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Vegas gunman studied other large concerts

By Matt Pearce, Matt Hamilton and Richard Winton • Oct 6, 2017 at 9:00 AM

LAS VEGAS — The gunman who fired on a country music festival in Las Vegas also researched outdoor performance areas in Boston and other large cities in recent months, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.

But Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., doesn’t appear to have traveled to most of those locations, said the source, who was not authorized to talk about the inquiry into Sunday’s mass shooting, which killed 58 people and injured nearly 500.

Paddock also appears to have spent much of September in Las Vegas, where he was seen gambling in the weeks before the attack, according to casino representatives.

Officials have struggled to find a motive for why Paddock, a retired real estate investor who liked to gamble, took at least 10 suitcases’ worth of firearms and ammunition to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers gathered below.

But new details about Paddock’s activities in recent months suggest that he may have had other targets in mind.

In the first week of August, Paddock reserved rooms at an upscale hotel overlooking Chicago’s Grant Park during Lollapalooza, one of the nation’s largest outdoor music festivals, a law enforcement source said.

The event was headlined by major acts including Chance the Rapper, the Killers and Muse, and attendees included Sasha and Malia Obama, the daughters of former President Barack Obama. It would have been a target similar to the one in Las Vegas — huge crowds packed into an outdoor space beneath tall buildings — but with far more people.

Paddock was ultimately a no-show for his reservations in Chicago. “We can confirm that there was no guest under that name who stayed at our hotel in August during the Lollapalooza music festival,” said Blackstone hotel spokeswoman Emmy Carragher.

After paying for his girlfriend’s trip to visit family in the Philippines, Paddock appears to have been in downtown Las Vegas from Sept. 14 to 28, according to records reviewed by representatives of the El Cortez Hotel and Casino, who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on condition of anonymity.

The representatives said Paddock did not spend the night there or make a reservation. But he was seen in the El Cortez on Sept. 16, and he obtained a player’s card and played slots and blackjack on Sept. 17, buying in on the latter with $40. Representatives said Paddock won about $300.

“He only played one time,” one of the representatives said. “Enough to get a meal.”

The next week, Paddock returned to the El Cortez on Sept. 21 and 24. At some point, he ate two meals with his winnings. He cashed out his ticket on Sept. 24, his sole use of the casino’s ATM machines.

The timeline overlaps with the three-day outdoor Life Is Beautiful concert, which ran from Sept. 22 to 24 and which featured similarly high-profile acts as Lollapalooza.

Paddock also booked an Airbnb in a condo building overlooking the Life Is Beautiful festival in late September, leading investigators to gather video from the building to learn more.

“Was he doing pre-surveillance? We don’t know yet,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Wednesday.

El Cortez representatives disputed reports that Paddock was kicked out of the property or that the hotel was sold out around the time of Life Is Beautiful. Casino representatives said he was not on the radar of management because he did not win or lose a substantial sum.

After Paddock was identified, a compliance officer for El Cortez entered his name into their system and determined he had a brief, limited interaction there, representatives said. The hotel leaders then contacted police to share their findings.

“We never knew he was here until after this murder,” one of the representatives said.


(Hamilton reported from Las Vegas, and Pearce and Winton from Los Angeles. The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.)


©2017 Los Angeles Times

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