LAS VEGAS — Chilling new clues suggest the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history planned to inflict even more carnage.
Stephen Paddock didn’t just have 23 weapons in his Mandalay Bay hotel suite, which he turned into a sniper’s nest to kill 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas. He also had 50 pounds of explosives material and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his car in the hotel parking lot, police said.
A full two months before he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas from a 32nd-floor room of a hotel and killed 58 people, Stephen Paddock booked a room at a Chicago hotel that overlooks a park where a major music festival was held that weekend, a law enforcement official said Thursday.
The official said that law enforcement found no evidence that Paddock ever came to Chicago during the weekend of Lollapalooza — a music festival that attracts hundreds of thousands of people. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation of Paddock’s movements, spoke only on condition of anonymity after being briefed on the investigation.
The Blackstone Hotel, where Paddock made the reservations, overlooks the main stage and other stages at Grant Park where the music festival is held every year.
Paddock’s booking of the hotel room, first reported by TMZ, comes as investigators, trying to determine a motive for the Las Vegas shooting, have been trying to track Paddock’s movements in the days before he opened fire from the Mandalay Bay casino resort on Sunday night.
Investigators now believe Paddock intended to survive the massacre, Las Vegas police Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said.
“He was doing everything possible to see how he could escape,” Lombardo said, declining to detail specifics.
But what motivated Paddock to kill dozens of strangers — and where he planned to strike next — remain a mystery.
Paddock spent spent decades amassing weapons, and had rented a room overlooking another music festival in the city the previous weekend, authorities say.
Stephen Paddock led such a secretive life, much of it remains unknown days after he killed at least 59 people, according to Sheriff Joseph Lombardo of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police.
Paddock may have had help planning the attack at the country music festival Sunday night, Lombardo said Wednesday night
He planned to escape after the attack, but instead turned the gun on himself as authorities closed in on his room on the 32nd-floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Before killing himself, Paddock, 64, had set up cameras inside and outside his hotel suite, and in the peep hole.
“He was doing everything possible to see how he could escape at this point,” Lombardo said.
Police also found 50 pounds of explosives and 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his car in the Mandalay Bay hotel parking lot, according to Lombardo. There was also a note in his hotel room, but it was not a suicide note, he said.
Nearly 500 concertgoers were wounded either by the barrage of bullets or in the stampede when Paddock opened fire.
A new timeline
New evidence shows Paddock fired his first shots into the Route 91 Harvest music festival at 10:05 p.m. Sunday — three minutes earlier than what police previously reported, according to investigators.
For 10 minutes, Paddock sprayed hundreds of bullets into the crowd about a quarter mile away. The shots pummeled the gathering of 22,000 people with devastating speed, due to the help of bump-fire stocks, legal accessories that make weapons fire similarly to an automatic rifle.
As the indiscriminate killings continued, police said, cameras were positioned inside and outside Paddock’s hotel suite and in the door’s peep hole.
A security guard approached the 32nd-floor suite and was shot in the leg by Paddock. The 64-year-old gunman fired “well over 200 rounds” into the hallway, Lombardo said.
“It’s amazing that security guard didn’t sustain additional injury,” the sheriff said.
At 10:15 p.m., Paddock fired his last shots, police said. Three minutes later, the wounded security guard told Las Vegas police he’d been shot and directed officers to the gunman’s room.
More than an hour later, at 11:20 p.m., police first breached Paddock’s suite and found his body on the ground. Seven minutes later, officers gained access to a second room of the suite. No one else was found, and police declared the suspect “down.”
The motive and another music festival
As more than 100 investigators dig for answers, police aren’t sure what turned a retired accountant into a mass killer.
“What we know is Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo, and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” the sheriff said.
Investigators said something may have happened to Paddock between October 2016 and last month that compelled him to purchase more weapons. Paddock bought 33 firearms, mostly rifles, during that period, an ATF spokesperson said.
And prior to checking into Mandalay Bay days before the massacre, Paddock rented a room at a Las Vegas condo complex that overlooked another music festival.
The sheriff said Paddock rented the room at the Ogden condo complex via Airbnb during the Life is Beautiful music festival, which lasted from September 22 to 25.
“Was he doing pre-surveillance? We don’t know yet. This is all conjecture at this point,” Lombardo said.
A note was found in Paddock’s Mandalay Bay hotel room, but it was not a suicide note, the sheriff said. He did not detail what the note said.
No evidence indicates terrorism, FBI special agent Aaron Rouse said, but the investigation is ongoing.
Girlfriend: He sent me to the Philippines
Investigators want to know if Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, has information that can explain what sparked the massacre.
Danley flew Tuesday to Los Angeles from the Philippines and has been cooperating with authorities, Rouse said.
Danley, through her attorney, said Wednesday that she didn’t know Paddock planned to carry out a mass shooting.
She said he bought her a ticket to the Philippines about two weeks ago, then wired her money so she could buy a house there, she said in a statement. At the time, she worried he was trying to break up with her, she said.
Paddock wired $100,000 to the Philippines, a law enforcement source said, but officials haven’t determined when the money transfer took place or who received it. The FBI is working with Philippine authorities to get more details.
“It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone,” Danley said in the statement. “I will cooperate fully with their investigation. Anything I can do to help ease suffering and help in any way, I will do.”
The hunt for possible accomplices
Authorities are investigating whether Paddock acted alone or had accomplices. Lombardo, the sheriff, expressed skepticism that the gunman worked solo.
“Do you think this was all accomplished on his own? You’ve got to make the assumption he had to have some help at some point,” he said.
Lombardo cited the arsenal of lethal equipment found in Paddock’s homes in Reno and Mesquite, Nevada.
In Paddock’s Reno home, authorities found five handguns, two shotguns and a “plethora” of ammunition.
In his Mesquite, home, investigators found at least 19 more firearms, as well as explosives and several thousand rounds of ammunition.
“It’s troublesome this individual was able to move this amount of gear into a hotel room unassisted,” Lombardo said. ” It’s troublesome for the amount of stuff he had at both residences unassisted.”
Motive still a mystery
Almost three days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, investigators appear no closer to answering the question: Why?
Why did the 64-year-old fire with an arsenal of weapons for nine to 11 minutes? What pushed him to target a crowd of 22,000 in the heart of Las Vegas?
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told CNBC that the lack of a clear motive was a “surprise” in this mass shooting.
“This one is somewhat different than many of the ones we’ve dealt with in the past, because we don’t have any immediately accessible thumbprints that would indicate the shooter’s ideology or motivation, or really what compelled him to get there,” McCabe said.
The FBI is going through Paddock’s communications, financial records, associates and video surveillance to try to piece together the puzzle of his motive.
Paddock is twice divorced, liked to gamble, and at one time had jobs at the US Post Office and the IRS. He had no significant criminal history and was previously unknown to police.
FBI special agent Aaron Rouse said they have not found any evidence to indicate terrorism, but the investigation is ongoing.