Investigators met with the brother of the Las Vegas gunman while friends and relatives of the 58 killed and other concert-goers who survived the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history returned Monday to reclaim baby strollers, shoes, phones, backpacks and purses left behind in the panic as they fled. The interviews with Stephen Paddock’s brother Saturday and Sunday were part of an exhaustive search through the 64-year-old’s life in search of clues about why he unleashed gunfire from broken windows in the 32rd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel casino. Eric Paddock declined to say what he was asked, but he said he’s cooperating with investigators, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He declined interview requests from The Associated Press.
”I’m trying to get them to understand Steve’s mindset,” Eric Paddock told the newspaper. ”I don’t want them to chase bad leads.” In a newly revealed court document obtained by CNN, Stephen Paddock described himself as a nocturnal creature who bet up to $1 million each night while gambling at Las Vegas casinos in flip-flops and sweat pants, catching sleep in the day. The description of his lifestyle comes from a deposition filed as part of a civil lawsuit he filed against Cosmopolitan Hotel, where he slipped and fell in 2011.
The personal effects being recovered were strewn across the massive grassy concert venue where 22,000 country music fans attended the Route 91 Harvest festival have become sentimental memories of loved ones for some, and haunting reminders of the night of terror for others. People left behind thousands of lawn chairs, hats, wallets, souvenirs, cellphones, purses, boots and several other items, Clark County Emergency Manager John Steinbeck said. People are being allowed to come retrieve their things in groups based on where they were seated, with authorities expanding the offer Monday to include people who were seated west of the stage, he said. As of Monday morning, 99 people who were seated east of the stage or in a VIP tent had sought to recover their belongings.
Authorities are powering up cellphones and asking people to text their full names to the phones to ensure they are returned to the correct owners. Some of the victims have already been returned home and been memorialized at funerals while many others were in route on Monday ahead of services planned for later dates. More than 800 people packed into a California church on Saturday to honor the life of Jack Beaton, who died shielding his wife from gunfire. The body of Christopher Roybal, a veteran who served combat during four tours in the Middle East, was set to be flown back to his home in Riverside, California, on Monday.
Eric Paddock said he came to Las Vegas to retrieve his brother’s body in hopes of sending the cremated ashes to their 89-year-old mother in Orlando. Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said Monday he could not discuss the results of an autopsy done on Stephen Paddock, who police said shot himself dead before officers arrived at the Las Vegas Strip hotel suite from which he rained gunfire on a concert crowd below. The coroner didn’t say when Paddock’s body would be released to his family or how long it will be before autopsy results are made public. Eric Paddock told the Review-Journal that he plans to put his brother’s assets in a trust that would benefit the shooting victims. He has described his brother as a multimillionaire who considered himself a professional gambler and owned real estate.
The family of one of the victims, 56-year-old John Phippen of Santa Clarita, California, has already asked a Nevada judge to appoint a special administrator to take control of the gunman’s assets. The attorneys said that’s a necessary step to allow lawsuits to be brought against Paddock’s estate. Late Sunday night, when exactly a week has passed since the shooting, casino marquees and other lights on the Las Vegas Strip went dark for about 10 minutes to pay tribute to the victims who spent that much time under fire.
Meanwhile, the makeshift SWAT team of police officers who made it to Paddock’s door at the Mandalay Bay hotel casino 12 minutes after the first shots were fired described how they got there and the ”gun store” they found inside his room in an appearance on the CBS television program ”60 Minutes” on Sunday night. Officer Dave Newton said they found ”so many guns. So many magazines. Stacks and stacks of magazines everywhere. Just in suitcases all neatly stacked against pillars, around the room, all stacked up, rifles placed all throughout. All kinds of monitors and electrical equipment he had in there. It just looked like almost a gun store.”
Also on Sunday, federal investigators returned to do another search of Paddock’s three-bedroom house on a cul-de-sac in a retirement community in Mesquite, Nevada. The home was first searched Monday by Las Vegas police, who said they found 19 guns and several pounds of potentially explosive materials at the house that Paddock bought in early 2015.