.

Investigators found no suicide note, video, manifesto or other form of explanation regarding the attack. The agency also found no evidence that Paddock was motivated by any ideological or political beliefs.

Instead, they determined that Paddock wanted to die by his own hands, possibly seeing suicide as an act of control in a life that seemed to keep spiraling into decline as he grew older: His financial status fell, his level of functioning slowly diminished, and he grew increasingly distressed at his inability to remedy those issues, the report said.

A Las Vegas doctor not identified in the document described Paddock as odd and almost emotionless and thought he might have bipolar disorder. He said Paddock seemed fearful of medications and refused to take antidepressant drugs, though he did accept prescriptions for anti-anxiety medicine.

Those drugs were found in his system during his autopsy. A separate examination of his brain done at Stanford University found no major abnormalities.