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Las Vegas Shooter's Motive Remains Unknown


And we start this hour in Las Vegas where investigators continue to sift through clues into Sunday's mass shooting. Authorities have now identified all but three of the 59 people killed in the attack, and they say the number of people injured remains around 500.

NPR's Eric Westervelt has been following all this and joins me now with the latest. And Eric, there was a news conference this afternoon. First, has anything more been learned about the shooter, Stephen Paddock?

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Good evening, Robert. Yeah, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about this 64-year-old retired accountant, about his motive and really what he did in the final hours and days before this murder spree. Today Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo offered some new details. He confirmed that some of the weapons found in Paddock's hotel room had added what are called bump stocks, these sort of do-it-yourself devices that you can use to turn semiautomatic rifles into fully automatic weapons and fire off more rounds more quickly. He said they've sent those off for analysis and investigation, and he really didn't provide much more detail on that.

He did say Paddock's girlfriend is a person of interest, and she's currently in the Philippines. They want to speak with her. And we know law enforcement found some 23 firearms in his hotel room along with ammunition that he used, you know, as a sniper's platform on this high floor overlooking this country music concert.

SIEGEL: And just to elaborate a bit, the bump stocks are - they're sold commercially. This isn't an exotic piece of equipment. I gather it utilizes the recoil of the rifle to pull the trigger faster than anyone could.

WESTERVELT: Exactly - easily available on the Internet. There's - Internet - there's do-it-yourself videos and YouTube, et cetera, and it's fairly easily done for someone who's - knows what they're doing with weapons.

SIEGEL: Police say they found more weapons at Paddock's home, and they talked about the guns that they seized at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino where he was staying. What exactly did they say about those weapons?

WESTERVELT: Well, his home in Mesquite northeast of here, they found 19 more firearms, lots of ammunition as well as some explosives in his car. Also, Robert, they're looking into his, you know, gambling winning in losses for any clues to his motives and background. Any you know, win or loss of $10,000 or more has to be reported.

The Treasury Department can look into those - what are known as currency transaction reports. A spokesman for the Treasury Department told me today - wouldn't really comment in detail beyond saying that such data in the past has proven to be extremely useful to investigators. So they're clearly looking down that road as well.

SIEGEL: You mentioned that Paddock's girlfriend, according to the sheriff, is in the Philippines. And presumably she would know as much about this man and what he was up to in recent weeks as anyone. Is she a suspect in the shooting?

WESTERVELT: Well, the sheriff used the term person of interest. And really, given that Paddock, you know, doesn't seem to fit the profile of a mass murderer per se, they're looking down any avenue they can. I mean he was 64. The average age of a mass shooter's the mid-30s. He had no known criminal record. He had no known alcohol or drug problems. I mean, he liked to gamble. But from what we know from public records, you know, he bought and sold some properties and appeared to live fairly comfortably financially. He passed background checks and legally bought firearms - so so far, nothing that jumps out that points to motive.

SIEGEL: One party whom the sheriff had praise for was security at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino. He said that their actions were critical in getting to the - that room on the 32nd floor as soon as they did.

WESTERVELT: Right. I reached out to the hotel security today. They would not speak on the record. But you know, from what police - what law enforcement here saying is that they have nothing to fault the security at Mandalay Bay so far. They said they reacted quickly and efficiently and have been cooperative and helpful with law enforcement so far.

SIEGEL: I should say it has been reported that Paddock brought 10 suitcases, many bearing rifles, up to his hotel room. And evidently they went undetected. Eric, thanks.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Eric Westervelt reporting from Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Westervelt
Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.