The Damage of Conspiracy Theories

The Damage of Conspiracy Theories

In the Las Vegas Mass Murders

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D.

Forensic Criminologist/Law Enforcement Expert

Copyright © 10-18-17


There were two shooters at Mandalay Bay. There were multiple shooters in the concert venue. Security guard Ramos Campos was a co-conspirator. A CIA operative was arrested in the hotel immediately after the shootings. A woman rushed the stage and warned that all would die just before the shooting. A major MGM casino owner dumped millions of shares of casino stock the day before the murders. The six minute time gap; the nineteen minute time gap in police response to the 32nd floor. You name it and it’s out there.

Conspiracy theories, black helicopters, the CIA, anti-President Trump assassins. I’m sick of it and you should be too. As a forensic criminologist, a complex crime scene investigator and an FBI trained behavioral profiler, I have just about had it with of the self-styled backyard “criminologists,” junk science theorists and idiot mainstream media pundits inserting themselves into this horrible tragedy with their conspiracy theories.

Anyone who has ever worked in law enforcement as a field or forensic investigator will tell you that even when the killer is known, single victim murder investigations can be complex, challenging and time consuming. Now, consider that we have a known single killer who abruptly and efficiently murdered by ambush fifty-nine victim and injured nearly 500 other people and you begin to grasp scope of the complexity of the Las Vegas active-shooter, mass murderer investigation.

To date, my most complex investigation involved an officer-involved shooting in Cleveland, Ohio with over sixty officers, thirteen shooters, two dead suspects and 139 rounds fired in 17.5 seconds. The city and county used over thirty investigators and crime scene technicians and after one year of investigating, still managed to get the fact pattern wrong. In comparison, I deployed five members including myself from our national Forensic Death Investigations Team and within four months reconciled a forensically accurate, factual reconstruction of the incident fact pattern. In the Mandalay Bay massacre, we are barely one month into this investigation and everyone is clamoring for immediate answers to what occurred. Are you kidding me?

Forensic investigations and crime scene reconstruction is not “CSI Las Vegas.” How do I know? Because I am “CSI Las Vegas” and “CSI Miami Beach” as a contract forensic expert for both the Nevada State Attorney General’s Office and the City of Miami Beach. TV cop shows have ruined the public’s perception of field and forensic investigations. I hate to burst your bubble here, but eight-five percent of what you see on these CSI, SVU and NCIS shows is pure “BS.” TV producers and directors are not as interested in an accurate portrayal of what detectives and forensic investigators really do for a living, as they are getting well-dressed handsome actors to get that “cool action shot” and solve a crime in thirty-eight minutes sans commercials. Get over it!

I work almost daily with the national and international news media fielding their questions and I will tell you that with few exceptions, the media gets it wrong on most occasions when it comes to providing an accurate portrayal of the factual circumstances of homicides, officer-involved shootings and active shooter mass murders. Why, because the term “investigative journalist” is an oxymoron. These days, journalism is all about numbers, metrics, analytics and blogging “link clicks,” rather than forensic facts. Reporters are largely untrained and under-informed regarding police practices and forensic investigations. What makes matters worse is that they rarely show any interest in educating themselves to improve their skill set in this critical area that comprises over twenty percent of any news network’s story lines each day. That is a disservice to you the news consumer.

However, as much as law enforcement administrators are frustrated with the media’s focus on ridiculous and even stupid aspects of a criminal investigation, they are not without blame. The manner in which the law enforcement administrators in the Mandalay Bay mass murder investigation have handled their press conferences underscores why top police administrators should rarely become their agency’s Public Information Officers (PIOs).

With all due respect to Las Vegas Metro Sheriff Lombardo and his Undersheriff who are under enormous pressure trying to direct this investigation; four words of advice: Stop giving press conferences! You are way out of their wheel house when addressing the media and what you are saying and how you are saying it is fanning the flames of controversy and conspiracy theories. The last thing you need is more distraction in this pressure cooker investigation.

So, allow me to address these various issues of controversy and insane conspiracy theories.

Theory #1 – There was more than one shooter firing upon victims. Wrong and fake news. There are no credible witnesses, nor any forensic nor ballistic evidence supporting a two shooter theory. Several self-styled “criminalists” and “ballistics experts” have blogged and You Tubed various assertions based solely upon junk science that there was more than one shooter either in the upper stories at Mandalay Bay, or inside the concert venue. To date, none of the so called “witnesses” to multiple shooters statements have been found credible. There is no forensic evidence of shell casings found at any other location either in the hotel or concert venue. No additional shooters have been verified nor identified in any CCTV or cell phone videos from concert attendees, hotel guests, or passerby’s in the area of the shootings.

