ACH: The Route 91 Harvest Shooting

The following is an application of the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) to the Route 91 Harvest shooter case, the mass murder of 58 persons attending an open-air music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 1 October 2017. The case came to a dissatisfying close in early 2019 with investigators announcing a motive was not uncovered and likely never would be.

An attempt was made here to ascertain the motive by applying ACH to publicly-available information. ACH does not determine the “correct” answer, but it can identify weaknesses in hypotheses, thus eliminate those that contain too many inconsistencies to support the evidence. It does not rely on opinion, but instead on the considered judgment of the analyst.

For analysts who wish to test their own theories, but who haven’t used ACH in their work, or who are unfamiliar with the process, you’ll find a detailed explanation following the matrix.

A Note About Motive And Mental Illness

Mental illness was not addressed here, per se, in assessing motive. It challenges credulity that it did not factor into the crime at some level; although, a detailed FBI study of active shooters concluded a blanket explanation of “mental illness” as an overarching motive was “misleading and unhelpful.” Paddock used prescription anti-anxiety medication prescribed by his primary care physician, but he did not appear to have a formal diagnosis of mental illness made by a mental health professional. It is acknowledged he could have had an undiagnosed condition.

While the FBI could only corroborate 25 percent of active shooters included in their study (A Study of Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013) had a diagnosed mental illness, the Bureau did find such criminals had a marked lack of resiliency in dealing with stressors. Further, perpetrators faced an average of 3.6 stressors in the year leading up to their crimes. Paddock had approximately seven: 1. mental health (anxiety/depression); 2. financial strain (identifiable downturn in finances); 3. job-related (shutting down of rental real estate partnership with family members); 4. relationship issues (relationship with girlfriend in decline); 5. caregiving responsibilities (aging mother); 6. physical injury (complained of multiple real or imagined health issues, and reportedly had “lingering” injury from slip and fall accident several years prior); 7. sexual stress/frustration (unable to perform).

ACH In Practice: Seeking to Uncover The Motive Of The Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooter

Theories considered during initial brainstorming sessions:

  1. Infamy (living in father’s shadow)
  2. The development/delivery of a complex plan (cerebral exercise)
  3. Family resentment (leave them to pick up pieces without having him to lean on)
  4. Rage due to mental/physical decline
  5. Despair over financial loss
  6. Regain control of life spiraling out of control
  7. Craving to feel something again/excitement (fill emptiness)
  8. Injustice of lost father/vengeance
  9. Distractors that kept negative feelings at bay stopped working
  10. Guns as new hobby turned dark as he unraveled
  11. Despair over life choices, no time to start over
  12. Fleeting renewal of vigor (revive peak mental/physical state)
  13. Mass murder/suicide (lack of empathy/control end of life)

Initial research into the case led to three hypotheses being among the strongest:

  1. Infamy: This hypothesis was based on the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit Las Vegas Review Panel judgment that Paddock may have been influenced by his father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr., a criminal who “achieved significant criminal notoriety.” This theory suggests Paddock sought to leave behind a legacy.
  2. Pent-up rage-lashed out externally at strangers: This hypothesis suggests Paddock’s action was based on taking out pent-up rage on strangers. Paddock had recently experienced a decline in mental and physical health. This theory finds the anger he felt over the decline grew to the point of unbearable rage that led him to lash out externally against strangers.
  3. Internally-focused need to regain feeling of vigor: This hypothesis stems from Paddock’s history of self-reliance and self-sustainment. Declining health–real or imagined–threatened his independence because health was the one aspect of his life he couldn’t control. This theory suggests the amassment and use of multiple powerful weapons satisfied Paddock’s overwhelming internal need to regain peak physical and mental power, strength, and control.


  1. In terms of facts and evidence, what interviewees said was true to the best of their knowledge.
  2. Publicly-available information and interviews, and Paddock’s Internet search history, are a representative and meaningful sample of the larger body of evidence that is available exclusively to law enforcement.
  3. Guns offer the bearer a sense of power; more powerful guns, and/or a higher volume of guns, give the bearer an exponentially grander sense of power.

Findings (based on ACH matrix, below):

