World

Vegas gunman's girlfriend denies knowledge of his plans

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo believes shooter likely had an accomplice

The Associated Press

October 04, 2017

A police officer stands in front of the closed Las Vegas Strip next to the site of the Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting on Tuesday. Investigators are still baffled about the motive of the gunman, Stephen Paddock. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

The girlfriend of the Las Vegas gunman said Wednesday she had no inkling of the massacre he was plotting when he sent her on a trip abroad to see her family, as investigators released new details of how the shooting played out. 

Marilou Danley issued the statement after returning from her native Philippines and being questioned for much of the day by FBI agents still trying to figure out what drove Stephen Paddock to gun down 58 people at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite.

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"He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen," Danley said in a statement read by her lawyer outside FBI headquarters in Los Angeles.

"It never occurred to me in any way whatsoever that he was planning violence against anyone," she said.

FBI agents have struggled to understand Paddock, a frustratingly opaque figure who carried out his highrise massacre without leaving the plain-sight clues often found after major acts of bloodshed.

Paddock spent decades stockpiling weapons while he lived a secret life, according to investigators. 

But the complexity and sheer numbers involved in the massacre — there were 1,600 rounds of ammunition and 23 guns in Paddock's hotel room, for example — raise the possibility that he might have had at least one accomplice.

"He had to have had some help at some point," Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters late Wednesday. 

"Maybe he was a super yahoo who was working this out on his own, but it will be hard for me to believe that."

Lombardo also said Paddock planned to survive the bloody scene and escape, though he did not offer details. 

Paddock, left, wired $100,000 US to his girlfriend Marilou Danley, right, shortly before his deadly rampage. (Eric Paddock via AP, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

Person of interest

Danley, 62, who has been called a "person of interest" by investigators, was met by federal agents Tuesday night when she arrived at the Los Angeles airport from her native Philippines after more than two weeks abroad.

Investigators are busy reconstructing Paddock's life, behaviour and the people he encountered in the weeks leading up to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said earlier. That includes examining his computer and cellphone.

But as of Wednesday, investigators were unable to explain what led Paddock to rain heavy fire down from the windows of his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel casino. He killed himself as police closed in. 

"This individual and this attack didn't leave the sort of immediately accessible thumbprints that you find on some mass casualty attacks," McCabe said.

The Daily Mail published leaked images purporting to show assault rifles scattered across Paddock's hotel room. (Daily Mail)

The 64-year-old retired accountant quietly stockpiled an arsenal of high-powered weapons while pursuing a passion for high-stakes gambling at Nevada casinos, where his game of choice was video poker, a relatively solitary pursuit with no dealer and no humans to play against.

Neighbours described Paddock as friendly, but he wasn't close to them.

"He was a private guy. That's why you can't find out anything about him," his brother, Eric Paddock, said from his home in Florida. As for what triggered the massacre, the brother said: "Something happened that drove him into the pit of hell."

He told the Washington Post his brother met Danley when she was working as a casino hostess in Reno, Nev.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks after meeting with police at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

$100K wire transfer

Danley said she was initially pleased when Paddock wired her money in the Philippines to buy a house for her family — an apparent reference to the $100,000 transfer made shortly before the massacre — but she later feared it was a way to break up with her.

A senior U.S. homeland security official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said investigators believe the money was meant as a form of life insurance payment for Danley.

Danley, an Australian citizen, had been sharing Paddock's condo at a retirement community in Mesquite, Nev., about 130 kilometres northeast of Las Vegas, according to police and public records.

Danley's sisters in Australia said earlier that they believe she was unaware of Paddock's murderous plans and that he sent her away so she wouldn't interfere.

In a TV interview in Australia, the sisters — whose faces were obscured and their names withheld — called Danley "a good person" who would have stopped Paddock had she been there.

"She didn't even know that she was going to the Philippines until Steve said, 'Marilou, I found you a cheap ticket to the Philippines,"' said one of the sisters, who live near Brisbane.

She arrived in Manila on Sept. 15, flew to Hong Kong on Sept. 22 and returned to Manila on Sept. 25. She was there until she flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday night, according to a Philippine immigration official.

Also, casino regulators are looking closely at Paddock's gambling habits and checking their records to see whether he had any disputes with casinos or fellow patrons. In addition, investigators are examining a dozen financial reports filed in recent weeks when he bought more than $10,000 in casino chips.

Paddock had no known criminal history. Public records contained no indication of any financial problems, and his brother described him as a wealthy real estate investor.

Trump visits hospital

U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Las Vegas on Wednesday, meeting with survivors of the attack and their doctors at University Medical Center.

Trump praised the bravery of the victims and emergency personnel who responded to the attack. 

"What I saw today is an incredible tribute to professionalism," Trump said, flanked by doctors, during a brief news conference. "It makes you very proud to be an American when you see the job they've done." 

The attack in Las Vegas marks the first time Trump has had to deal with a mass shooting as president. Trump strongly supported gun rights during his presidential run and on Wednesday refused to answer a question about the country's gun control laws. 

"We're not going to talk about that today," he said. 

Trump then headed to police headquarters, where he met with officers and dispatchers who responded to the shooting. 

Dozens of guns

A total of 47 firearms were recovered from three locations searched by investigators — Paddock's hotel suite, his home in Mesquite, and another property associated with him in Reno, according to Jill Snyder, the special agent in charge at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. 

Twelve of his semi-automatic rifles were fitted with so-called bump stocks, allowing them to be fired almost as though they were automatic weapons.

The devices are legal under U.S. law, even though fully automatic weapons are for the most part banned. The rifles, shotguns and pistols were purchased in four states — Nevada, Utah, California and Texas, Snyder told reporters at an evening news conference.

Officials said Paddock had been stockpiling guns since 1982 and bought 33 firearms in the last year.  

Police body-worn camera video of Las Vegas massacre  3:58

Police said Paddock strafed the concert crowd with bullets for 10 minutes before taking his own life, and had set up cameras inside and outside his hotel suite so he could see police as they closed in on his location.

Authorities released police body camera video that showed the chaos of the attack as officers tried to figure out the location of the gunman and shuttle people to safety. Amid sirens and volleys of gunfire, people yelled, "They're shooting right at us" while officers shouted "Go that way!"

A search of Paddock's car turned up a supply of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can be formed into explosives and was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building that killed 168 people, officials said earlier.

FBI investigators search the scene in front of the stage area following the shooting. Officials said Paddock had been stockpiling guns since 1982 and bought 33 firearms in the last year. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Police also confirmed that photos widely published online showing the gunman's body, his hands in gloves, lying on the  floor beside two firearms and spent shell casings, were authentic crime-scene images obtained by media outlets. An internal investigation was underway to determine how they were leaked.

Video footage of the shooting on Sunday night caught by those on the ground showed people screaming in horror, some crouching in the open for cover, hemmed in by fellow concertgoers, and others running for cover as extended bursts of gunfire rained onto the crowd of about 20,000.

Police had put the death toll at 59 earlier on Tuesday, not including the gunman. However, the coroner's office revised the confirmed tally to 58 dead, plus Paddock, on Tuesday night.

There were 489 people injured in the attack, Lombardo said, down from the initial count of over 500. The difference was attributed to double-counting and other confusion in the immediate aftermath. 

At least four Canadians are among the dead and six others were injured. 

Marilou Danley's sisters believe she knew nothing of Vegas gunman's deadly intentions  0:41

With files from Reuters and CBC News
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