THE Las Vegas gunman who killed 58 people and himself in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history stockpiled weapons and ammunition over decades, and meticulously planned the attack, authorities believe.
What led Stephen Paddock, 64, to unleash the carnage, however, remains largely a mystery.
“What we know is that 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,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters.
Lombardo said he found it hard to believe that the arsenal of weapons, ammunition and explosives recovered by police in their investigation could have been assembled by Paddock completely on his own.
“You have to make an assumption that he had some help at some point,” Lombardo said.
Some 489 people were also injured when Paddock strafed an outdoor concert with gunfire on Sunday night from his 32nd-floor suite of the Mandalay Bay hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. He then took his own life.
Police recovered nearly 50 firearms from three locations they searched, nearly half of them from the hotel suite. Officials said 12 of the rifles there were fitted with bump stocks, allowing the guns to be fired almost as though they were automatic weapons.
Like other recent mass shootings, the incident stirred the debate in Washington over regulating firearm ownership, which is protected by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Republicans, who currently control the White House and both chambers of Congress, have fought off Democratic calls for stricter background checks or federal limits on magazine size following past mass shootings. But congressional Republicans said they would be willing to investigate the bump stocks that allow legal semi-automatic rifles to behave similarly to fully automatic weapons, which are largely illegal in the US.
Investigators were examining the possibility Paddock’s purchase of more than 30 guns in October 2016 may have been precipitated by some event in his life, Lombardo said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation said there remained no evidence indicating that the shooting spree was an act of terrorism.
Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was questioned by the FBI on Wednesday and said she had been unaware of Paddock’s plans. “He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen,” said Danley, 62.
Danley, who returned on Tuesday from a family visit to the Philippines, is regarded by investigators as a “person of interest.” Her lawyer, Matt Lombard said his client was cooperating fully with authorities.
An FBI official in Las Vegas, meanwhile, said no one has been taken into custody.
An Australian citizen of Filipino heritage, Danley said she flew back to the US voluntarily “because I know that the FBI and Las Vegas Police Department wanted to talk to me, and I wanted to talk to them.”
Danley shared Paddock’s home at a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada, northeast of Las Vegas, before traveling to the Philippines in mid-September.
She said Paddock had bought her an airline ticket to visit her family and wired her money to buy property there.