In October 2017, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest music festival from his Las Vegas hotel room. He killed 58 and wounded 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The case faded from the news, until now. The Department of Justice recently unsealed more than 300 pages of search warrants and affidavits. Those documents shed new light on Paddock’s methodology and reveal details about his girlfriend’s involvement. Here’s what we know now.
1. His girlfriend’s fingerprints were on the ammunition
According to the documents, Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, warned investigators they may find her fingerprints on his ammunition. That turned out to be true. She later explained she sometimes helped him load the magazines. While investigators did name Danley as a primary person of interest at the time, she has cooperated fully with the proceedings. Police do not suspect Danley, who Paddock sent to visit relatives in the Philippines at the time of the attack, of any additional involvement. As such, they have not charged her with any crime.
Next: The documents revealed additional details about Danley’s involvement.
2. Danley’s social media may give investigators more information
In an affidavit submitted with the search warrant application, an investigator said access to Danley’s email account may “lead investigators to determine the full scope of Stephen Paddock’s plan and Marilou Danley’s possible involvement.” Investigators also sought access to her Instagram accounts. The New York Times reports they hoped to find “evidence showing the possession, use, purchase, or sale of firearms, firearms accessories, ammunition, or explosives by Paddock.” They also sought information about Danley’s “state of mind as it relates to the crime under investigation.” She deleted her Facebook account just hours after the attack took place, documents showed.
Next: The documents revealed new details that may lead to motive.
3. New information may help piece together Paddock’s actions
Investigators also know Paddock wired $100,000 to an account in the Philippines shortly before the attack. They did not believe the money had anything to do with the massacre, however. Investigators also found Danley’s casino card in Paddock’s room. The documents revealed that Paddock may have undergone treatment for “unidentified medical conditions” prior to the attack. In October, Danley did tell investigators that her boyfriend’s physical and mental health seemed to have deteriorated recently. Regardless, the ongoing investigation has not yet turned up any motive.
Next: The investigation also revealed new details about Paddock’s plans.
4. Email exchanges reveal Paddock’s process
Newsweek reports that the documents include an email exchange Paddock allegedly had on two accounts associated with him: CentralPark4804@gmail.com and CenterPark1@live.com. “Investigators have been unable to figure out why Stephen Paddock would be exchanging messages related to weapons that were utilized in the attack between two of his email accounts,” according to The Los Angeles Times. “Conversely, if the Target Account was not controlled by Stephen Paddock, investigators need to determine who was communicating with him about weapons that were used in the attack.”
The first message read, “Try an ar before u buy. We have a huge selection. Located in the Las Vegas area.” A second message said, “We have a wide variety of optics and ammunition to try.” A third message read, “For a thrill try out bumpfire ar’s with 100 round magazine.” That apparently references bump stocks, the accessories Paddock used to make his rifles fire automatically.
Next: The documents also explain where Paddock got his materials.
5. Paddock got most of his tools online, evidence shows
The records also say Paddock purchased most of his guns and ammunition online. He did so over 12 months leading up to the attack, and used anonymous communication tools to discuss the transactions. He spent “significant time and expense prior to the attack purchasing and caching weapons” and other items, such as glass cutters and suitcases. Authorities said he used the glass cutters on his hotel window to fire on the concertgoers below.
The search warrants add additional details to what investigators found in the hotel room, according to The New York Times. The FBI found hundreds of rounds of spent ammunition, as well as “preloaded high-capacity magazines” in suitcases. Investigators also found body armor, range finders, and a homemade gas mask.
Next: Investigators also looked into Paddock’s digital footprints.
6. The gunman took great pains to cover his tracks
Paddock destroyed some of his digital footprints, making it harder for investigators to follow his movements. Police found three cell phones in Paddock’s hotel suite, two of which had been locked. They gained access to all but one, so far. An FBI agent wrote that one locked phone likely contained “any information related to a potential conspiracy.” Authorities previously revealed they also found a laptop with no hard drive in the room.
The FBI said Paddock’s communications demonstrate a “level of sophistication which is commonly found in mass casualty events.” According to The New York Times, FBI agents believe “Paddock planned the attack meticulously and took many methodical steps to avoid detection of his plot and to thwart the eventual law enforcement investigation that would follow.”
Next: The documents also may lead to additional charges.
7. More individuals may see charges related to the case
In a hearing about the documents’ release, a lawyer for the Las Vegas Police Department said it could bring additional charges, according to CNN. Lawyer Nick Crosby told Clark County District Court Judge Elissa Cadish those charges could come within 60 days. Ten pages of the documents remain sealed, as they relate to that proceeding.
“Without naming names, there are potential charges against others as a result of the ongoing investigation — is that fair?” Cadish asked Crosby. “Yes,” Crosby responded. “There are charges being investigated.” The lawyer added that he is not “privy to all of the information with respect to what’s going on.” Because the investigation remains open, he cannot comment on what those charges involve. He did say he had no evidence they “relate to the actual murders.”
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