ORLANDO, Fla. — The last few days have a been a real-life “horror story” for Eric Paddock and his family, as he searches for even the tiniest clue that would explain what drove his brother to carry out the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
His brother Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, has been identified by police as the gunman responsible for killing 58 and injuring 527 during a country music concert in Las Vegas. Stephen opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Sunday night, as concertgoers took cover or ran for their lives. He turned the gun on himself before police stormed his hotel room.
Tuesday evening, the Clark County coroner John Fudenberg clarified that Paddock’s death was included in the previously reported death total of 59.
“This is a horror, just a horror story in every possible way,” Eric Paddock said. “It’s the bad twist at the end of a good movie.”
Choking back tears while speaking with reporters outside his East Orlando home Tuesday, Paddock wondered aloud if there was something he could have done to stop his brother.
“This is what I’ll carry for the rest of my life: Had I called him back instead of texting, would I have heard something in his voice? Would he have given up something? I don’t know. I can’t say,” Paddock said, referring to a text he got from his brother after Hurricane Irma asking if their mom was OK. “That’s what I’m going to carry for the rest of my life, that maybe I could have intervened.”
Alongside guilt, Paddock and his family are juggling grief.
“Nobody wants to hear this, but I’m as touched by this … my brother’s dead. He’s dead. And I like my brother. He was a good guy,” Paddock said. “And I know nobody wants to hear this, but damn, if you knew Steve.”
Still a mystery
So far, investigators have revealed very little to suggest a motive behind the gunman’s attack. Stephen Paddock had no known criminal record, no known history of mental illness and didn’t appear to be linked with any political, religious or international groups. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacre, but the FBI said it has found no connection between Stephen Paddock and any terror groups.
After the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando in June 2016, an attack that killed 49 and was also claimed by ISIL, Paddock said his brother called him to make sure his kids were OK.
Paddock said he’s hoping investigators find something to explain his brother’s actions. He suspects the plan unfolded over the last few months.
“That he would kill people he didn’t know, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s just bizarre,” he said. “There was something that happened to Steve — I’m not even trying to excuse anything — but something happened that drove him into the pit of hell.
“I don’t understand why Steve got to that point, and maybe we’ll never know.”
CBS News reports in the past weeks Stephen made $160,000 in transfers and, before he carried out the attack, wired $100,000 to the Philippines. It’s unclear if the money was for his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who police determined was in the Philippines on Sunday.
Paddock said he wouldn’t be surprised if his brother sent Marilou away to keep her out of the incident and wired the money to make sure she’d be taken care of.
“He loved her,” he said, adding he didn’t have any knowledge of a breakup or problems between them. Paddock was also doubtful that, given his family’s wealth, a large gambling loss or breakup would have driven his brother to kill others or himself.
Although he said he didn’t know much about his brother’s life over the last month, Paddock described his sibling as a multimillionaire who gambled for a living. An avid video poker player, he often went on luxury cruises, stayed in high-class Vegas resorts and owned properties throughout the country. A former accountant, the alleged shooter also made money flipping houses, Paddock said.
In Brevard County, Stephen Paddock apparently doesn’t have a player profile with any of the area’s legal gambling establishments.
Paddock never boarded the Victory Casino Cruises gambling vessel at Port Canaveral, said Lester Bullock, chief executive officer. Bullock asked his employees to check the ship manifest records and the company’s Players Club records on Monday morning after news broke of the massacre.
Jim O’Brien, president and general manager of Club 52 and Melbourne Greyhound Park, said his security personnel do not recognize photos of Paddock.
A couple of poker dealers said they believe they may have seen Paddock at Club 52 in 2013-15, but O’Brien said there is no way to confirm that may have happened.
“He wasn’t a regular here. We didn’t know him,” O’Brien said.
The gunman grew up in Sun Valley, Calif., attended California State University in Northridge before working for the predecessor company of Lockheed Martin in the 1980s. He was married twice and had no children.
Eric and Stephen Paddock have two brothers, Bruce and Patrick, whom Eric said he has not spoken to in years. Their mother also lives in Orlando.
Eric and Stephen Paddock’s late father, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, was a convicted bank robber who spent years on the lam in the late 1960s and 1970s, and at one point earned a spot on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. The father was eventually captured after gaining notoriety for operating Oregon’s first legal bingo parlor.
Looking back on his childhood without a father, Eric Paddock thought of the people who lost dads in the shooting Sunday night.
“I grew up with no dad and I know how it sucks, and I just can’t imagine how Steve did this. It’s inconceivable,” he said. “My heart is torn, is destroyed for all these people, but I can’t tell why Steve did what he did. It’s so far over the side of the cliff from Steve that I knew.
“For the people who have been affected by this, if there was anything I could do to make this better, if there was anything I could do to make this better, I’d do it.”