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Las Vegas shooter was not driven by any ‘single or clear motivating factor,’ FBI says

Balloons and flowers are left beside the Route 91 Harvest festival venue in Las Vegas on Oct. 3, 2017, two days after a gunman killed 58 people when he opened fire from the Mandalay Bay hotel. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
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The gunman who killed 58 people in Las Vegas in 2017 was not fueled by any “single or clear motivating factor,” the FBI said, mirroring the conclusions of local police who said they could not determine what motivated the massacre.

The FBI findings made public Tuesday come more than a year after the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. According to police, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from a 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, killing dozens and injuring hundreds more before shooting himself in the head.

After the massacre — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — investigators delved into Paddock’s life before the gunfire. They pored over his finances, spoke to people who knew him and studied his movements. In the end, the Las Vegas police said in a report last summer, these investigators said they could not answer why he carried out the attack.

The question of motive often lingers after mass shootings, as some of the people victimized by the attacks describe a desperate search for answers.

‘I’m constantly asking: Why?’ When mass shootings end, the painful wait for answers begins.

The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit brought together a panel of experts to examine the attacker and try to look at his possible motivations, the bureau said. The FBI released a three-page summary of the panel’s findings Tuesday, but much as local police came away without clarity, the federal investigators' conclusions were no different.

“Throughout his life, Paddock went to great lengths to keep his thoughts private, and that extended to his final thinking about this mass murder,” the FBI said in its summary of the findings. Noting that most shooters “rarely have a singular motive or reason for engaging in a mass homicide” and instead have a tangled knot of problems that merge together, the panel “assesses that in this regard, Paddock was no different.”

The FBI panel also echoed other findings investigators have previously announced. They found that Paddock “conspired with no one; he acted alone” and was not seeking any political, religious or social outcome through his attack. No “ideologically-motivated persons or groups” directed or inspired him, the FBI said, another rebuke to the Islamic State’s attempts to link itself to the attack.

Las Vegas police end investigation into massacre without ‘definitively’ determining what motivated the gunman

The federal panel also echoed the determination that Paddock left behind no explanatory note or other communication explaining either the attack or his motivation. They found no specific grievance against a Las Vegas casino or any of his victims that may have prompted the attack.

The Las Vegas attack was horrifying in its scale. Police said 869 people were injured, nearly half of them by gunfire or shrapnel, along with countless others in the crowd of 22,000 who carry psychological scars.

But the FBI group did determine that Paddock’s desire to kill himself was a key part of what happened, which the panel concluded was linked to his declining health as he got older. The panel found that “Paddock concluded that he would seek to control the ending of his life via a suicidal act,” a desire that was furthered by his hope to achieve some infamy through the attack. This facet echoes that seen by some other mass attackers, who similarly seek fame, but the Las Vegas panel linked this to Paddock’s father, a bank robber who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

The FBI panel found that Paddock was similar to many other mass attackers, who have frequently concerned the people around them before the attacks. The panel also found that Paddock could be cruel to other people in his life, which it said included manipulating others. Authorities have previously said he spent considerable time preparing for the attack while seeking to thwart their investigation. In its conclusions, the FBI panel said that this probably gave Paddock “a sense of direction and control despite his mental and physical decline.”

Police have previously said an FBI analysis found that Paddock’s bank accounts were also declining before the shooting. The Las Vegas sheriff called him “an unremarkable man” and “a narcissist [who] only cared about himself,” a conclusion the FBI panel appeared to endorse.

Further reading:

‘I’m not gonna lay here and just get shot’: Survivors recount the terror and chaos of the Las Vegas massacre

The wounds they carry: The aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre