The gunman behind Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas planned to flee, and he may have had help with planning the massacre, officials suspect.
Stephen Paddock was “living a secret life, much of which would never be fully understood”, Sheriff Joe Lombardo told reporters.
The gunman’s girlfriend said she had no idea what he was plotting.
Paddock’s motive for killing 58 people in the largest mass shooting in modern US history remains unclear.
Police found the 64-year-old former accountant dead in a room on the 32nd floor of a hotel after he sprayed bullets on concert-goers below, injuring hundreds.
He apparently turned one of his many guns on himself as police closed in.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Clark County Sheriff Lombardo was asked if he saw evidence that Paddock had planned to escape after the attack.
The sheriff said “yes”. Asked what it was, he said: “I can’t tell you.”
Sheriff Lombardo was asked by a reporter if he thought Paddock had carried out the attack alone.
“You’ve got to make the assumption he had to have some help at some point,” the sheriff replied.
“Maybe he’s a super guy, maybe he was working out all this on his own, but it would be hard for me to believe that.”
The possibility that Paddock could have had an accomplice is a twist in the investigation.
In the aftermath of the shooting officials described him as “a lone wolf” and said he was “solely responsible for this heinous act”.
The FBI’s Aaron Rouse said no link to terrorism had been found so far, but they would not discard the possibility.
Sheriff Lombardo also revealed:
- Paddock had been gambling just hours before he began shooting
- He had booked into an apartment at the high-rise Ogden in downtown Las Vegas a week earlier during a different open-air festival where acts including Muse, Lorde, Chance the Rapper and Blink-182 were due to play
- A hotel security guard who led police to Paddock’s room was shot – there were 200 rounds of ammunition in the corridor – but continued to help until he was ordered to seek medical attention
The sheriff said more than 100 investigators had been combing through the Paddock’s life “to produce a profile of someone I would call disturbed and dangerous”.
Paddock, he said, was “a man who spent decades acquiring guns and ammo”.
22:12 Officers reach 31st floor and report gunfire coming from floor above
22:15 Last shots fired into the concert crowd
22:18 Security guard on 32nd floor tells police he has been shot and points them to room
23:20 Swat teams enter gunman’s room. They find ‘one suspect down’
The gunman had around 23 weapons with him in the room, many of which were modified to make them shoot more quickly.
Police found explosives in his car at the hotel, along with about 1,600 rounds of ammunition.
The bulk of Paddock’s weaponry was bought in the last year, but Sheriff Lombardo said it was not clear what motivated him to start buying so much equipment.
“Anything that would indicate this individual’s trigger point and that would cause him to do such harm, we haven’t understood it yet,” he said.
Paddock had set up cameras both inside and outside the suite to see anyone approaching the room, police said.
What did Paddock’s girlfriend say?
Marilou Danley, who was out of the country at the time of the shooting, has been described by US authorities as a “person of interest”.
She voluntarily flew back to Los Angeles from the Philippines on Tuesday night to speak to the FBI.
Two weeks ago, she said Paddock surprised her with a plane ticket to visit her family in the South East Asian country.
Paddock “never said anything to me or took any action” which she understood as a warning of what was to come, she said in a statement read by her lawyer.
Ms Danley added: “I loved him and hoped for a quiet future together.” ·
While she was in the Philippines, he wired her $100,000 (£75,400), saying it was to buy a house.
“I was grateful, but honestly I was worried it was a way for him to break up with me,” she said.
“It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.”
Her sister earlier told Australian outlet 7News that Ms Danley “was sent away… so that she will not be there to interfere with what he’s planning”.
Paddock checked into a suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel on 28 September, reportedly using some of Ms Danley’s identity documents.
Will the attack lead to gun control?
Particularly bad US mass shootings typically spark renewed calls for gun control measures, which tend to falter as the public horror fades and the lobbying might of the National Rifle Association is brought to bear on Congress.
But some Republicans have said they might be open to the idea of banning a fully legal firearms accessory used by Paddock to such deadly effect.
Twelve of his weapons were fitted with a bump stock, which speeds up fire to many hundreds of rounds per minute.
President Trump – who extolled gun rights during his campaign – has so far been non-committal.
After visiting Puerto Rico on Tuesday, he said “perhaps that [time] will come” for a debate.