One Year Later, Experts Dig Deeper to Find Vegas Shooter’s Motive

One kept her television on 24 hours a day in the aftermath to try to gather every detail that could help her understand what happened. Another delved into the attacker’s family history. Others have debated the case informally among colleagues and officially at professional conferences. 

One year after Stephen Paddock killed 58 Las Vegas concertgoers, criminal psychologists and threat-assessment experts are still puzzling over why a wealthy, 64-year-old gambler committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. 

Experts are used to finding answers as to why mass shooters commit their crimes, be it anger at co-workers or fellow students over perceived slights, terrorism or mental illness. Several hypotheses on the Las Vegas gunman’s possible psychopathy and desire for infamy have begun to emerge, but they are tentative and based on limited evidence—a troubling outcome for people whose job it is to look for clues that could help prevent such a deadly incident in the future.

“People are bewildered by the case—there’s a bewilderment, and there’s a horror,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego who often gets questions about the Las Vegas shooting at lectures and conferences. “The most troubling cases are those without an answer.”

A 10-month probe by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department turned up no evidence of Paddock’s motives after interviews with his relatives, girlfriend, ex-wife, doctor and casino hosts, as well as searches of his computers, phones and internet history. He left no manifesto or suicide note, wasn’t affiliated with a terrorist group and had no mental-health diagnosis that might explain his actions.


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