The girlfriend of Stephen Paddock, the gunman who opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas earlier this week, said Wednesday she had no warning about his plans to carry out the massacre and pledged to cooperate with authorities struggling to determine what sparked the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
“I knew Stephen Paddock as a kind, caring, quiet man,” Marilou Danley, Paddock’s girlfriend, said in a statement read by her attorney. “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.”
Danley’s comments came after she had become a key figure in the investigation into why Paddock, a 64-year-old retired accountant, opened fire from a 32nd floor hotel room above the Las Vegas Strip. When the gunfire erupted, Danley was out of the country, and she only returned to Los Angeles late Tuesday night before being interviewed by FBI agents on Wednesday. Investigators have been unable to identify a motive so far, and Danley’s statement, released after she spoke with the FBI, suggested she was as stunned as anyone by what happened.
Danley said Wednesday she had traveled to the Philippines because Paddock bought her a ticket to visit family there. Paddock then wired her money, she said, saying it was meant to help purchase a home for Danley and her family.
“I was grateful, but honestly, I was worried, that first, the unexpected trip home, and then the money, was a way of breaking up with me,” she said her statement, which was read aloud by her attorney. “It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone.”
[Details emerge in the life of Marilou Danley]
Authorities have described a chilling level of preparation in Paddock’s attack, saying he brought a small arsenal into a two-room suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino before raining bullets on the thousands of concertgoers far below. Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others, also set up cameras so he could monitor the approach by police. As SWAT officers closed in, he turned a gun on himself.
“I am devastated by the deaths and injuries that have occurred and my prayers go out to the victims and their families and all those who have been hurt by these awful events,” Danley said.
Danley is considered a critical witness in trying to decipher Paddock’s motive, according to a person familiar with the probe. Police have described her as a “person of interest,” though they have not suggested that she is considered an accomplice or involved in any way.
Aaron Rouse, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas division, declined to comment about Danley’s location and whether she was still considered a person of interest Wednesday night. She was not in federal custody, he said.
Speaking at a news briefing Wednesday night, Rouse said the investigation would take time, but he pledged that the bureau would get it right.
“We will get to the bottom of this no matter how long it takes,” Rouse said, adding that the FBI had deployed more than 100 personnel across the country to assist with the investigation.
While investigators still do not yet know what set Paddock off, they found evidence that he intended to inflict considerable damage, including thousands of rounds of ammunition in his room that was not fired, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said at the same news briefing Wednesday.
Lombardo said detectives “keyed on” Paddock’s gun purchases in the two years before the attack and were exploring whether there was some event there, but were still investigating.
“Anything that would indicate this individual’s trigger point and would cause him to do such harm, we haven’t understood it yet,” Lombardo said.
Police have repeatedly said Paddock was the sole gunman, but they are still looking to see if he had any accomplices or help.
Lombardo said “you’ve got to make the assumption he had to have some help at some point,” given the amount of preparation and gear involved, but he said investigators had not identified any particular person.
Investigators also found evidence Paddock might have intended to escape the attack alive, Lombardo said, though he declined to say what that evidence was. Lombardo also said that a piece of paper was found in Paddock’s room, but said it was not a suicide note.
Lombardo also revised the number injured in the attack to 489, lower than a previous estimate offered by police. He said 317 had been discharged from the hospital. During the briefing, Lombardo laid out a detailed timeline of the incident, describing how officers heard the shots, closed in on Paddock’s suite and – 75-minutes later — breached the door to find Paddock dead.
Authorities expressed bafflement at what could have motivated the rampage. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said Wednesday he is surprised they have not found evidence pointing to the gunman’s motive yet.
“There’s all kinds of things that surprise us in each one of these events,” McCabe told CNBC. “This individual and this attack didn’t leave the sort of immediately accessible thumbprints that you find on some mass casualty attacks….We look for actual indicators of affiliation, of motive, of intent, and so far we’re not there. We don’t have those sort of indicators.”
McCabe said agents have been reconstructing “the life, the behavior, the pattern of activity of this individual and anyone and everyone who may have crossed his path in the days and the weeks leading up to this horrific event.”
So far, he said, investigators have not had any problems accessing the gunman’s computer electronic devices.