  1. Hypothesis #1: Infamy | Eliminated | Paddock displayed a marked lack of interest throughout his life in being placed in the public eye. He was not known to promote himself and did not associate with persons who sought attention. He had no online presence. He refused promotion and recognition for jackpot wins. He took little interest in his appearance, and purchased relatively modest homes and cars. There were no verified accounts that indicated his “famous” father caused him pride or disgust, or that he sought to emulate his father’s lifestyle. He left no notes, manifestos, Web site comments, private conversations, or other clues to explain, justify, glorify, or otherwise promote his crime.
  2. Hypothesis #2 : Pent-up rage | Eliminated | By all accounts, Paddock appeared to have/display few emotions. Multiple persons who knew him well described him alternatively as “mild mannered,” “never violent,” “did not have anger issues,” “did not display behaviors of violence or revenge,” “did not speak in an emotional manner,” was “never rude or disrespectful.” These descriptions did not change over time. He met responsibilities for those within his personal and business circles (girlfriend, mother, younger brother, tenants). He was twice-married and reportedly maintained good relationships with both ex-wives, even going into business with one. He was routinely described as “eccentric,” “aloof,” “a loner,” and “reclusive,” but there were no verified accounts upon his death of those who had known him who reported they “saw it coming” or recalled accounts of prescient behaviors. He apparently accepted the verdict for a lawsuit he filed against The Cosmopolitan for a slip and fall accident that resulted in a “lingering injury.” He was not criminally known to law enforcement.
  3. Hypothesis #3: Regain feeling of vigor | Not Eliminated | Of the three theories, the hypothesis with the fewest inconsistencies was Paddock’s need to relieve real or perceived physical and mental frailty; health as the one element of his life he couldn’t control; and the shooting as an act of fleetingly regained vigor. His background of losing his father to jail and subsequent abandonment, and being raised by a single mother with four sons, led Paddock to be self-reliant and self-sustained. According to family members, Paddock was motivated by “what benefited him personally.” Paddock began collecting guns at age 29. Between 1982 and 2015, he purchased handguns almost exclusively. In 2016, he switched mostly to semi-automatic rifles. The switch coincided with several changes in his life: worsening complaints about health issues including anxiety and depression, fatigue, a “chemical imbalance,” headaches, allergies, and a “lingering injury” from a slip and fall accident; a relationship in decline; the setting aside of a 20-year real estate partnership with his mother and brother; a loss of interest in cruising/traveling, a pastime he had enjoyed for the previous six years; and an apparent downturn in his luck at video poker, a primary focus since the early 1980s (his bank accounts had reportedly dropped fairly significantly in recent years).
InfamyRage (external focus) – lash out at strangersInternally-focused need to regain feeling of vigor
No social media presence even though computer savvyI (would self-promote)NN
Didn’t leave suicide note/manifestoI (would want to promote self/control image after death)C (no respect for others; no need to explain)C (self-focused; wouldn’t feel an obligation to explain actions to others
Bragged to neighbor (Mrs. Judy) about $20,000 poker winC (concept of showing off, bragging)N C (could also be “N”; evidence of pride in gaming prowess)
Wouldn’t shake hands; often wore glovesNC (if for perceived health reasons, “N”; “C” if intended to create distance between self and others)C (assuming to prevent illness because illness= weakness)
Physician thought Paddock may be fearful of medications (took anxiety meds; no anti-depressives)NNC
Relationship with Danley in declineNC (declining relationship as stressor)C (personal life unstable)
No sex; complained of physical exhaustionNC (declining health as source of anger)C (vulnerability of failing health)
Often complained about being sick; doctors told him he had a “chemical imbalance” and they “couldn’t cure him”NC (declining health as source of anger)C (vulnerability of failing health)
Ex-wife said childhood instilled need to be “self-reliant” and “self-sustaining”NN (could hone anger due to future of potential reliance on others)C (facing poor health and reliance on others)
Ex-wife said “not interested in drawing attention to himself”I+NC (history of self-compartmentalization)
Eric said Paddock had “limited interaction” with Benjamin after Benjamin’s release from prisonN (need more info about relationship between father and son in terms of whether his actions stemmed from father’s history) N (need more info about when this “limited interaction” contributed to rage or if Paddock didn’t care) N
Not uncommon for Paddock to be out of contact with Eric for “long period of time”; they spoke “when something needed to be discussed”NNC (confirms relative isolation to other family members)
Atheist: found religious people to be “ridiculous”NNC (stood alone; no religion as potentially stabilizing external/internal force)
Eric described Paddock as a “narcissist”C (need for validation)N (narcissist would not care about the deaths of others but not pertinent to concept of rage ) C (could see how narcissist/self-focused individual could feel special need to retain vigor)
Eric thought Paddock would have sought to be known for “largest casualty count”; wanted to be best and known to everyoneCN (does not necessarily correlate with lashing out in anger) C (in terms of the higher the potential death count the greater the feeling of regained physical and mental vitality)
Eric said Paddock “only cared for people would could benefit him in some way”NN (although it speaks to how he sees/relates to others as disposable)N (although is compatible with his self-focus
Eric said Paddock needed to be seen as importantCNC (assuming “importance” part of need for physical and mental autonomy)
Despite lack of affection Danley said Paddock showed “concern and compassion”I (seeking infamy via the deaths of others contradicts his apparent “concern and compassion”)I (a concerned and compassionate person would be empathetic to others and would not seek to hurt them)N
Paddock sent Danley away mid-September; sent $150K to buy home in PhilippinesNNC (controlling persons around him; confirming status as “solo traveler”)
Bruce Paddock had not seen Paddock since the early 1990s and not spoken to him for over 10 yearsNN (expresses potentially controlling personality, but not evidence of rage) C (shows pattern of isolating self)
Patrick Paddock had no contact with Paddock in 20 years; had no interest in him or any family membersNN N
Patrick said Paddock was “motivated by what benefited him personally”CCC
Nephew said if Paddock hit a large jackpot he would “decline any photographs or recognition”I+NN
Cousin said Paddock’s mother was “angry and bitter” Paddock’s father abandoned her and the boysNN N (although does speak to upbringing and need to be independent)
Cousin said Paddock was becoming “more irritable” NC (on the spectrum of being increasingly prone to anger)C (assuming irritability derived in part from feelings about failing health)
Cousin said Paddock would not see dentist for missing and rotted teeth due to “allergies”NNC (speaks to overall ill health)
Physician last saw Paddock October 2016; only “major ailment” was muscle tear from casino fall in (2011)NNC (disconnect between what Paddock perceived in his health and what his doctor saw)
Physician thought Paddock was bi-polarNC (could explain rage)C (referencing mental and physical health concerns)
1982-2017: Total of 67 firearm purchases; 18 handguns, 1 semi-automatic rifle; majority semi-automatic rifles post 2016, but some shotguns, handguns N (the total number of weapons involved might factor into infamy, but this is referring to dates/patterns of purchase)N (debatable, but don’t see how pattern of weapons purchases correlated to lashing out in anger) C (assume guns gave him sense of strength and security; assume he sought more as his physical and mental health declined)
23 semi-automatic rifles; 1 handgun found at crime scene; 14 firedC (the number of weapons and fire power involved would contribute to infamy)C (14 weapons fired in approx 10 minutes; every time he picked up a new weapon, there was a break in which he could have “cooled off,” but never did; uncontrolled rage)C (multiple weapons; more power)
Mom, Eric, Paddock in real estate partnership for 20 years; dissolved 2016NNC (goes toward giving up elements of life recently; isolating)
Paddock would “purchase the very best rifle but wouldn’t shoot it because he wouldn’t want to get it dirty, to have to clean it” … but also to keep it “pristine, so it would fire properly” NNN
Paddock born in 1953; dad went to penitentiary ’53-56; arrested in ’60, went to prison; escaped ’68, never returned homeNN (would be consistent if anger at father factored into rage, but no evidence he was angry at his father)N (assume his father would not have factored into his decision because no one mattered to Paddock but Paddock)
Father on FBI’s 10 Most Wanted ’69-’77C (this goes toward the FBI theory father’s own infamy factored into Paddock’s actions)NN (Paddock appeared not to factor external persons into his internal processes)
Paddock married/divorced twice; no kids; good relationship with both ex-wivesNI- (this is weakly inconsistent in terms of Paddock’s not having a history of anger/bitterness in a potentially acrimonious situation)N
First “gun-buying spree” occurred in 2000, one per month Mar-Aug, + Nov; coincided with interest in video pokerNNC (consistent in the coincidence of seeking out greater “strength” (vis-a-vis, protection) through firearms purchases at same time he started gambling career)
Thrifty in appearance and some business practices (involved in construction to save money; did his own books for apartment income rather than pay accountant; worked as on-site manager for a while)NNN
In 2006, which Paddock said was the height of his play, claimed to be “biggest poker player in the world”C (brag)NC (assuming that was indeed his height, his “best days” were behind him)
2011 – Slip and fall at The Cosmopolitan; 2013 – sued for “lingering injury”NC (could contribute to overall angry outburst over failing health)C (concern for age and declining health)
2013 – Moved into first of three 55+ retirement communities at age 60 NNC- (weakly consistent: moving into retirement community at relatively early age [60] could be perceived as disenfranchising, although Paddock was also “thrifty” and retirement communities offer good deals on real estate])
2013 – In relation to deposition for slip and fall, Paddock claimed to have a concealed weapons permit from TXNNC (assumption weapons offer strength; history of seeking strength and self-sufficiency)
2010 – Applied for passport; multiple cruises/international trips until 2016NNC (cousin said he lost interest in travel around 2016)
5/2017 – Internet searches for beaches, sports arenas, hotels, universities, gatherings, et al, in MA, IL, CAN (however appears to speak to lack of solid plan just four months before actual crime)N (however appears to speak to lack of solid plan just four months before actual crime)N (however appears to speak to lack of solid plan just four months before actual crime)
8/2017 – Danley saw uptick in ammo purchases, visits to gun shows and shops, and “unofficial” ranges to practice long-distance shootingN (attack prep, but no insight into motive)N (attack prep, but no insight into motive)N (attack prep, but no insight into motive)
In final weeks before shooting, gambled $160KNNN (not sure where that falls in his normal pattern and if he could afford that kind of expenditure)
9/4-5/2017 – Internet queries for The Ogden, Mandalay Bay, Life is Beautiful, Route 91 HarvestN (just appears to speak to relative lack of long-range planning)N (just appears to speak to relative lack of long-range planning)N (just appears to speak to relative lack of long-range planning)
9/17-28/2017 – Checks into/out of three rooms on three floors at The Ogden; two of the stays occurred during concert dates (9/22-24/2017); one did notN (just appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (just appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (just appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)
9/18/2017 – After checking into room at The Ogden, flew to Reno; spent night; flew to Phoenix; drove back to The Ogden; immediately departs for Mesquite, NV home; returns to Ogden to check out/check into new roomN (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)
Spends week 9/24-30/2017 checking into/out of rooms; driving back and forth to Mesquite four more timesN (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)N (appears to speak to poor planning; last minute planning)
2004 – Former apartment manager described Paddock as “concerned for tenants’ finances,” “cared about people,” “generous to his tenants” I (seeking infamy via the deaths of others contradicts his apparent “concern and compassion”)I (based on a person’s nature not changing drastically over lifetime)N
Made three reservations for three separate rooms via airbnb between 8/27/2017 and 9/14/2017; on 9/9/2017, Paddock reserved a room at the Mandalay Bay (he made a reservation for a room type, but did not know what floor it would be on)NNN
The Ogden is a condominium complex that allows short-term rentals and has a concierge who passes out keys; the Mandalay Bay is a hotel/casinoN (note: somewhat contradictory to concept of dry run due to the distinction between the two types of dwellings) N (note: somewhat contradictory to concept of dry run due to the distinction between the two types of dwellings) N (note: somewhat contradictory to concept of dry run due to the distinction between the two types of dwellings)
9/2017 – Girlfriend thought trip to Philippines was prelude to break-upNNC (setting aside current life in anticipation of change)
9/17/2015 – Checked into 3 separate rooms at The Ogden through 9/28/2015N (note: could be perceived as covering all bases; could be perceived as disorganized)N (note: could be perceived as covering all bases; could be perceived as disorganized)N (note: could be perceived as covering all bases; could be perceived as disorganized)
“Life is Beautiful” festival ran 9/22-24/2017N NN
9/20/2017 – Queried “Life is Beautiful 2017” festivalNNN
Shot at incendiary fuel tanks (did not ignite)CCC
9/28/2017 – Bought additional rifle; visited gun rangeNNC (guns as conveying feeling of power; sought to restore power up to last days)
Several hundred images of child porn found on his computerNNN
Committed suicide with handgun brought to sceneNNC (control through suicide)
Played video poker proficiently and received quite a few casino perks, but did not appear to be “biggest poker player in world”C (assumption that drove him to seek “achievement” in another way)C (anger at self, directed outward, that he hasn’t achieved what he thinks he deserves to have achieved)C (brag from 2013 deposition, could contribute to dissonance [who he perceives himself to be versus what he has actually achieved])
No physical abnormalities uncovered at autopsyNNC (did not have actual identified physical problems, but believed he had problems)
No brain abnormalities uncovered upon deathNNN
Died without willN N C- (weakly consistent with individual who focused on self)
Paddock made his mom “wealthy”NNN
Sister-in-law had known Paddock 36 years but only saw him approximately 20 times NNN (may speak to family dysfunction, along with Paddock’s isolation and decline)
Family enjoyed perks Paddock received playing at high levels at casinosNNN
Paddock was pragmatic; despite bad things happening “he went on”NII
Brother Eric believed Paddock’s girlfriend was a “gold digger” and expressed anger that she may have access to Paddock’s monetary assetsNNN
Paddock’s mom told sons father was dead after he was sent to prisonNNN
Brother Eric described Paddock boys as “bad” and “troublesome” as youths NC (could speak to aggression that people did not see in the adult Paddock, but may have been present in his youth)N
Only 9 percent of families in 1960 consisted of single parent homesNNN
Eric accused Paddock of tax fraud NNN
Paddock was the “dad” of the family when Benjamin Paddock was incarceratedNNN
Paddock evicted tenants who caused troubleI- (weakly inconsistent in that Paddock appeared intolerant of rule breakers, but then committed major crime himself) I- (weakly inconsistent in that Paddock appeared intolerant of rule breakers, but then committed major crime himself) I- (weakly inconsistent in that Paddock appeared intolerant of rule breakers, but then committed major crime himself)
Paddock checked up on his mom during recent hurricane (two weeks before incident); bought her a walker due to physical challengesNNC (may speak to the way he sees aging)
Only maintained contact with youngest brother (of three brothers)N (non-diagnostic, but contributes to understanding of family dynamics)N (non-diagnostic, but contributes to understanding of family dynamics)N (non-diagnostic, but contributes to understanding of family dynamics)
Brother, Eric, said of other two Paddock brothers, one had “mental issues” and the other was a “sociopath”NC (assuming an element of truth, would speak to family genetics)C (assuming an element of truth, would speak to family genetics)
Brother Eric said long periods would pass without contact with Stephen Paddock; generally only spoke when something “needed to be discussed”N (does contribute to understanding of family dynamics)N (does contribute to understanding of family dynamics)N (does contribute to understanding of family dynamics)
Paddock “always wanted to be the best and known to everyone”CNN
Eric described Paddock as a “narcissist” who “only cared for people who could benefit him in some way”C (in that a narcissist may want to leave behind a legacy)C (consistent in that a narcissist would act in his own self-interest)C (consistent in that a narcissist would act in his own self-interest)
Eric said Paddock “needed to be seen as important” and “needed to be catered to”CNN
Eric believed missing hard drive contained evidence of tax fraud by family (Paddock did taxes for Eric and mother), so the fact it was missing may prove Paddock “did care for us” NNN
Nephew said Paddock was “careful with his money” and planned gambling around opportunities to double or triple points to gain freebiesNNN
No relatives/associates ever saw Paddock angry; girlfriend said he got quiet when mad; brother called him “passive aggressive”; NI (based on accounts of relatives/associates, he didn’t “lash out” when angry C (consistent with basis for anger internal due to lack of control over his health)
Cousin said when Paddock became interested in a subject, he would “devote himself to it and then lose interest” (lost interest in traveling circa 2016)NNC (consistent in that he was losing interest in hobbies [also appeared to be losing edge in poker])
Paddock’s missing/rotted teeth came from inability to go to dentist due to allergiesNNC (pattern of failing health)
Only trivial encounters with law enforcement. I (history of abiding by the law; wide variation from norm)I (history of abiding by the law; wide variation from norm)I (history of abiding by the law; wide variation from norm)

