The psychological profile of the Las Vegas mass shooter
will take time. Be patient and avoid the “fake news.”
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V
Forensic Criminologist/Police Expert
Copyright © 10-06-17
The blood has barely dried; evidence is being collected at three separate crime scenes and already the media, pseudo “criminologists” bloggers and conspiracy theorists are coming out of the wall forwarding various theories presented as “facts” as to who Las Vegas active shooter and mass murderer Stephen Paddock was and why he killed.
The “usual suspects,” hideous politicians on the left wasted no time shamefully exploiting this tragedy in calling again for gun control while bodies lie in the Clark County morgue and parents, husbands and wives wait to claim the bodies of loved ones.
The public understandably clamors for answers; yet lacks the knowledge, experience and patience needed to appreciate the task of forensic investigators who work to put the pieces of the puzzle together to provide an accurate psychological profile of the killer so we can learn to save future lives.
Forensic Investigations vs. The Media
Forensic investigations are not “CSI Las Vegas.” I know because death investigations are the lives work of myself and my nationally recognized Forensic Death Investigations Team. But unfortunately, we are a fantasy TV generation and reporters are part of this generation. Hence, their ignorant and stupid questions during news conferences and speculative, fake news stories we are forced to watch and read.
It’s difficult to find true investigative journalism today. New Age so-called “journalists” are more inclined to get their stories out first; than right. That’s a problem and a disservice to the viewers, listeners and readers. It takes forensic facts and evidence to build a credible investigation and make accurate findings and determinations. One of my jobs is to assist the national media in sorting cases like this one out and I assure you it’s always an uphill battle. They always want to put their personal or political spin on things; the facts be damned.
The Forensic Investigation Process – What we know
Like previous active shooter cases, the active shooter/mass murder case of now deceased suspect Stephen Paddock is a forensic puzzle that must be pieced together slowly. Presently, there are pieces all over the board, with several important pieces missing and needing to be discovered and inserted.
The investigative protocol is to identify, collect, record and analyze circumstances, statements, facts and forensic evidence. Investigators never complain that they have too much evidence; but they always complain when they don’t have enough evidence. Right now, it’s the latter complaint that is obstructing the investigation. The investigative process also often involves the process of elimination of criminal theories of motivation.
The unique challenge of Stephen Paddock – From the very start of this investigation, Stephen Paddock has presented law enforcement with the unique challenge of psychologically profiling him. He committed suicide, so he’s not talking. For a man who had lived 64 years, he had almost no digital footprint to forensically analyze. That’s odd in today’s social media environment, so I remain suspect that this is the case.
Most usually, people who commit horrendous crimes of this nature that scream out “Notice me! Pay attention! I have something to say!” will express their anger, rage, frustration, hatred, despondency, blame and/or political, religious or terrorist ideology verbally, in writing or behaviorally to others. Right now, such expressions from Paddock are eluding investigators.
The active shooter psychological profile – Active shooter/mass murderers fit a psychological behavioral profile. We know this because the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, and forensic investigators like me study these unique killers. Nearly all the non-terrorist active shooter/mass murders in the U.S. in the past fifty years have been “lone wolf” shooters. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were a rare exception.
Active shooter/mass murders shoot indiscriminately and show no mercy. They kill women, teens, small children, the elderly and handicapped. The take no hostages, make no demands and are only captured alive by surprise when they either have no immediate access to a functioning weapon or ammunition. Most active shooter killers die by suicide, suicide by cop when they force police to kill them; or are killed by first responding officers, a SWAT entry team, or a police sniper. Stephen Paddock fit this profile.
The basic motives for committing mass shooting murders are: (1) a mental health disorder; (2) anger/rage/revenge; (3) terrorism; (4) anti-government sentiment; or (5) anti-religious sentiment.
So far, law enforcement is indicating that Paddock had no known ties to any terrorist groups. There is no evidence that he had any serious, if any, religious convictions or issues with religion. Paddock’s work history indicates several jobs with the federal government that include post office mail carrier, IRS agent and private sub-contractor jobs with federal agencies or defense contractors. Yet, there are no indications that he had any problems with co-workers, or the government. Check those motives off, unless new evidence indicates otherwise. That leaves a mental health disorder, or anger, rage and revenge as possible indicators of motive or mental dysfunction.
At this point, the investigation has not yet found any evidence or statements from those who knew Paddock that he had displayed any verbal, physical, behavioral or psychological cues of overt mental dysfunction. However, it was revealed that he had been prescribed diazepam (valium) which is an anti-anxiety medication. It is also known that Paddock’s biological father was a serial bank robber who had been described as “pathologic.” Mental health disorders can be genetic and hereditary. Paddock apparently committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. One crime scene photo I’ve viewed indicates a shot through the mouth. I am hoping that enough of his brain was harvested for pathologists to perform a biopsy and opine whether Paddock had either a brain disorder or a terminal disease. For now, we wait and that door remains open.
Next, we come to the motives of anger, rage, hatred and revenge. Paddock has been described as a quiet loner, which fits the profile of most active shooters. However, here is where many of the missing pieces of his puzzle obstruct the investigation. Investigators must now get more information on his personality and character from those who knew him best.