Amid a backdrop of anguish and questions, President Trump on Wednesday headed to Las Vegas to visit with survivors of the attack and law enforcement personnel. He echoed authorities in saying that they have not identified a motive.
“Not yet,” Trump said during remarks to reporters. “We’re looking. I can tell you, it’s a very sick man. He was a very demented person. We haven’t seen that yet, but you will know very soon if we find something. We’re looking very, very hard.”
Trump declined to speak about gun violence in America during his remarks. When he appeared with the sheriff and other officials, Trump said he was praying for the recovery of those injured, noting those in law enforcement particularly.
“We grieve the loss of the law enforcement personnel who were killed in this vicious attack,” Trump said. “Many families tonight will go to bed in a world that is suddenly empty.”
[The lives lost in Las Vegas]
Piece by piece, investigators have put together a profile of Paddock — a retired accountant — making meticulous preparations for the moment when he smashed a plate-glass window in the 32nd floor of his hotel room and opened fire with a weapon, apparently modified to spew bullets with the split-second speed of an automatic rifle.
As he fired round after round during an 11-minute stretch from a suite at the Mandalay Bay, Paddock used multiple video cameras to keep an eye out for police storming his hotel room, according to Lombardo. Cameras were stashed in the suite’s peephole and in the hallway.
In addition to guns found in the suite, investigators later found another 26 guns at two other properties in Nevada, as well as collections of ammunition and a chemical that can be used to make bombs.
Many of Paddock’s guns were purchased in recent years. Between October 2016 and Sept. 28, the day Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay, Paddock bought 33 guns, the “majority of them rifles,” Jill A. Snyder, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in San Francisco, said Wednesday in an interview with “CBS This Morning.”
Paddock also had substantial ammunition in the room and in his car, officials said. During a news briefing a day earlier, Snyder said Paddock had purchased shotguns, handguns and rifles in Nevada, Utah, California and Texas. She also said that inside Paddock’s suite, authorities found a dozen “bump” stocks that can enable guns to fire bullets at a more rapid clip.
Community leaders light 59 candles during a vigil at Mountain Crest Park on Tuesday in Las Vegas, NV. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
Until carrying out the massacre Sunday night, Paddock had no criminal history himself. He was known to gamble frequently and extensively. Despite repeated claims by the Islamic State to the contrary, he also had no ties to international terrorism groups, authorities said.
Some public officials seemed to suggest Paddock’s mind was troubled, though there were no immediate indications that he had been diagnosed with a mental illness or was anything other than fully aware of what he was doing.
“A normal person would not cause this type of harm to innocent people,” said Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.). “Clearly, there was something wrong with this man.”
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People close to the investigation also said that in the weeks before the attack, Paddock transferred a large amount of money — close to $100,000 — to someone in the Philippines, possibly his girlfriend. The significance of that development was not immediately clear, though investigators said they were interested in probing Paddock’s finances and his avid interest in high-stakes gambling.
Danley’s sister, interviewed by Australia’s Channel 7, suggested that Paddock had arranged Danley’s trip to visit her homeland to keep her from undermining the attack plans.
“I know she doesn’t know anything as well like us,” said the sister, whose identity was shielded by the channel. “She was sent away. She was away so that she would not be there to interfere with what he’s planning.”
[The worst kind of spotlight: When a relative is the mass shooter]
At his home in Orlando, Eric Paddock, Stephen Paddock’s brother, said he also doubts Danley had any prior knowledge of the incident. He speculated Stephen might have tried to quietly ensure Danley’s financial security.
“He manipulated her to be as far away from here and safe when he committed this,” Eric Paddock said. “The people he loved he took care of, and as he was descending into hell he took care of her.”
Lynh Bui and Tim Craig in Las Vegas; Barbara Liston in Orlando; Ally Gravina in Reno, Nev.; William Dauber in Los Angeles; and Brian Murphy, Devlin Barrett, Alex Horton, Wesley Lowery, Julie Tate, Jessica Contrera, Sandhya Somashekhar, Aaron C. Davis, William Wan and Sari Horwitz in Washington contributed to this report, which will be updated throughout the day.