As readers know, I have a low regard for conspiracy theories, mainly because the reasons the world is going to hell are pretty much staring us in the face. But I can't honestly blame anyone following the Las Vegas massacre story from taking refuge in any conspiracy theory, no matter how wild and zany. Almost a fortnight from the moment when 58 people were gunned down at a country-music festival, officialdom has so bungled the case that almost every single one of the most basic facts about the act are up for grabs.
As I had cause to remark over a week ago, I dislike the contamination of police press conferences by various politicians and bureaucrats all indulging in an orgy of mutual self-congratulation. But, in this case, the self-congratulation is entirely unwarranted. From the beginning this seemed an unusual crime that didn't seem to line up with any other mass shooting by a nutter who flips. It has only gotten weirder in the days since.
Earlier this week whichever branch of the Keystone Kops is running this show (apparently the Feds) completely reversed their timeline of the case. Previously we were told that Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos had gone up to the 32nd floor to investigate an "open-door" alert and was a hero because his intervention had distracted the perp from killing even more people - and fortunately, even as Mr Campos was taking a bullet in his leg, the cops were already pounding up the stairs.
We're now told that that timeline was, in fact, back to front. Instead, Jesus Campos was investigating the door alert before the massacre even began. At 9.59pm, Paddock responded to Mr Campos' arrival by emptying 200 rounds into the 32nd floor corridor. Which seems a tad excessive. Paddock then apparently took a leisurely six-minute break before going over to the window and beginning his massacre. Which seems a tad excessively relaxed. What was he doing? Having a nice cup of tea? Calling down to room service? Your guess is as good as the coppers'.
But, at any rate, it seems someone else was on the scene - maintenance man Stephen Schuck, who was also forced to take cover from those 200 rounds:
As Mr Schuck says above, when the shooting began, he used his radio to call in what was happening - including the precise location of the room from which the shots were coming. That was six minutes before Paddock began firing on the crowd. So in theory the police could have gotten there in time to prevent, if not all, then many or most of the deaths at the concert.
But they didn't. Instead, Paddock fired on the crowd for ten minutes and then, despite having apparently prepared for a siege, decided to call a halt and shoot himself.
The Mandalay Bay resort is now disputing the police's revised timeline. They say that officers were already in the building when Campos radioed in that he was shot and, within 40 seconds, both police and hotel security were on the 32nd floor.
So that's three timelines. We're now told:
Police say the current timeline will be revised again by Friday.
I'll bet. While we're waiting, I'll confess that I dislike the current preferred jargonizing whereby the Sheriff announces that they're "working" various crime scenes. I don't know quite what's involved in "working" a crime scene but one would assume it includes at minimum securing the crime scene. Yet apparently not. Last weekend, Paddock's home in Reno was burgled. Just consider that for a moment: On Sunday night someone pulls off the worst single-shooter massacre in American history - and yet it's insufficient of a priority to the multiple federal, state and local agencies investigating it to prevent the supposed perpetrator's property being broken into under their noses.
That seems odd, don't you think? Sometimes, in unusual cases, sleepy small-town two-man police departments find themselves a wee bit overwhelmed, and sloppy things happen. But how can it happen with these resources in the most prominent investigation in the country?
It is unclear to the Keystone Kops what was taken from the Reno home. Of course. Since Day One, this entire case has been about what's missing, and what's missing seems to be getting larger. There appear to be four photographs of Stephen Paddock - three from many years ago, and a fourth that shows him with closed eyes. That's quite unusual in the age of Facebook and selfies. But it seems even more absurd for a guy who spent much of his time in a town where humanity is under closer scrutiny than almost anywhere on the planet. Long before computers and the Internet, Vegas casinos had cameras everywhere filming their patrons for the benefit of unseen eyes in the back office concerned to know what their customers are up to at every moment and from every angle. Yet there's only one solitary image that approximates to how Stephen Paddock looked on the night of October 1st?
Where's the footage of him bringing those bags into the hotel? When, come to that, did he check in to the Mandalay Bay? By now, this ever shifting, reversible "timeline" should at least have a verifiable starting date, shouldn't it? As "empty" as Paddock was a week and a half ago, he's getting emptier, and blanker: We're asked to believe that he made "millions" playing video poker - which is as likely, as Ann Coulter put it in an excellent column, as making millions by smoking crack. If, in the all but statistically impossible event he did manage to relieve the casinos' machines of millions of dollars, he would certainly not be additionally enriched by free hotel suites and complimentary $500-a-glass vintage port, as his brother claims. On the other hand, Steve Wynn, whose hotels Paddock stayed in over many years, says that the only unusual thing about the guy and his "girlfriend" was that neither was ever seen to take a drink.
Sheriff Lombardo referred last Wednesday to what he called cryptically Paddock's "secret life". But Las Vegas has a "secret life", too. The new Disneyfied "family-friendly" Vegas is a veneer, underneath which prostitution, money laundering, organized crime, etc, chug along much as before. Paddock supposedly availed himself of prostitutes; did he also use Vegas for laundering cash? That's a better reason for the time he spent there than that he was "winning" millions at video poker.
But it doesn't get us any closer to what happened on Sunday October 1st. I said over a week ago that Paddock seemed more like a professional assassin than the usual mass-murdering nutjob. On the other hand, a think-tanker in London wrote to me to argue that the sheer superfluousness of all that firepower suggested that the weaponry itself was the message. As one of the officers said a few days ago, the hotel room "looked like almost a gun store".
Maybe it was - and maybe something went wrong on a deal. And maybe this and maybe that. And maybe it will all become clear at tomorrow's revised timeline. Offered the now wearily familiar line that the police remain completely baffled as to motive, Tucker Carlson responded: forget motive; right now he'd settle for the basic facts. What are the odds we'll get them at the Friday presser? Better than video poker?
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