The Analysis of Competing Hypotheses

ACH is an analytical tool whose purpose is to reduce bias. It guides users through the methodical examination of multiple hypotheses side-by-side so as to uncover weaknesses, flaws, and holes in proposed theories. The goal is to reveal those that can be eliminated because they have too many inconsistencies to be valid based on the evidence at hand.

When addressing a new data set or investigative question, the first step is to develop a series of hypotheses through brainstorming that might explain the evidence. It’s not good to settle on a single theory too quickly. First, because new information continues to be generated throughout an investigation. And secondly, because mindsets are easy to reach and tough to shake. Once you’re convinced you have the answer, the tendency is to dismiss evidence that doesn’t fit. This is a mental trap from which recovery can be almost impossible. After you think you’ve thoroughly explored all angles, select a few of the stronger hypotheses to test first.

Now, compile your evidence. This comprises both the tangible and intangible elements of an investigation. For example, in the Route 91 Harvest shooter case, much of the key “evidence” consisted of characteristics interviewees saw in the shooter. Evidence also includes that which is not present, but may be clarifying to the case. For example, that Paddock did not have a presence on social media.

Compile your matrix by placing the initial hypotheses you want to test–three to five is probably easiest to handle at one time–horizontally across the top, and your evidence vertically down the left column. Now, examine each piece of evidence against each hypothesis: no skipping ahead; no “getting back to it later.” Each piece is either “C”(consistent); “I” (inconsistent); or “N” (non-diagnostic), with pluses or minuses if you want to add emphasis. It’s helpful to include comments about why you made the decisions you did.

When you finish your matrix, set it aside. The reason is ACH can be a taxing process. After a break, review your work one or more times. When you’re satisfied, total the inconsistencies of each hypothesis. The ones with the greatest number of inconsistencies can be eliminated. The one with the fewest most closely fits your evidence. If new evidence arrives, you may need to test your theories again, or add new ones.

A few key things to keep in mind:

  1. ACH is a tool. It does not determine the “correct” answer; it identifies weaknesses in hypotheses, thus seeks to eliminate theories that contain too many inconsistencies to support the evidence.
  2. ACH is an element of the investigative process. Ideally, the analyst would present his or her findings to investigators who would use the matrix as an additional tool to guide their investigation.
  3. ACH is subjective. The findings are based on the considered judgment of the analyst or team of analysts/investigators working the case. Robust discussions are common. This is a positive outcome in that it can clarify miscommunications, identify assumptions, loosen/broaden the thinking process, and introduce new ideas.