No matter how one looks at Stephen Paddock, he was the ticking time bomb I have written about so many times before this incident. The one key aspect I am searching for in my analysis is the “precipitating event” that caused this bomb to explode. This was not a case of sudden, acute, spontaneous, murderous rage. This was a lengthy, well-considered, planned, equipped and well-executed criminal act.
One critical key to unlock the mystery of Paddock’s personality and mindset will be his live-in long-time girlfriend Marilou Danley, who suspiciously left the U.S. for the Philippines one week before Paddock laid siege to Las Vegas. Ms. Danley is certainly a “person of interest” to investigators. She is a Philopena national, who is actually an Australian citizen in the U.S. Her immigrant status in our country has not yet been revealed, although the FBI, CIA and State Department already know that status. It is known that Paddock wired $100,000 to her in the Philippines before he committed mass murder. Investigators will undoubtedly “follow the money” for more answers.
Witnesses at the Starbucks in a casino where Stephen Paddock, a prolific gambler was known to frequent have told investigators that he was openly verbally abusive to Ms. Danley, who was a casino worker. Men who are verbally abusive to their female domestic partners have anger, control and ego issues. Many have substance abuse issues as well.
However, consider the level of pent up anger one would have to have to create sufficient motivation to indiscriminately mow down hundreds of people with automatic weapons and long-range rifle fire at a beautiful concert. By no means cross anger off our list. There will undoubtedly be much more information on Paddock’s personality revealed in the days to come.
Don’t speculate. Wait for facts. – The nation’s news media is awash with speculation and conjecture formed by reporters uneducated in the science of forensic investigation. The public has their own theories as well. It’s only natural; it’s the biggest mystery going these days. The Las Vegas mass murders are the Kennedy assassination of the 1960s, complete with the grassy knoll. “There were two shooters inside Mandalay Bay;” “It was an anti-Trump leftist;” “It was the CIA;” “The crime scene was manipulated. Paddock was a government patsy.” Stop it! Just take a deep breath, calm down and think things out. It was none of the above.
Was killer Paddock a “Super-killer?” – With all due respect to Las Vegas Metro PD Sheriff Joe Lombardo who has done a remarkable job administering over this investigation, there is no evidence that Paddock was any type of super anything. He was no James Bond. However, he may have well been a reincarnation of “The Jackal” at a much higher and lethal level. I doubt that Paddock had an active accomplice who aided him in killing the victims. However, it is more likely that someone provided him with some level of logistical support on the workings of the Mandalay Bay Casino infrastructure. I would be intensely interviewing girlfriend Danley, who was familiar with the workings of casinos. However, the security and service protocols of hotel casinos are not difficult to figure out if one spends enough time in them like Paddock did.
I have personally visited the Mandalay Bay Hotel-Casino complex many times. It is a gigantic complex that takes up an entire city block. There are thousands of hotel rooms, scores of conference rooms and venues, tens of restaurants, scores of stores, an entertainment center, an arena, an aquarium and huge parking structures. There are dozens of entrances, exits and elevators. At busy periods, literally hundreds of hotel guests, vendors, visitors and service contractors pass through those points of egress and elevators. Many of those people are carrying bags and large containers. I have done so myself.
All it takes for one man to bring a devastating, highly lethal plan to fruition is planning, timing, stealth, commitment and execution. During the four days that Stephen Paddock stayed at Mandalay Bay, it would not have been difficult for him to transport all of his weapons, ammunition and CCTV micro-cameras up to the 32nd floor to his sniper perch. Breaking down his weapons and securing them in a couple of suitcases at a time and using various public and service elevators during busy and low staffing periods over four days would have done it. The same for his ammunition and small cameras. Arranging his CCTV cameras in and outside of his room would have been a breeze as well.
The issue of “pure evil” – Despite how Americans are portrayed by the very “PC” European news media, Americans are among the kindest and compassionate people in the world. Because of this quality, we have a hard time trying to wrap our arms around the forensic fact that there are people in our world who are just pure evil. Stephen Paddock may have been one of those personality types. A lethal combination of an on-going mental health disorder, coupled with an introspective realization that there was no meaning in his life despite his wealth; mixed with an evil, megalomaniacal desire to go into the history books as the greatest mass killer of all-time, might be the simple answer to the “who” Paddock was and “why” he committed this atrocity.
Piecing the puzzle together – Since I am familiar with both the forensic investigations game and the players in this instance, I have every confidence that the investigation will ultimately put enough of the Stephen Paddock puzzle together to determine the “why” of what Paddock did and the “who,” if anyone else was involved. My gut feeling tells me that the who, what and why of this tragic story of this purely evil man will not have a complex, convoluted Mission Impossible or Manchurian Candidate type story line. Rather, it will be more akin to basic, evil human behavior; or a complete mental breakdown. Now we must be patient and see.
About the Author
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and Certified Medical Investigator. Dr. Martinelli is a retired San Jose (CA) Police detective and an FBI trained criminal profiler who teaches Response to Active Shooters to corporate America. His sites are found at www.responsetoactiveshooters.com and www.DrRonMartinelli.com.