On the night of October 1, concert-goers who were singing along with Jason Aldean at a country festival just across the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas suddenly found themselves in the middle of a machine-gun barrage from the sky.

Stephen Paddock had smashed a window with a hammer and was shooting high-powered semi-automatic rifles on the crowd from his hotel room on the 32nd floor. It’s easy to imagine that from up there the packed crowd must have looked like sitting ducks at a fairground shooting gallery. He also shot a hotel security guard, before the police arrived at his floor around a quarter past ten and found his body along with 23 firearms and ammunition. The gunman had shot himself, leaving a carnage on the street outside, as well as lots of unanswered questions.

Las Vegas Shooting: At Least 59 Dead
Las Vegas Shooting: At Least 59 Dead

Paddock killed 58 people that night and injured and wounded hundreds of others. I have been questioning like everyone else: what made him do it?

What Makes A Mass Murderer?

What makes a man a mass murderer? Sometimes, some people aren’t able to cope with a blow, such as a layoff, and they reach for the nearest firearm. It is easy to see how poor anger management and access to firearms can lead to untoward incidents. A bout of depression and reaching the end of the tether can be a trigger, but it’s hard to say definitively that mental illness increases chances of gun violence.

There have been many infamous cases of mass murder around the world in the past several decades, and it’s not limited to the US. In 2015 there were more deaths from public shootings in France than in the US. In the massacres that cannot be linked to terrorism, it is not easy to pinpoint traits that makes a mass murderer different from us or our neighbors. It would be nice if the police told us what to expect a mass murderer looks, so we can watch out for them and turn them in when we see one. But just as you can’t spot a future serial killer from his early run-ins with the law, you cannot tell who will one day turn and shoot down innocent people in public. Was Stephen Paddock any different?

Who Was Stephen Paddock?

The Gunman Behind Deadliest Mass Shooting In Las Vegas
The Gunman Behind Deadliest Mass Shooting In Las Vegas

Stephen Paddock seems like an average man. People were surprised to know he had a degree in business administration from California State University. The police haven’t found any links with terrorists. He had not lost his job. He owned a lot of property around the country and in Australia, and made a lot of money from his real estate business. He was amicable with his two ex-wives and enjoyed taking cruises. According to his brother, Paddock wasn’t particularly political or religious. What drives such a man to open fire on innocent people? Did he simply have a burning hatred for country music?

There are some facts about Paddock that the media would jump to crucify with. He was a gambler who enjoyed playing video poker and may have made good profits, but high stakes Las Vegas gamblers didn’t know him. Video poker involves math calculations of the odds. He had been gambling for 25 years.

Paddock’s father had been a bank robber, but according to his brother Eric, their dad was rarely around to influence the kids. Those who knew him said Stephen was methodical and intelligent, though he kept to himself and didn’t hang out at shooting ranges or gun clubs.

In the months before the shooting, he sent his Filipino girlfriend back home with money to buy a house there. He was often drunk and had altercations with prostitutes. He was also taking the anti-anxiety drug Valium for depression. He was 64. Two days before the shooting he drove to a gun range for target practice.

Why Did Stephen Paddock Kill?

Paddock was a methodical man who had quietly bragged to a friend that he developed algorithms to beat the video poker machines. In his hotel room police found calculations of bullet trajectories that would kill as many people as possible. But the gunman took his motives to the grave.

Who Is Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock?
Who Is Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock?

There have been many speculations about it, from experts as well as armchair psychologists. Some say he wanted the notoriety. Others say criminality runs in the family. He was depressed, but not everyone with depression commits murder. One criminal profiler John Kelly says the combination of alcohol and Valium may have put Paddock in a delusional and murderous rage. According to the profiler, Paddock may have had sociopathic tendencies, low self esteem and shame from childhood.

While real motives remain a mystery in this case, it is best not to speculate about what Stephen Paddock’s case says about mass murderers. I believe every such case has its own story that we shouldn’t ignore.