The Route 91 Harvest Shooter: Adding Perspective With A Timeline

When supporting a complex investigation through intelligence analysis one way to organize your data is through a timeline. When incidents leading up to an event are sorted chronologically they can sometimes put precipitating incidents into perspective, which may reveal clues that are less apparent than when you’re reading case files alone.

Timelines are also helpful because they give structure to your work. Begin with the dates you have. As you perform your research, or as investigators conduct interviews, add information. You can use spreadsheet software, which is helpful for sorting data, but a blank word file is fine, too. The main thing is to use a system that makes it easy to add/delete/or modify facts as the investigation proceeds.

Timelines are not the place to overthink or to self-edit. Add as many details as you can, trivial as they seem. You never know what might be important later when you’re piecing together the larger picture. For singular data, make sure to hyperlink or note file and serial numbers so you can get back to the information.

Here is an example of a timeline* that has been compiled from publicly-sourced events in the life of Route 91 Harvest shooter Stephen Craig Paddock. A motive for the attack was never uncovered. The timeline is separated into three sections:

  1. The first section begins with Stephen Paddock’s father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr., who was incarcerated in 1960, and who abandoned the family after his escape from prison in 1968. Section one also presents facts about Stephen Paddock’s early life, school, marriages, and jobs.
  2. The second describes evidence of Stephen Paddock’s interest in video poker in the early 2000s. Video poker appeared to be a central fixture of his life thereafter.
  3. The third section delineates events that occurred approximately the year before the shooting. During this time period, steps that Stephen Paddock took appeared to indicate he was actively carrying through with a plan.

See if you can discern any clues as to the motive as you read through the events of his life.

*While every effort was made to list the dates and case details as accurately as possible some of the information is likely inexact. This timeline is for illustrative purposes. If you’re working on a timeline in a professional capacity, you’ll work from government records and official interviews, and you will seek the highest degree of accuracy.

[All of the elements listed in the timeline are publicly available. However, some details that are not pertinent to the case, and which involve the lives of living private citizens, are obscured in order to maintain their privacy.]

Stephen C. Paddock Timeline Part I: Family, Early Life, School, Marriages, Jobs

circa 1920-1926 (years vary) – Stephen Paddock’s father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr., born in Sheboygan, Illinois

1928 – Stephen Paddock’s mother, D.I. Hudson, born in Nauvoo, Illinois

1940 – Benjamin Paddock moved to Chicago, Illinois

circa 1941-1945? (no service dates found)- Benjamin Paddock served in US Navy as a seaman 2nd class (or was possibly a merchant marine seaman); (he is buried at Fort Gibson National Cemetery; a girlfriend with whom Benjamin Paddock lived in 1988 said he received VA benefits)

1946 – Benjamin sent to Illinois State Penitentiary after conviction for 10 counts of auto larceny and five counts for “confidence game” (stole 12 cars in 18 months, sold for average price of $1,200 each, took advantage of his father’s service (Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Sr. (b. 1881/d. 1958) in the Quartermaster Corps by forging document on QC letterhead)

1951 – Benjamin Paddock released from Illinois State Penitentiary after serving five years

1952 – Benjamin Paddock marries D.I. Hudson in Reno, Nevada

1953 – First son Stephen Paddock (subject) born in Clinton, Iowa

1953 – Benjamin Paddock serves second term in Illinois State Penitentiary (conspiracy in connection with bad check passing operation) (speculation Benjamin Paddock was involved with Chicago crime syndicates, but unproven)

1956 – Benjamin Paddock released from Illinois State Penitentiary

circa 1956 – Paddock family moves from Chicago, Illinois, to Tucson, Arizona; Benjamin Paddock assumes the name Patrick B. Paddock (TN was Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr.[he ultimately used multiple aliases]); following facts revealed through series of newspaper articles–unclear where they fit on the timeline, however, they variously describe Benjamin’s personality along with the jobs he held during his time in Tucson, Arizona: “smooth talker and con man“; “arrogant and egotistical“; “liked cigars, cigarettes, and steaks, viewing sports events, especially baseball, and was considered ‘a very competent baseball umpire’“; “an avid bridge player and gambler“; “sold garbage disposal units under the business name Arizona Disposer Co“; used car salesman; operated a filling station in town; obtained federal amateur radio license and fitted out his own car with transmitter that allowed people in Tucson, Arizona, to talk to their relatives abroad; VP of hot rodder club; “Big Daddy” of a “younger set night club” in Tucson

1957 – Stephen Paddock’s brother, P. Paddock born in Tucson, Arizona

1959 – Stephen Paddock’s brother B. Paddock born in Tucson, Arizona (B. Paddock died in 2020)

1959 – Benjamin Paddock spent five weeks handling cases of “wayward youngsters” as special deputy to Pima County Sheriff Walden Burr” and possibly with the Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Squad; told sheriff he had “made some mistakes in his youth” and wanted to ensure other kids stayed on the “straight and narrow”; sheriff said they found his criminal history when they ran an FBI check in relation to the unpaid job with the office and learned Benjamin Paddock had served two terms in Joliet prison in Illinois at which point they “picked up his badge and card

1960 – Stephen Paddock’s brother, E. Paddock born in Tucson, Arizona (appeared to be the only brother who maintained a relationship with Stephen throughout their lives)

1960 – Benjamin Paddock robs a branch of the Valley National Bank in Phoenix, Arizona, using a stolen car; robbery yielded $4620; was identified in part due to two large radio transmission aerials on his real car, which he transferred into after abandoning the stolen vehicle; fled to Las Vegas where he was spotted by FBI agents; tried to flee but stopped car when FBI agent shot round into windshield; search of Benjamin Paddock’s vehicle yielded $3,000 and .38 cal revolver; FBI said the robbery was similar to three other robberies of Phoenix banks that yielded $10,000 (other sources say $25,000)

28 July 1960 – The Paddock’s neighbor, E. Price, took Stephen Paddock swimming to distract him from the FBI search of his family home in connection with his father’s arrest; Mrs. Price said she didn’t know the family well, but “Steve is a nice boy.” “We’re trying to keep Steve from knowing his father is held as a bank robber“; the search of the Paddock’s Tucson home did not result in finding stolen money

December 1960 – Benjamin Paddock was found guilty and received 20-year sentence; while in FCI La Tuna, Texas, Benjamin Paddock was “diagnosed as being psychopathic” and having “suicidal tendencies“; unclear who made diagnoses and whether these diagnoses were confirmed

1960 – D. I. Paddock, nee Hoskins, moved the family to Southern California

1968 – Benjamin Paddock escaped from prison; set up new life in Springfield, Oregon, under the name Bruce Werner Ericksen; worked as contract trucker and drug abuse rehabilitation (counselor?); [following from this source:] Benjamin Paddock sued a party after a car collision in 1976; he reached out to same attorney (H.E. Smith) who handled the accident when Benjamin Paddock needed money to finance used car business in Junction City; Benjamin Paddock borrowed $6000 from a third party and paid that individual back with proceeds from his injury claim

June 1969 – Paddock, Sr. was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted

1971 – Stephen Paddock graduated John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles, California

1970s – Stephen Paddock lived in or owned property in Panorama City, Cerritos, and North Hollywood, California; co-owned “two run down apartment buildings in a working class neighborhood of Hawthorne (California)”

1975 – Stephen Paddock began working for United States Postal Service (USPS) as a letter carrier

1977- Stephen Paddock graduated California State University, Northridge (degree: Business Administration)

1977 – Benjamin Paddock was removed from the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted for lack of leads; Benjamin Paddock applied for license to open bingo parlor; investigation in relation to obtaining the license did not identify his criminal history