Multiple people were killed or injured by bullet impacts entering the bodies, passing through bodies and striking other victims and projectiles striking the pavement from an elevated position, ricocheting up wards and horizontally and striking other victims. So-called acoustic tests of the gunfire fail to consider the sound echo factor, generally inferior quality of cell phone audio recordings, different weapons fired, weapon barrel lengths and a host of other more technical acoustical challenges.

If you know anything about forensics and ballistic science, the so-called “experts” who are posting this drivel have at best a very limited knowledge of applied science; do not have access to the proper forensic equipment and have no background in audiology. One clue for me is that on their videos or in their blog articles, they attempt to insert themselves into the investigation for self-promotion. Don’t waste your time reading, watching or sharing such stories; it’s just more fake news.

Theory #2 – Paddock was an ISIS converted terrorist. There is absolutely zero evidence so far that Stephen Paddock was a self-radicalized ISIS-style terrorist. If law enforcement is to be believed and at present, I have no reason to doubt them, they have found NO ties between Paddock and any identified terrorists, terrorist cells, or terrorist organizations. All people in today’s social media and digital society leave “digital footprints” as to who, what, where and when a person of interest contacts other people or organizations, conducts searches for information, or posts information and comments. Most all of this information from the footprint, unless radically encrypted can eventually be uncovered and traced. We are not seeing any such ties between Paddock and any other terrorist entity. We also have no leaks from law enforcement sources that Paddock was somehow tied to terrorists and by now there would be. This is another non-story.

Theory #3 – Security guard Ramos Campos was shooter Stephen Paddock’s co-conspirator. Wrong. So far, law enforcement has found absolutely no connection between Campos and Paddock. Police have tracked Paddock to over one hundred locations in the days prior to the shooting and have found no evidence of Paddock and Campos together. There are no known ties or relationship between the two men. To date, police strongly believe that the encounter between the Mandalay Bay security guard and Paddock was merely coincidental when Campos responded to an alarm of an open door on the 32nd floor where Paddock’s suite was located and was fired upon by Paddock. A recent LA Times article claiming that there was no door alarm system was inaccurate, unconfirmed and poorly sourced.

Theory #4 – An MGM/Mandalay Bay casino owner sold off millions of dollars’ worth of casino stock the day before the mass shooting. So, what? What are you inferring here? That he somehow knew that Stephen paddock would commit mass murder? Casino owners frequently play the stock market in a gambling market that is constantly unstable and in flux based upon a myriad of issues. There is nothing out of the ordinary about selling millions of dollars in casino stock. By the way, where is the source of this information because I sure haven’t seen any vetted sources coming forward to confirm any large-scale transactions. This is another non-story.

Theory #5 – Stephen Paddock actually planned to escape from his sniper’s perch after the killings. Doubtful and does not fit the active shooter profile. To date, no active shooter has ever planned nor escaped after committing mass murder. Sheriff Lombardo speculated that because Stephen Paddock had body armor inside his hotel suite, he planned to escape.

Consider just how quickly the police responded to his hotel suite. Next, consider that Paddock would have had to escape down 32 floors in an elevator; out into the parking garage; or out one of many doors in the hotel casino complex, to the outside. Quite a difficult task. Rather, consider the more plausible and simpler explanation. Paddock’s obvious objective was to kill as many concert goers as possible from his elevated platform. He knew police would respond with an entry team. He knew that they would fire upon him once identified. Paddock was goal-oriented in killing people, so he wore the body armor to stop mortal hits to his body that would allow him to continue to kill, while accomplishing “suicide-by-cop” as his final death act. That is far more consistent with the active shooter profile.

Issue of Controversy – Security Guard Campos has suddenly disappeared. No controversy here. Are you telling me that after being shot, surviving a near death experience, hounded 24/7 by a pack mentality press hungry for a story; some of whom have accused you of being a co-conspirator in the mass murders and no doubt suffering from post-traumatic stress; you wouldn’t want to disappear for a while to decompress? Just where was the “controversy?” Mr. Campos’ disappearance was a completely natural reaction to the unfortunate circumstances he finds himself involved in right now. After only a few days off the media radar screen, he has returned and was just interviewed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. He says that this will be his sole media interview. Well, I’m not holding my breath.  Is a book deal in the works? Who knows, but movie producers won’t wait long to make Campos an offer he can’t refuse. Everyone has their price and my bet is that Campos will go cheap. That’s just human nature.

