As many of our staff writers have reported over the past week, a motive for the massacre in Las Vegas is still missing. It’s rather rare that it takes so long to find a motive for such attacks, and both investigators and the public at large have been utterly baffled for the past seven days as to why he started firing on the concert last Sunday.
However, investigators may have some breakthrough information on why this happened. Despite the fact that Paddock passed all background checks he subjected himself to, something may have been there under the surface that for years went undiagnosed, until one day the severity of the illness reached the breaking point.
Pieces of the puzzle are falling into place (finally), and investigators now believe that Paddock may have had a severe mental illness that went undiagnosed for years. After interviewing hundreds of people connected to Paddock, it appears to be something that should be taken as a serious possibility.
According to ABC News, who obtained their report from anonymous law enforcement officials, FBI profilers and behavioral scientists have been studying him vigorously over time, and it is beginning to appear quite possible that he was very ill.
The picture that is emerging of Steven Paddock, who has been identified as the gunman in Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, is of a man that some law enforcement officials increasingly believe had severe mental illness that was likely undiagnosed, sources tell ABC News.
The portrait, gleaned from interviews with hundreds of people interviewed over the past week, is that while Paddock might have been financially successful, he had real difficulty interacting with people. He is described as standoff-ish, disconnected, a man who had difficulty establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships.
The focus of the investigation is now turning to last October, when Paddock began stockpiling long guns. Since last October, he purchased 33 guns, mostly rifles.
However, the sources revealed that there were other changes in his behavior as well, and those changes could be a key piece of evidence in revealing whether or not he did have an undiagnosed mental illness.
Sources say there’s evidence that his gambling wagers began increasing in scale in that time frame too.
Paddock, they say, was recently on his computer looking at a lot of different hotel venues — some apparently just to research, some of which he actually traveled to.
According to multiple law enforcement officials, police still have found no definitive evidence to prove Paddock had an accomplice, and have not nailed down a definitive motive.
Just like the attack at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, a motive may not ever be found unfortunately. Adam Lanza did have a severe case of mental disorders, but that fact did not provide a motivation for killing his mother, and then the 26 at the school.
There has been a rise in mass shootings in recent decades, though the overall violent crime rate has plummeted in that same time frame. As David Kopel wrote for The Wall Street Journal back in 2012 after the Sandy Hook massacre, there is a simultaneous rise in mass shootings and a deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill since the 1960s.
A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill. In the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law (2008), Jason C. Matejkowski and his co-authors reported that 16% of state prisoners who had perpetrated murders were mentally ill.
In the mid-1960s, many of the killings would have been prevented because the severely mentally ill would have been confined and cared for in a state institution. But today, while government at most every level has bloated over the past half-century, mental-health treatment has been decimated. According to a study released in July by the Treatment Advocacy Center, the number of state hospital beds in America per capita has plummeted to 1850 levels, or 14.1 beds per 100,000 people.
Clearly there is something going on with the mental health system in this country. Those with a mental illness need to have treatment, and some do need to be institutionalized in order to properly treat them. But over the years, especially after revelations about terrible conditions in many mental health institutions, lots of them were shut down.
The corresponding effect was more mentally ill people out and about in society. That has to be addressed, though addressing the issue with a people-oriented solution, rather than an inanimate-object-focused solution is not something that some will be willing to do, sadly.