17 July 1977 – Stephen Paddock married Sharon B. (b. circa 1952)

1977-Benjamin Paddock retained H.E. Smith to research bingo operation; H.E. Smith prepared document between Benjamin Paddock and Center for Educational Reform (an Oregon non-profit supposedly willing to lend its name to the operation in return for a cut); “Bingo Center” was located in Springfield, Oregon; Benjamin Paddock ultimately borrowed $12,000 from R.F. van Deinse, II, a client of Smith, to finance the bingo operation; (at some point, the district attorney got wind of the operation and began investigating Benjamin Paddock for bingo law violation and later, an auto odometer turn-back operation) (see entry 6 September 1978 to continue)

1977 – E. Paddock visited his father (unclear when the family learned Benjamin Paddock was still alive); E. Paddock referred to his father’s profession–gambling–as “cool back then“; his dad claimed he wrote letter to J. Edgar Hoover calling him a “pansy”; E. Paddock said he never saw his father after this visit

September 1978 – Benjamin Paddock was arrested and ordered to San Francisco to stand trial for 6/4/1969 bank robbery (approximately six months after he escaped prison in Texas in 1968)

1978 – Stephen Paddock quit job at USPS

1978 – Stephen Paddock hired as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent

circa 1978 – Stephen Paddock’s brother-in-law said Stephen was an accountant who liked entertaining people on his boat on Lake Castaic or Buena Vista Lake in Kern County, California; described Stephen as “smart” and “fun loving”

6 September 1978 – FBI arrested Benjamin Paddock, who was using the AKA Bruce W. Ericksen, at Benjamin Paddock’s bingo operation in Springfield, Oregon, in relation to the escape/bank robbery conviction ; (this document goes into detailed legal case regarding six cars owned by Benjamin Paddock at the time of his arrest); (from news article: appears Benjamin Paddock was paroled rather then sent to serve out his sentence, with additional charges dropped; Junction City mayor wrote letter in his favor saying how he’d helped quite a few people financially and did a lot for kids)

14-18 September 1978 – Benjamin Paddock was transferred to county jail in El Paso, Texas

1979 – Stephen Paddock divorced Sharon B.; reportedly remained on good terms

1979 – Benjamin Paddock was paroled and returned to Springfield, Oregon; found new religious sponsor for his bingo operation (continued, see 1987)

28 October 1980 – Benjamin Paddock claimed at the Trial Board held on account of his attorney, H.E. Smith, for Smith’s conduct, that he, Benjamin Paddock, had been convicted of armed robbery, auto theft, forgery, confidence crimes, and “three killings that don’t appear on that for seven and a half years.” The Trial Board unanimously agreed Benjamin Paddock’s credibility was “highly suspect.

1982 – Stephen Paddock began buying guns

1984 – Stephen Paddock quit job as IRS agent

9 March 1985 – Stephen Paddock married Peggy O. (b. circa 1953) (reportedly a HS classmate)

1985 – Stephen Paddock hired as federal auditor for company that became Lockheed Martin

1986 – Stephen Paddock bought building in North Hollywood for $407,500 (purchased at least five other properties in the Los Angeles area, along with a stake in a tract in Henderson, Nevada, that was never developed

1987 – Oregon State Attorney General’s Office filed seven charges of racketeering against Benjamin for his pseudo-“religious” bingo operation, and rolling back odometers; agreed to settle racketeering charges for $623,000 and pled no contest to criminal charges; claimed to be suffering from cancer; judge let him off with $100,000 fine and no jail time; judge opined cancer could be fake, but it was an “economic crime” and Benjamin was “old man”

1988 – Stephen Paddock quit job as federal auditor

1988 – Benjamin Paddock “fled,” reportedly to Canada, and suffering from cancer, but later found he’d moved to Texas and “‘cancer’ had disappeared”; he lived with Laurel P, who claimed Benjamin lived on VA pension and helped her run a machine shop; she described him as an “absolute soft touch” who gave away money he didn’t have and who lived his entire life trying to atone for his past; he died 10 years later; said people either loved Benjamin or hated him; Benjamin described himself as a “dinosaur,” but writer speculated he was ahead of his time with his gambling venture, which the state now thrives from; throughout his life, Benjamin Paddock had alternatively claimed to be a Dixieland band singer, pilot, auto racing crew chief, Chicago Bears pro football player, survivor of WWII mine sweeper sinking, and pro-wrestler called “Crybaby” who traveled with pro-wrestler Gorgeous George (b. 1915/d. 1963)

1990 – Stephen Paddock divorced Peggy O. (irreconcilable differences); reportedly remained on good terms

1992 – Stephen Paddock bought apartment building in Los Angeles area with former wife and brother Eric; gutted and renovated 20-unit apartment complex in Los Angeles area largely by themselves because they were “thrifty”; sold it for $9.45mm in 2012, a $1mm profit

1998 – Benjamin Hoskins Paddock dies at the age of 71; in an article written about him at the time of his death, he was referred to one of “Eugene-Springfield’s more colorful rogues.

Stephen C. Paddock Timeline Part II: Interest In Video Poker

Early 2000s – Stephen Paddock became a member; purchased Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for Winners tutorial software and several Dancer/Daily Video Poker Strategy Cards. He also bought The Video Poker Answer Book by John Growchowski and The Slot Expert’s Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison. Anthony Curtis, the owner and publisher of called Paddock “without question, a studied player.” Curtis said of video poker it attracts compulsive gamblers; unlike other casino games, it is possible to beat it; and it is popular among “very intelligent people.”

November 2003 – Stephen Paddock acquired private pilot’s license

2004 – Sold apartment building purchased in 1992 for $3.2 million; sold or transferred at least three rental units in Hawthorne, California

2004 – Lived in Mesquite, Texas; bought income generating apt complex (Central Park Apartments on Via Ventura in Mesquite, 111 units, for $8.4mm, built in 2003) and two other homes (Clear Lake Lane and Keswick Lane); checked applicants’ credit history and evicted those who didn’t pay; broker described him as a “kind of a scruffy dude” who did not appear to have two nickels to rub together“; another broker involved in the sale called Stephen “odd” and “not engaging”; initially lived on site and operated it as the manager to “keep expenses down” and kept his own books on an Excel spreadsheet rather than to pay an accountant; income on units generated $500k in 2011

2006 – Per 29 October 2013 deposition in relation to slip and fall incident at The Cosmopolitan, Stephen Paddock said 2006 was the “height of his play” (video poker), claimed to average “14 hours per day, 365 days per year”); claimed to be “biggest poker player in the world” at one point; gambled at night, slept during day (“I do not do sun”); claimed to rarely drink alcohol to ensure he kept his wits about him during play (“or as much wits as I have”); claimed he spent $100 to $1350 per play and claimed to play up to $1mm per night. [This site appears to contradict those amounts, claiming he may be spending a maximum of $225 per hand]

2007-2010 – Owned hangar at Mesquite Metro Airport; stored plane there

2008 – Sold Keswick and Clear Lake properties

2009 and 2010 – Granted three-day, non-resident fishing licenses in Alaska

16 July 2009 – Received parking ticket at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport; paid fine without dispute

2010 – Applied for passport, took 20 cruises throughout Europe and the Middle East (dates unknown)

2011 – Apartment complex income generating $500k annually

2012 – Sold Texas apartment complex

2012 – Sued The Cosmopolitan (hotel) in Las Vegas for $10,000 in slip and fall on wet floor; settled in arbitration; wearing flip flops, slipped on wet floor en route to high-limit room, pulled hamstring, claimed it caused “lingering injury” (see 29 October 2013); in deposition, claimed he hadn’t been drinking (“I was my normal happy-go-lucky self. Completely sober.”)

