Las Vegas Shooter's Life Comes Into Focus, But Not His Motive : The Two-Way Those who knew Stephen Paddock say they can't believe he committed that terrible act. And investigators have yet to identify any sort of grievance that might have motivated his crime.
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Las Vegas Shooter's Life Comes Into Focus, But Not His Motive

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Las Vegas Shooter's Life Comes Into Focus, But Not His Motive

Las Vegas Shooter's Life Comes Into Focus, But Not His Motive

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Investigators in Las Vegas continue to analyze the evidence they've gathered from the homes of the man who attacked a crowded concert Sunday night. They've learned a lot about Stephen Paddock's past and preparations. But so far, there's little to explain why he destroyed so many lives. From Las Vegas, NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES, BYLINE: Monday morning in the sunny and serene retirement community of Sun City Mesquite, Ken Russell (ph) was out for a walk. The retired wildlife biologist had heard the news about the carnage in Las Vegas the night before and the fact the shooter had lived in the neighborhood.

KEN RUSSELL: Everybody would be totally shocked at it. This is a quiet neighborhood. All of them up here in Sun City are quiet. People are too old to make any commotion.

BERKES: That was the first surprise for investigators - that a 64-year-old man and apparently wealthy retiree, a former postal worker, IRS agent and government auditor, would commit mass murder. That doesn't fit the mass shooter profile. His younger brother Eric was also puzzled.

ERIC PADDOCK: He was a guy who took his little brother camping. He was a guy who loved his women. He was a guy who played video poker. He was a guy who worked his [expletive] off and made my family - helped make my family and my mother affluent.

BERKES: The shooter made millions in investments in real estate. And he loved gambling and guns. He had elite status at casinos in Las Vegas. And police say he bought dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Three times earlier this year, he drove to St. George, Utah, to Dixie GunWorx, where gun seller Chris Michel found him more engaging than most.

CHRIS MICHEL: He came in. And everything that he wore, his demeanor, the person that he was, the openness with his personality - he was the guy next door that would mow, you know, people's lawns for you. He would be the guy handing out ice cream cones on the corner when the bus comes to a stop to the kids. He would be the one that all of us would have taken to the family barbecue and invited. He just - he was an open guy to us.

BERKES: So far, police have revealed no evidence of illegal possession of firearms. Some neighbors who've spoken with reporters simply say Paddock and his girlfriend kept to themselves. Of course, they all learned more this week like the rest of us. Sharon Judy (ph) was a neighbor in Melbourne, Fla.

SHARON JUDY: It's really scary to think this was a guy next door, perfectly normal, on nobody's radar, nobody's reason to think anything of any of it. And then all of a sudden, he goes out and does something like this.

BERKES: The same thing puzzles police. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo says the shooting shows meticulous planning by a disturbed and dangerous man. Paddock cased at least one other music festival in Las Vegas a week before the shooting, renting a high-rise condo above the crowd.

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JOE LOMBARDO: What we know is 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.

BERKES: Somebody must've seen or known something, Lombardo says. The shooter's girlfriend, Marilou Danley, said she had no hints of the rampage in a statement read by attorney Matthew Lombard.

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MATTHEW LOMBARD: (Reading) 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.

BERKES: This apparent silence - the secret life - also defies another characteristic of mass shooters, says Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist at the University of California, San Diego Medical School. Meloy's research shows that some kind of grievance, big or small, can be a triggering event.

REID MELOY: And that's, of course, the mystery in this particular case, as there doesn't yet seem to be any grievance that surfaced.

BERKES: And the secret of planning and preparing a response can end up overshadowing the grievance. It becomes its own exciting motivation. Meloy says the research shows that the excitement is fueled by telling somebody something.

MELOY: A number of studies have found the majority of these individuals that carry out mass murders will communicate their intent to a third party before they do it. There does not seem to be any evidence of that yet in this case, which would be an anomaly.

BERKES: This is how Sheriff Lombardo puts it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOMBARDO: Anything that would indicate this individual's trigger point and that would cause him to do such harm - we haven't understood it yet.

BERKES: So as much as investigators have learned about Stephen Paddock, we don't know enough to know who he truly was. Howard Berkes, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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