Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock May Have Planned Escape, Targeted Jet Fuel Tanks

Posted on: October 5, 2017, 10:14h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2017, 10:17h.

Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo revealed at his most recent press briefing that investigators believe shooter Stephen Paddock didn’t plan for things to end the way that they did. He wanted to cause many more fatalities, and much more chaos.

Stephen Paddock Mandalay Bay Las Vegas
Authorities say that Stephen Paddock tried to blow up jet fuel tanks at nearby McCarran International to divert attention from his firing perch inside Mandalay Bay. (Image: Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Lombardo said law enforcement is not ruling out that Paddock had plans to escape his 32nd-floor hotel suite at Mandalay Bay after opening fire and unloading hundreds of rounds of ammunition at outdoor concertgoers across the Strip at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. Lombardo also expressed his belief that this wasn’t a one-man job.

“Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and lived a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” the sheriff said at a presser on Wednesday. “He meticulously planned the worst domestic attack in United States history. You look at the weapon obtaining. You got to make the assumption he had to have some help at some point,” Lombardo concluded.

But nearly four days after the shooting, law enforcement still doesn’t have a clue who any other related parties might be, or at least any that they’re disclosing publicly.

Officers have recovered 47 firearms from the hotel suite, as well as from Paddock’s home in Mesquite. The bulk of those weapons, 33 guns, were purchased over the past 12 months. The investigation is currently focused on Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley, who told detectives upon her return from the Philippines that the man she knew was a nice and caring person who gave her no inkling of what was to come.

Greater Tragedy Averted

Paddock killed 58 people before taking his own life when police moved in on his hotel room. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, but according to new information, the total number of casualties could have been much higher.

Located about 700 yards east of Mandalay Bay, two jet fuel tanks were hit with bullets from Paddock’s fire. The Las Vegas Review-Journal first broke the news, which McCarran International Airport later confirmed. One of the tanks was penetrated by a bullet, but did not cause a fire or explosion.

The development might explain the two broken-out windows at Paddock’s suite. The window facing northeast had an open view over the concert, but the southern window had a direct sightline of the fuel tanks.

It’s unclear when the tanks were hit, but should the shooting have begun with an explosion powered by jet fuel east of the concert, it presumably would have made locating Paddock much more difficult amid the chaos.

Security Guard as Hero

Inside Paddock’s parked car at Mandalay Bay, police found several pounds of ammonium nitrate, an ingredient used in making explosives. Had he been able to escape, it’s unknown what Paddock’s next move might have been.

Jesus Campos, an unarmed Mandalay Bay security guard who was the first person to approach Paddock’s room, was at partially responsible for quelling the potential carnage. The gunman, who had set up surveillance cameras in the hallway outside his room, had to stop shooting from the window to attend to Campos as he made contact.

He fired 200 rounds through the door, but only struck Campos once in the leg. Law enforcement arrived a few minutes later. Stopping Paddock from firing for a few minutes likely saved many lives.