2012 – Left Mesquite, Texas

2012 – Prescribed Valium for “anxiousness”

2013 – Bought home on Sansome Circle, Viera, Florida, in Heritage Isle, a 55+ retirement community (house sold in 2015 for $235k); after two meetings, Stephen gave neighbor D. Judy his house key and asked Judy to keep on eye on his property because he was frequently in Las Vegas; told Judy he was welcome to use anything he found in the house; the house had very little furniture; Paddock once showed Judy’s wife his laptop computer to prove to her Paddock had won $20,000 in an online game (another source said Paddock won the money playing a game on his cell phone); Paddock was dating M. Danley at this time, but Judy only saw her about five times in the two years Paddock lived next door to Judy; buyer of Sansome property never met Paddock, but said the real estate transaction documents were “regularly late”; Judy’s wife said Paddock described himself as a “world traveler” and “‘professional gambler by trade‘”

2013 – Estimated he had 10-15 Valium pills left from a bottle of 60 that had been prescribed a year and a half earlier (circa 2012)

29 October 2013 – In deposition, taken 29 October 2013, in relation to The Cosmopolitan civil lawsuit, Paddock claimed he had a concealed weapons permit in Texas; also claimed he had no mental health issues, no history of addiction, no criminal record; described himself as a “rolling stone” (traveling between Texas, California, Nevada, Florida); estimated he traveled three weeks out of four; (unclear whether it was commentary by CNN or the lawyers at the deposition, but Paddock reportedly came across as “arrogant and sarcastic”)

2014 – Purchased property on Del Webb Parkway in Reno; Paddock and M. Danley moved in; property was in his name only; neighbors say he stayed at the house “at best, six months out of the year”

January 2015 – Purchased property on Babbling Brook Court in newly-built Mesquite, Nevada [Sun City Mesquite Retirement Community by Del Webb], for $369,022 in his name only; he and M. Danley often traveled between Mesquite and Las Vegas; (E. Paddock said Stephen moved from FL because he didn’t like the humidity and because he enjoyed video poker); reportedly had dispute with neighbors when he erected a fence that hid his home, neighbors took it to Board, Paddock was told to remove it, but the dispute was unconfirmed; described by neighbors as “reclusive” and “a real loner“If you saw him a few times, he’d finally say ‘hi'”

2014 – Lawsuit against The Cosmopolitan dismissed by agreement

2015 – Convinced M. Danley to quit her job so they could travel “more”; when she did, he gave her a “set amount” of money every month; took “many” cruises together to Mediterranean, Bahamas, Dubai, the Orient; M. Danley began to notice decline in his health; no more sex although physically he was able, but exhausted after physical exertion and slept for hours, constantly tired, complained of headaches from chemical smells, asked M. Danley to stop wearing lipstick and perfume because he was allergic

2015 – Sold income generating apt complex

Circa 2016 – Bought the Tax Guide for Gamblers by Jean Scott and Marissa Chien and The Law for Gamblers by Bob Nersesian from

2016 – Filled prescription for Valium (50 10-miligram tablets, dosage 2 tablets per day); filled prescription day script was issued; paid without insurance

Stephen C. Paddock Timeline Part III: Actively Working On Plan

2016 – M. Danley and Paddock returned to Mesquite, Paddock brought back a large gun safe

October 2016 – Began stockpiling weapons (10/2016-9/2017) bought 33 firearms, approximately 55 total with sales beginning in 1982

18 May 2017 – Did computer map searches for Venice Beach; Fenway Park; Royal Rooters’ Club, Boston, Massachusetts; Blandford Street, station, United States; Boston University Questrom School of Business; Boston Hotel Buckminster, Beacon Street, Boston, MA; Boston Arts Academy; Official Red Sox Team Store; Official Red Sox Team Store, 19 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA; Venice Ale House; Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, CA; The Bungalow, 101 Wilshire Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA; did Google searches of “summer concerts 2017,” “grant park functions,” “biggest bear [sic]” “La Jolla Beach,” “open air concert venues,” “biggest open air concert venues in USA,” and “how crowded does Santa Monica Beach get”; accessed at 0419 hours; at 0427 hours; at 0431 hours; at 0505 hours; at 0505 hours; at 0540 hours

21 June 2017 – Filled prescription for Valium (50 10-miligram tablets, dosage 1 tablet per day) the same day script was issued, paid without using insurance

August 2017 – Paddock and M. Danley drove to Reno residence; upon return to Mesquite, brought large quantity of ammo; M. Danley asked why–he said one gun used a lot of ammo, + cheaper to buy in bulk; M. Danley thought it was a new hobby; began going to gun shows, gun shops, received a lot of packages he opened in the garage, visited “unofficial” gun range where he practiced long distance shooting

“In recent weeks” prior to October 2017 incident, 16 currency transaction reports filed for Paddock ($10,000 in/out in a given day) (Gambled approximately $160k prior to incident)

Beginning of September 2017 – On visit to Mandalay Bay, M. Danley noticed he was constantly looking out windows, going from one to the other; they were staying on 60th floor

2 September 2017 – Conducted computer searches for “NV gun shows”

4 September 2017 – Conducted computer queries for “Las Vegas rentals,” “Las Vegas condo rentals,” “Las Vegas high rise condos rent,” and “Las Vegas Ogden for rent”; accessed at 2212 hours; at 2213 hours; at 2214 hours

5 September 2017 – Conducted computer queries for “life is beautiful expected attendance,” “life is beautiful single day tickets,” and “life is beautiful Vegas lineup”; “Mandalay Bay Las Vegas,” “Route 91 harvest festival 2017 attendance,” and “Route 91 harvest festival 2017”

9 September 2017 – Made reservation for a Vista Suite (rooms designated “235,” but no floor specified)

15 September 2017 – Sent M. Danley to Philippines, scheduled to return 4 October 2017; wired $150k into her account in three separate transfers; communicated via international text while apart; conducted computer searches for “swat weapons,” “ballistics chart 308,” “SWAT Las Vegas,” “ballistic,” and “do police use explosives”

17 September 2017 – Checked into The Ogden (booking went through 28 September 2017); Life is Beautiful music festival, an outdoor event, was scheduled for 9/22-24/2017; Paddock stayed in three separate rooms at The Ogden; left for long periods, traveling to Mesquite, Nevada; flying to Reno, Nevada; traveling to Arizona; moved in and out of rooms at The Ogden with several suitcases; gambled

20 September 2017 – Conducted computer search for “Life is Beautiful 2017”

23 September 2017 – Conducted computer searches for “Excaliber Hotel & Casino,” “Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Performing Arts Center,” Fremont Hotel & Casino,” El Cortez Hotel & Casino,” “Family Courts & Services Center,” “Gary Reese Freedom Park,” “Cashman Center,” “Cashman Field,” “Neon Museum,” “Mob Museum,” “Discovery Children’s Museum,” “Arizona Charlie’s Decatur”

25 September 2017 – Checked into room 32-135 at the Mandalay Bay (over the next several days, moved several suitcases in from his car; [Note: Drove a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan to Las Vegas in the lead up to the shooting; (couldn’t find info about his history of car buying/driving; this was a 2017 model, a timeframe that fit into the period where he had upped his gun purchases; car was 8-passenger minivan described as a “family room on wheels”; has room to fit 4′ x 8′ sheets of construction material]; traveled back and fourth to Mesquite, Nevada); seen at Mizuya Sushi, inside the Mandalay Bay; later left the hotel and returned to Mesquite, Nevada

26 September 2017 – Conducted computer search for “Discovery Children’s Museum”; $50k wire transfer to Philippines; drove from Mesquite, Nevada, to The Ogden; gambled at El Cortez Hotel; left The Ogden for Mandalay Bay; gambled at Mandalay Bay until the following morning

27 September 2017 – Asked if M. Danley wanted to extend her stay overseas, she said she wanted to return to the US; drove to The Ogden, went to room; left The Ogden, drove back to Mesquite. At 11pm, stopped at Walmart, purchased luggage, razor blades, fake flowers, a vase, and a styrofoam ball; stayed overnight in Mesquite