Recently, it was released that Campos might be an illegal alien. Even if this were true, how does that fact alter the fact pattern with respect to Stephen Paddock who is the sole identified suspect in this case? There are a couple million illegal aliens between California and Nevada, with thousands working in the Las Vegas casino and entertainment industry. What is so unusual or controversial about that? This is a non-story.

Issue of Controversy – The so-called “6 minutes radio call time gap.” What “controversy” are we talking about here? Time lines change frequently during forensic investigations due to a number of investigative components to include, but not limited to: witness re-interviews, stress memory recall, misperceptions, radio traffic time stamping, forensic digital download accuracy and others. In his first press conference, Sheriff Lombardo warned the media that this was a fluid, flexible and on-going investigation where facts and the fact pattern might change. Were reporters asleep when this was emphasized? Even, if there turns out to be a difference in facts and opinions between the Sheriff’s Office and Mandalay Bay, how does that discrepancy in any way alter any critical evidence relevant to Paddock or his motive for committing mass murder? It doesn’t. So, move on people! This is another non-story.

Issue of Controversy – It took 19 minutes for police to arrive at Paddock’s 32nd floor suite. This is NO “controversy” at all. Has anyone stopped to consider what it takes to gather an entry/assault team, respond to locate and engage an active shooter who is believed to have at least one machine gun on the 32nd floor on a major hotel casino during a time of utter chaos? Has anyone ever taken an elevator to the 32nd floor or any building, let alone a casino; and even in a service elevator? Has anyone even considered what it would be like for several under-weaponized officers to gather down a narrow hallway, looking at an estimated 200 bullet impacts into surrounding walls, easily penetrated by .308 rifle rounds in what is referred in law enforcement tactical parlance as the “fatal funnel of fire” and then plan to engage a murderous active shooter? How about considering how long it would take to deploy a SWAT team properly weaponized with ceramic body armor, automatic weapons and flash-bang distraction devices up to the 32nd floor of any building? Are you serious?!

It was an absolutely amazing feat for the Las Vegas Metro Sheriff’s Department’s tactical personnel to have responded to Paddock’s room as quickly as they did. This is another stupid non-story created by uneducated reporters with a TV cop mentality. Just what are you inferring here; that these heroic officers were negligent? How does this story line add anything meaningful to our determinations about why Stephen Paddock committed mass murder? It doesn’t because it’s another non-story. Move on!

So, what are we left with right now with this investigation?

Forensic investigations are like trying to put a puzzle together with some of the pieces missing. It takes time trying to find those pieces. For an anxious, low-informed press, this process is time-consuming, tedious and at times frustrating and boring. The story loses velocity; the viewing public gets bored; other news stories arise and take precedent. Some reporters who are invested in a now slow-moving story need to re-energize the story to re-gain momentum; hence the emergence of non-stories, development of “controversy” and fake news conspiracy theories. None of this serves the public consumer of news.

Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley – Here’s a story line; where is Stephen Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley and what is the substance of her interviews with police? Danley lived for years with Paddock and knew him intimately. Here’s a guy with over seventy guns, cases of ammunition, some explosives, body armor, fire retardant clothing, probably large gun safes – and this gal knew nothing about his alternate lifestyle? Paddock was an accountant. Accountants by their very nature are analytical and a bit anal and OCD. They are planners, organizers; check the boxes people. This was not a spontaneous violent gesture. It took time, careful planning, deliberation, logistics, timing and commitment to engage and pull off the largest mass murder of people in American history. This was a plan that was in the works for months, if not years. Marilou was with Paddock all of this time. Paddock was no James Bond; he was The Jackal in spades. He used her casino ID in part to facilitate his plan. What did Danley know and when did she know it? What casino did Danley work for – Mandalay Bay? I don’t know and the police haven’t told us and they know for sure. The police have never really explained any payments of large sums of money made to Danley. Why not? If we follow the money, where does that take us? Danley has lawyered-up and there is an obvious gap in communicating with law enforcement. That’s unusual. Is there an immunity deal in the works? You see, here’s a story line to be pursued.

