Saturday 19 October 2019

'Weird' gunman who liked gambling and country music lived 'quiet, retired life'

An undated photo of Stephen Paddock Picture: Eric Paddock via AP
An undated photo of Stephen Paddock Picture: Eric Paddock via AP

William Wan and Sandhya Somashekhar

Before he opened fire late on Sunday - killing at least 59 people at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip - gunman Stephen Paddock lived a quiet life for years in a small town outside Las Vegas.

A retired man, Paddock (64) would disappear for days at a time, frequenting casinos as a professional gambler with his long-time girlfriend, neighbours said. Relatives also said Paddock had been quietly living out his retirement years, visiting Las Vegas to gamble and take in concerts.

"We know nothing. If you told me an asteroid fell it would mean the same to me. There's absolutely no sense, no reason he did this," said his brother Eric Paddock. "He's just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There's no political affiliation that we know of. There's no religious affiliation that we know of."

In a brief interview yesterday morning outside his home in Orlando, Eric Paddock said the FBI was inside interviewing family.

For several years, the gunman lived with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, in a retirement community in Reno, Nevada, neighbours said. They said they interacted with Ms Danley but not Paddock, whom they described as 'extremely stand-offish'. Ms Danley told residents Paddock was a professional gambler, explaining their long absences from the neighbourhood.

Harold Allred, who lives up the street from the couple, said his wife often ran into Ms Danley in exercise classes or social gatherings. He said he and his wife found Ms Danley unremarkable, though perhaps a little odd, and didn't know Paddock. "He was reclusive," said Mr Allred (66). "We never met him."

Paddock and Ms Danley had another home in Mesquite, Nevada, which also meant they went away regularly, said their neighbours.

Diane McKay lived next door to Paddock and Ms Danley until July, when she moved to a different community, but said she only ran into Ms Danley occasionally when both women happened to be pulling weeds from their front yards. Ms Danley wasn't forthcoming about her life, and Paddock was aggressively unfriendly, Ms McKay recalled. She only saw him in the mornings, when he went to the clubhouse to work out. Occasionally, he would open the garage door, revealing a large safe the size of a refrigerator. Other than that, the couple kept their blinds closed.

"He was weird. Kept to himself," said Ms McKay (79), who described Paddock as small but in pretty good shape. "It was like living next to nothing. You can at least be grumpy, something. He was just nothing, quiet. He never went out back and enjoyed the backyard, nature. They had a little backyard, 17 feet to the fence and hill. But the blinds were always closed."

McKay said the couple were gone for six months last year, which she thought was for a gambling trip.

Paddock's family said there was nothing in his past that would suggest violence. Family members said that Paddock spent much of his retirement in recent years staying in hotels in Las Vegas and gambling. They said he listened to country music and went to concerts at Vegas hotels, similar to the one on Sunday night where he opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers.

Public records show Paddock was a licensed pilot who owned two planes. And he had a hunting licence from Alaska.

"We are in complete shock, bewilderment and horror. We have absolutely no idea how in the world Steve did this. Absolutely no concept," said one relative, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid hurting other relatives. "There was nothing secret or strange about him."

Property records show he had homes in both Mesquite, Texas, and Mesquite in Nevada. He bought his current home in Mesquite, Nevada, in 2013, and appears to have been living there ever since.

Las Vegas police said authorities were in the process of searching Paddock's home in Mesquite, Nevada, yesterday morning. Quinn Averett, a spokesman for the Mesquite Police Department, said Paddock was unknown to local authorities in the city 130km northeast of Las Vegas. Mesquite police have no recorded interactions with Paddock.

Las Vegas police said the same.

"We have no investigative information or background associated with this individual that is derogatory," said Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. "The only thing we can tell is he received a citation several years ago, that citation was handled as a matter of normal practice in the court system."

Police believe Paddock was a lone-wolf attacker. Mr Lombardo did not give further details on Paddock's background or possible motivation.

"We have no idea what his belief system was," he said. "Right now, we believe he was the sole aggressor."

Paddock, who arrived at the hotel on Thursday, was found with more than 10 rifles, he said. Relatives said they knew Paddock owned guns but believed they were legal.

Yesterday morning police released a picture of Ms Danley, saying they were searching for her as a person of interest. They later said she was out of the country, and had been located and detained. Authorities called her a companion of Paddock.

Irish Independent

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