28 September 2018 – From Mesquite, made $14k deposit in Mesquite Wells Fargo, made $50k wire transfer to Philippines; bought another rifle; visited Mesquite gun range; drove back to Mandalay Bay and gambled until next morning; conducted computer search “Where is hard drive located on e5570”

29 September 2017 – Dined at Mizuya Sushi; Route 91 Harvest Festival starts (three-day event); checked into room 32-134, which connected to 135; room service

30 September 2017 – At 0100, returned to Mesquite until nearly 0600 when he returned to Mandalay with more suitcases; declined room cleaning service; approximately 1900, returned to Mesquite; conducted computer search for “NV gun shows,” “NHRA schedule 2017”

1 October 2017 – Returned to Mandalay Bay approximately 0300; gambled; closed out room service bill; Began firing at 2205; shot at concert goers, but also incendiary rounds at nearby fuel tanks; stopped shooting at 2215, found dead of gunshot wound to head 65 minutes after he’d stopped firing; among items found in search of room post-incident were “several hundred images” of child porn found on his computer


Video poker: There was some disagreement at the level at which Paddock gambled. Some called him an “advantage player,” defined as an individual who has a slight edge over the casino in returns. Others said he broke even but played for and enjoyed the perks offered by the casinos to high-end players. Overall, he appeared to play large amounts of money, but at the same time, paid his debts, and continued to be welcomed by his favored casinos. Paddock was reportedly “a frequent player ‘with the highest status‘ at Caesar’s Entertainment properties in Las Vegas, and had an “intact ‘low 7’ rating,” described as a verified $1mm-$3mm in the bank and six-figure credit line.

Medication and health: Paddock had been taking prescription Valium since at least 2012, with the most recent script filled in June 2017. His doctor thought he might have bi-polar disorder. Paddock refused to take anti-depressants, but agreed to take Valium for anxiety. (Note: It is possible his preference for nighttime gambling and lack of exposure to daylight exacerbated a tendency toward anxiety and depression, however exploring neurobiological conditions is beyond the scope of this post as well as the expertise of The Intelligence Shop.) Paddock’s autopsy did not reveal health problems. His brain did not reveal abnormalities. (It was unclear if his brain was damaged when he committed suicide after the attack. Reportedly, he shot the gun into his mouth.)

Brother E.’s interview: In an interview posted on YouTube, E. Paddock emphasized how much he and the family enjoyed the prestige and perks associated with Stephen’s gambling habits, and how Stephen got what he could in comped stays and goods; Stephen made his mom “wealthy” and “very comfortable” in retirement due to his financial help; as youngsters, they survived on their mother’s salary as a “secretary in the 70s”; claimed Stephen acted alone because Stephen did not accept help from others, he was a “standalone” guy; claimed Stephen was “pragmatic”–that there were no instances where he imagined Stephen would commit the crime–they were in real estate in Los Angeles “when the bottom fell out, but they went on”; he could lose $4mm, Marylou could leave him, he would carry on–hoped autopsy would find irregularity because nothing else could explain what triggered this behavior; after Benjamin Paddock went to prison, Stephen Paddock’s mother told her sons their father had died and raised them as a single parent (Note: Only 9 percent of families in 1960 lived in single parent homes); E. Paddock did not have positive words about his father; E. Paddock described himself and his brothers as “bad” and “troublesome” as youths

Brother Bruce’s interview: When Bruce saw news coverage of Stephen Paddock, he called his mother to confirm Stephen Paddock was the shooter; asked if Stephen was “sick like he [Bruce] was” (appeared to believe his brother may have had the same spinal condition that he, Bruce, had that confined Bruce to a wheelchair (no indication that was true); said Stephen was like the dad of the family and he took on all of the responsibility of raising his younger brothers; referred to Stephen as the “controlling brother”

Former coworker interview: In an interview with a former property manager for a building Stephen owned in Mesquite, Texas, L. Crawford said Stephen was concerned for his tenants’ finances and he cared about people; she worked for Stephen Paddock for six years (circa 2004 – 2012); they communicated via e-mail and text because “neither liked talking on the phone”; she described Paddock’s sense of humor as “goofball” and said he was “generous” to his tenants

Family/children: Only one of the four Paddock siblings appeared to go on to have a family of his own (the youngest Paddock son, E., had four kids); after Benjamin Paddock escaped prison in 1968, he did not appear to have any more children; Stephen was married twice, no kids; it appeared E. Paddock was the only sibling with whom Stephen Paddock maintained a relationship; Stephen Paddock also appeared to have a good relationship with his mother/spoke to her on the phone after Hurricane Irma hit Florida to inquire as to her welfare, and ensured she got a walker when she was having trouble getting around; regarding E. and Stephen Paddock’s relationship with their father: “I didn’t know him. We didn’t know him.” “He was never with my mom. I was born on the run and that’s the last time he was ever associated with our family.”

Ancestry: Stephen Paddock’s paternal grandfather, Benjamin “Ben” Hoskins Paddock, Sr, died in 1958 after a stroke; Benjamin Paddock, Sr. joined the Quartermaster Corps at age 60 to help in war effort; Benjamin Paddock Sr.’s obituary mentions his son, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Jr., visited from Tucson; Stephen Paddock’s paternal grandmother, Olga Emelia Elizabeth Gunderson Paddock, died in 1969 at the age of 81; Olga was part of prominent family in Sheboygan where Benjamin Paddock. was born; Olga’s father was prominent ship captain in Great Lakes around turn of the century); the published obituary regarding her death did not mention her son, Benjamin; Stephen Paddock’s brother, Bruce Douglas Paddock, b. 1959, died 3 November 2020, at the age of 61; Bruce Douglas Paddock was reportedly homeless (for at least a period of time) when Los Angeles police sought to arrest him for possessing more than 600 images of child pornography in a case from 2014; Stephen’s maternal grandparents were Ralph Rolland Hudson (b. 1893/d. 1969) and Elsie Marie Tausch (b. 1893/d. 1945)

Final disposition of estate: As of its settlement circa August 2019, Paddock’s estate appears to have been worth $1.4 million. This number includes real estate, bank accounts, and Mandalay Bay casino vouchers. He did not have a will; his estate was settled in probate court.

Gaining Audience Trust When Presenting Controversial Findings

The findings of intelligence assessments are occasionally controversial. This includes products released only for internal consumption, as well as those rare assessments that are disseminated to the broader public. Ideally, the paper is written apolitically, using dispassionate language, and with enough unequivocal support that even a contentious message is given due consideration. Yet, even reports that have met these standards can sometimes lead to push back. Here are a few ways to strengthen your argument and gain audience trust when presenting controversial findings.

1. Anticipate questions: Sometimes the writer of an assessment is so familiar with a subject that it’s hard to see what might be missing. Since you’re not there to answer questions for your reader, you’ll need to anticipate those questions and fill in the missing information up front. It may be helpful to ask a colleague who is less familiar with the topic to review your work. Here is a closer look at this point using the example of the intelligence assessment Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, released to the public by the IC in 2017.

The analysis leans on the premise media source RT America put out Russian propaganda that may have influenced its American audience. Some of the questions that might be anticipated with respect to this assertion include: How relevant is RT America in the United States? It may be “the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK, ” as the assessment cites, but does a UK audience mirror a US audience? Reportedly, the channel has “millions” of followers and subscribers on Twitter and YouTube, however if a key element of the Russia campaign was fake personas–both real and automated–are these numbers accurate or have they been manipulated, too? By anticipating and addressing these questions up front, your audience may find it more reasonable that a US audience could be swayed by propaganda delivered by a Russia-controlled channel.

2. Add context: In the same assessment, analysts cited a “significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.” But some Russian experts and scholars disagree with this finding, so it’s important to support it by providing strong and detailed context. What is the history of Russian meddling? How has it evolved? What are its successes/failures? Did the Kremlin incorporate these lessons learned into later campaigns? To what end? Do other countries meddle in US elections? Why are the Russians more successful/persistent? Have US audiences shown themselves to be particularly receptive to Russian messaging in the past?

