As the immediate horror in Las Vegas ends, the questions begin. What happened, how, and why? The timeline of the shooting and Stephen Paddock’s worryingly large arsenal unavoidably point toward premeditated mass murder, but as clues are pieced together, it’s clear that Paddock did not “snap.” Rather, he deliberately chose the suite he fired from and may have spent days, even months, planning the massacre.
- Paddock chose a suite in the Mandalay Bay hotel, paid for with his companion’s credit card, that was behind the stage and overlooked the festival, roughly 400 yards away. Even if police had Paddock’s name, they wouldn’t have been able to find him using hotel records. Paddock is believed to have chosen the suite for its clear, uninterrupted view of the festival.
- Paddock held the suite for several days, loading in suitcases and hiding 23 guns around the suite’s two rooms, as well as a number of hammers. Right before he began shooting, Paddock broke two windows specifically to give him firing angles on the festival. It’s not clear yet if he changed angles during the shooting.
- The chosen room, 32 floors up, made it impossible to return fire from the ground without putting hotel guests at risk, while also obscuring Paddock. From the festival, it would be difficult to pick out the broken windows or see muzzle flashes. While attendees did see muzzle flashes, it turned out to be impossible to spot the exact floor from the ground.
- The lack of visual cues meant police had to spend precious minutes attempting to spot the shooter, ultimately finding him due to the hotel’s smoke detectors. As it was, it took an hour and twelve minutes between the first call to police and locating Paddock in his suite.
There are many questions still unanswered, “why” being the one that looms largest. The sifting through Paddock’s life by police and journalists has already begun and may never really end. But it’s clear from the premeditated choices that this was not a spur of the moment decision. Paddock’s horrific actions were planned out, almost to the last detail.