Guns, guns and more guns – Police tell us that Stephen Paddock had over 70 assorted guns; long barreled rifles, AR-16 style carbines with extended magazines and buttstocks, pistols, etc. As a tactical trainer and a hunter, I own guns, but not 70 of them. By now, law enforcement including BATF has already run the history of all of the guns that Paddock purchased and each one has a story to tell. So, what’s that story? More important, what’s the timeline for the purchase of those weapons? When did Paddock begin to purchase the military grade weaponry and buttstocks? Whom and/or where did he buy those weapons? What can the sellers of these weapons tell us about Paddock. Yes, Paddock apparently purchased his weapons legally, but that’s not my issue. My issue is his personality and motive for mass murder.

Improvised Explosives – Police tell us that Paddock had the explosive tannerite in his vehicle. Where did he purchase this? All explosives have trace elements that provides BATF a forensic “signature” that allows them to trace where those explosives were purchased. What is that story and what did any people on the selling end of that purchase tell police about Paddock?

Motive – The Ultimate Question – As a profiler, for me perhaps the most important pieces of the Paddock Puzzle are: (1) why he decided to kill in mass; (2) why did he select firearms as his lethal weapons when he owned a plane that he could have filled with fuel and tannerite and crashed it into the concert venue and adjacent jet fuel tanks which would have killed thousands; and (3) when did his personality transition from isolated, reclusive and controlling; to murderous evil? As I have written before, the basic motives for active shooting/mass murder are: (1) anger, hatred and revenge; (2) terrorism; (3) anti-government; and (4) anti-religious.

So far, unless new evidence surfaces, I am crossing out terrorism, anti-government and anti-religious sentiments as Paddock’s motives for planned mass murder. Yes, he was obviously an angry man; but angry with who and about what? If he killed for revenge; what terrible things happened to him to cause him to wage such havoc upon innocent people he didn’t even know?

As I have written and taught in the Response to Active Shooter classes I produce for corporations; active shooters show no mercy and shoot and kill anyone in their sights. They take no hostages; make no demands and are only captured when they run out of ammunition, or their weapons jam and they can no longer shoot. They classically commit suicide when engaged by police, or die in a hail of bullets in a final “suicide-by-cop” gesture. Stephen Paddock chose suicide. That’s not abnormal for people who are already way past abnormal.

The questions that needs to be factually determined are why an odd bird like Stephen Paddock planned and executed his successful and horrendous plot to kill and maim so many; and when did his ultimate transition from retired and successful accountant and video poker player to evil mass murderer begin?  If investigators are ever able to solve this puzzle, then law enforcement, security professionals and the public can learn how to better identify, report and protect themselves from these murderous personality types.

The realization and acceptance of pure evil is difficult for Americans to grasp

A word of caution and perhaps pessimism here for the public and the news media. Ultimately, investigators may never solve the Paddock Puzzle and be able to forensically and factually determine why Stephen Paddock left the world of reality and committed horrific mass murder and the wounding of hundreds of his fellow citizens. The answer may be quite simple, but perplexing and exasperating. Some people are just pure “evil.”

Despite how the outside world with our own national news media portray Americans; we are a good, kind and compassionate people. We tend to love and forgive, rather than hold grudges. Our survival as a homogeneous nation after a costly civil war pitting brother against brother; and European and Asian nations who were once our bitter enemies are now our friends and allies bears evidence to our ability to de-escalate and forgive. For this reason, Americans just have a very difficult time wrapping their collective minds around the concept that true evil exists; even though we have been visited by a whole host of mass murderers from Adolph Hitler, to Jeffrey Dahmer, to Charles Manson, to Rev. Jim Jones.

This investigation will take time, so take a deep breath and be patient

As I have said many time, competent forensic investigations take time and are often, if not impossible to solve to anyone’s satisfaction. The media and the public need to stop having unrealistic “TV Cop” style grand expectations of the law enforcement investigators working this case. Just stop buying into the fake “forensic experts,” conspiracy theories, know-it-all bloggers and fake made-for-TV news.

Every case “is what it is” and this one is an excellent example of difficulty at its worse. Just give the investigators time and let’s see what happens as the case proceeds.

About the author

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and homicide expert. Dr. Martinelli, is a retired San Jose (CA) detective who directs the nation’s only multi-disciplinary Forensic Death Investigations Team. He has investigated over 300 complex homicides, is an FBI trained criminal profiler and is a frequently used forensic expert to national and international news media. His forensic site is found at:


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