3. Compare and contrast: You can increase the impact of your findings if you compare and contrast. Rather than to simply state this campaign by Russia demonstrated a “significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort,” compare and contrast it to previous efforts. [Note: Analysts did include some examples of Russian tactics used previously under the heading “Influence Effort Was Boldest Yet in the US” (page 5). Still, expanding on this key point and then comparing and contrasting past operations would have offered greater clarity as well as support that this was demonstrably a “significant escalation” on the part of the Kremlin.]

4. Use a quantitative method: Data processed and expressed through numbers tend to be more objective than analytic methods where numbers are less easily applied. Caveat: Quantitative methods are only effective if applied correctly. Be sure to gather the largest data set you can reasonably compile as well as across the broadest timeframe, generally 10 years or more. Account for any influences that may have caused fluctuations in your numbers. For example, an increase in Medicare fraud cases or arrests may correlate to an increase in personnel assigned to the violation.

If you find you have too few data to build a strong data set, try widening your timeframe or modifying your intelligence question.

5. Incorporate a structured thinking technique: The use of structured methods is repeatedly encouraged on this site because structured techniques are among the most effective tools an analyst can use to reach an objective conclusion. They are also excellent at leaving audit trails, and for controversial assessments, it’s a good idea to be prepared to “show your work.” [Note: If you’re using the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, it’s good practice to include notes on the grid about how/why you determined a piece of evidence was consistent, inconsistent, neutral, or not applicable.]

Some readers may challenge and/or reject your findings no matter how solidly you present them. Of course, different perspectives are welcome provided the work is supported with equally strong analysis and argumentation.

Robert Hanssen Spy Case Illustrates The Difficulty of Overcoming Mindsets

Major intelligence failures are usually caused by failures of analysis, not failures of collection. Relevant information is discounted, misinterpreted, ignored, rejected or overlooked because it fails to fit a prevailing mental model or mind-set.

Richards J. Heuer, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis

Focusing on a single scenario early in an analysis can lead to a mindset that is difficult to overcome. Even when confronted with contradictory evidence, we justify our beliefs and assumptions and stand firm. The problem can happen when we’re working alone. But it can also happen when members of a group fixate on and then jointly support a single hypothesis. The Robert Philip Hanssen spy investigation illustrates the inflexibility of mindsets.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, the CIA and FBI lost a significant number of human assets who were being operated against the then-Soviet Union. Task force members assigned to identify the perpetrator considered the mole could be an FBI employee, but “poor document controls and violations of the ‘need to know’ principle” made it impossible to determine who had access to the compromised cases. A final report on the matter was inconclusive. Nevertheless, the determination was made that the spy was not an FBI employee.

The focus turned to the CIA. Analysts compiled a matrix of compromised cases and operations and began comparing names of persons who had both placement and access. By process of elimination, a list of 200 shrunk down to a single name: CIA counterintelligence officer Brian J. Kelley. The sole focus on Kelley was “due in part to the suspect’s ambiguous and sometimes suspicious behavior and in part to a belief that this individual had emerged as a lead suspect as a result of an objective and scientific process.”

For the next two years, Kelley was subjected to surveillance, covert searches, and technical monitoring, efforts that resulted in no conclusive evidence of espionage activities. Investigators sent a “foreign agent” to his home; Kelley reported the contact to the FBI. Agents found a map in the search of his home that represented a local park where a KGB agent had been sighted; Kelley explained it was a map of his jogging route. Agents administered a polygraph; Kelley passed. According to the OIG report, the squad “was so committed to the belief that the CIA suspect was a mole that it lost a measure of objectivity and failed to give adequate consideration to other possibilities.”

Reportedly, “several” senior FBI officials held doubts about the findings. Still, they allowed a report to be forwarded without modification to the DOJ under the assumption the DOJ would decline prosecution due to lack of evidence. As prosecutors were reviewing the matter, new, unequivocal evidence identified FBI supervisor Robert Philip Hanssen as the spy.

This case illustrates how mindsets can lead to a failure of analysis. Agents and analysts focused on Mr. Kelley because after deciding he was the mole, they dismissed inconsistencies that didn’t support their theory. Here are a few pointers to help deal with and overcome mindsets:

  1. Practice mental flexibility early. The longer a theory is allowed to linger the more deeply engrained it becomes and the more convinced we are that we’re correct. This is why brainstorming is a good first step. Consider multiple hypotheses as equally plausible until inconsistencies rule each of them out.
  2. The goal is to prove a hypothesis wrong, not right. Inconsistencies are points that require further analysis or investigation. Never minimize, justify, or dismiss them.
  3. Dissenting viewpoints offer valuable perspectives. It may be uncomfortable to be the only person in the room who sees things differently, but dissenting viewpoints are valuable. They prompt discussions that can expose flaws and strengthen arguments.
  4. Delineate your assumptions. An assumption is something you accept as true without proof. If you structure your analysis around an inaccurate assumption, you’ll invalidate your findings. You may also damage your credibility as an analyst.
  5. Always seek to apply a structured thinking technique. When earnestly applied, structured thinking techniques are arguably the single most effective tool analysts have to overcome mindsets and reach objective conclusions.

Also see: Informal Versus Formal Problem Solving

Intelligence Production: Political Involvement Coincides With Drop In Public Trust

Political neutrality is critical to ensuring the IC holds the public trust. Domestically, it gives citizens the assurance the FBI will not target them for their political beliefs, which has not always been the case. Polling indicates that during times the FBI has become more closely aligned with a political side by its public statements, actions, and production, its support drops off and/or it loses balance between persons who identify as Democrat and those who identify as Republican.

In 1965, a Gallup poll found the FBI had an 84 percent approval rating. Over the next 10 years, approval dropped steadily1 to a low of 37 percent after the Church Committee2 revealed the organization had maintained a longterm spying campaign on domestic political groups and persons.

More recently, polling organizations have broken down results to reflect the opinions of persons who identify as Democrat and Republican. Ideally, approval ratings would be fairly consistent between the two. This would likely indicate the public did not perceive the FBI as a political actor. In polls taken by Pew and Gallup, respectively, in 2010 and 2014, this was the case. However, beginning in 2017, which was the next available data point by Pew and Gallup, the percentages of persons who viewed the FBI positively became markedly skewed.

Around this same time, FBI analysts contributed to four publicly released joint intelligence assessments. Three of the four involved politically sensitive topics. The FBI had taken on a very public role in a divisive political matter, an action that coincided with a measurable drop in public trust.

The following table shows some of the consequences that can arise from political polarization. While analysts cannot control the politicization of their agencies, they can control their own work products. Analysts will establish credibility and maintain customer trust by writing analytically defensible products that meet the standards set for IC analytic production.

YearDemocrat Favorable Opinion FBIRepublican Favorable Opinion FBIIntelligence Assessments released
2010…68% (Pew)71% (Pew)
…2014…60% (Gallup)62% (Gallup)
..201769% (Gallup)49% (Gallup)Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections
201878% (Pew)55% (Pew)
201977% (Pew)66% (Pew)
2019…66% (Gallup)46% (Gallup)
..202166% (Gallup)26% (Gallup)1. Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021; 2. Unidentified Aerial Phenomena; 3. Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections
The public release of intelligence products to which FBI analysts contributed coincided with a marked difference in support by persons who identified as Democrat versus those who identified as Republican.

1In 1965, Gallup showed the FBI had an 84 percent approval rating; in 1970, a 71 percent rating; in 1973, a 62 percent, and in 1970, a 71 percent.

2The Church Committee also conducted investigations into the activities of the CIA, IRS, and NSA.

%d bloggers like this: