The mak­ing of the Las Ve­gas mur­derer

The mys­tery of why Stephen Pad­dock mas­sa­cred in­no­cents re­mains, and rad­i­cal­iza­tion can’t be ig­nored

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Greg Kee­ley and Jen Kerns

It’s been a long week since the largest mass shoot­ing on Amer­i­can soil, which shocked a na­tion bat­tered by nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. As the FBI searches the killer’s house a sec­ond time, we have a pic­ture of how the at­tack took place, the metic­u­lous plan­ning and the heroism of first re­spon­ders and ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans. What re­mains a mys­tery is why? What caused a 64-year-old re­tired ac­coun­tant of com­fort­able means to aban­don the high life of a pro­fes­sional gam­bler and slaugh­ter 58 in­no­cent peo­ple? Was Stephen Pad­dock rad­i­cal­ized? Law en­force­ment is work­ing to piece to­gether this act of evil. Ques­tions are swirling. Over­heated con­spir­acy the­o­ries are pro­mul­gated on­line, and grounded, con­sid­ered the­o­ries con­cern­ing the mo­tive and ex­e­cu­tion pro­lif­er­ate. Of­fi­cial state­ments have been con­tra­dic­tory — par­tic­u­larly as re­gards Pad­dock’s girl­friend Mar­ilou Dan­ley.

So, what gives?

The most likely con­clu­sion is that Steven Pad­dock was rad­i­cal­ized.

First, ISIS’ claim of credit mat­ters. The Is­lamic ex­trem­ist group rarely claims at­tacks they didn’t carry out. Fur­ther­more, when ISIS dou­bles down on a claim, the like­li­hood of their in­volve­ment has proven to in­crease. They will claim re­spon­si­bil­ity if the at­tacker is sent or in­spired by them.

ISIS claims Pad­dock was act­ing on his leader’s call for at­tacks against Las Ve­gas and has re­leased more specifics: that Stephen Pad­dock rad­i­cal­ized six months ago and his Is­lamic name was “Abu Ab­dul Barr al-Am­riki.” De­tails like this mat­ter; it is the modus operandi of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. So, yes, it may be op­por­tunis­tic pro­pa­ganda, but where there is smoke …

Sec­ond, Pad­dock may have had ex­trem­ist con­nec­tions in the Philip­pines. There are 11 mil­lion Mus­lims, or roughly 10 per­cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. Abu Sayyaf is the most vi­o­lent ji­hadist fac­tion in the re­gion. Its name means “bearer of the sword,” and it has de­clared al­le­giance to ISIS. Their vic­tims have thus far been Aus­tralian, Bri­tish, Cana­dian, Ger­man, and Malaysian, with Amer­i­cans also tar­geted. Abu Sayyaf has stated, “We have been try­ing hard to get an Amer­i­can … we want to fight the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Third, fol­low the money. Pad­dock wired at least $100,000 to an ac­count in the Philip­pines a week be­fore he opened fire. There are re­ports that Pad­dock was send­ing thou­sands of dol­lars a month to the Philip­pines be­fore the mas­sacre. To who and for what re­mains murky.

Ms. Dan­ley claims the money was buy a house — if so, show us the money. Ms. Dan­ley, an Aus­tralian cit­i­zen was in the Philip­pines, her na­tive coun­try, when Pad­dock pulled the trig­ger. Her back­ground re­mains un­clear. Two so­cial se­cu­rity num­bers, mar­ried to two men si­mul­ta­ne­ously — was she her­self rad­i­cal­ized?

Last but cer­tainly not least, cred­i­ble sources within fed­eral law en­force­ment have in­di­cated that lit­er­a­ture from the left­ist do­mes­tic ter­ror group An­tifa was found in one of the gun­man’s ve­hi­cles. This could be a symp­tom of the over­heated nar­ra­tive rag­ing in this coun­try or even a red her­ring to lead law en­force­ment astray, but it could also be a dis­turb­ing merg­ing of th­ese two anti-Amer­i­can ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions.

U.S. se­cu­rity agen­cies re­cently de­clared An­tifa a “do­mes­tic ter­ror” group, and the FBI warned to ex­pect more An­tifa at­tacks. Why law en­force­ment hasn’t re­vealed this de­tail to the Amer­i­can pub­lic is un­clear.

We should con­sider the mas­sacre at the Pulse night­club in the con­text of Las Ve­gas. Omar Ma­teen, a rad­i­cal­ized Is­lamist killed 49 peo­ple in a ter­ror­ist at­tack at a gay clu­bin Or­lando. Ma­teen swore al­le­giance to ISIS dur­ing the mur­ders. Yet there was a sig­nif­i­cant de­lay be­fore au­thor­i­ties con­firmed the link to Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. False nar­ra­tive that Ma­teen was a jilted lover was de­bunked by the FBI and con­firmed as ISIS in­spired ter­ror­ism.

We can also now be­gin to dis­miss the­o­ries. Dis­in­for­ma­tion that’s swirling around so­cial me­dia and cable news.

Was Pad­dock driven to car­nage by the po­lit­i­cal ran­cor en­gulf­ing the coun­try? The de­bate around Black Lives Mat­ter, An­tifa, white su­prem­a­cists, or maybe the NFL? Pad­dock’s po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions re­main un­clear but he was no ac­tivist.

Did his gam­bling debts over­whelm him? Pad­dock was a high-stakes gam­bler. He was a multi-mil­lion­aire with prop­erty across the coun­try. Did he rack up huge debts which mor­phed into a ha­tred of coun­try mu­sic lovers? It seems un­likely.

Maybe Pad­dock in­her­ited a men­tal ill­ness from his crim­i­nal fa­ther, Ben­jamin Pad­dock, a bank rob­ber on the FBI Most Wanted list who was “di­ag­nosed as psy­cho­pathic” with “sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies.” Pad­dock’s brother Eric has said they never knew their fa­ther.

Las Ve­gas is blan­keted by sur­veil­lance in ev­ery hall­way, ho­tel cor­ri­dor, casino and street cor­ner. That footage hasn’t been re­leased is cu­ri­ous. Par­tic­u­larly as it may help po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Video un­doubt­edly ex­ists, as does data from the killers own web cam­eras. Why is it be­ing with­held?

The bot­tom line is no mat­ter how evil a mo­tive emerges, no mat­ter how po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect the truth might be, the Amer­i­can peo­ple will han­dle the news. Re­gret­tably when the po­ten­tial trig­gers for this tragedy are ex­am­ined, the like­li­hood in­creases that Stephen Pad­dock was rad­i­cal­ized — the ques­tion is by whom?

Greg Kee­ley, a re­tired com­man­der, served with both the U.S. Navy and Royal Aus­tralian Navy. Jen Kerns is a Re­pub­li­can strate­gist.

ILLUSTRATION BY GREG GROESCH

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