Investigators are still trying to pinpoint why exactly Stephen Paddock spent months collecting guns, ammo, and accessories and carefully piecing together his plan for opening fire on an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas earlier this month. They’ve interviewed his friends and family and searched his properties, but there’s one crucial piece missing — the hard drive to his laptop. Not only did Paddock leave no memo, manifesto, or note describing what drove him to violence, he seems to have purposefully covered his digital tracks, which further obscures his motives.
All investigators know so far is that Paddock did purchase software for clearing files off a hard drive, but there’s no way of knowing if he used it. No one has been able to find the hard drive, nor is it clear when exactly it was removed leading up to the attack and the moment Paddock took his own life. Paddock isn’t the only mass shooter in the past few years to pull such a tactic. Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung Hui, Northern Illinois shooter Steven Kazmierczak, and Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza were all careful to destroy digital evidence, including SIM cards, computer hard drives, cell phones, and laptops. Of the three, only Lanza’s laptop had any recoverable evidence.
It’s been difficult to glean Paddock’s motives from other sources. Even his long-term partner, Marilou Danney, was out of the country at the time — possibly sent home to the Philippians specifically to keep her in the dark and out of the way as Paddock planned the shooting down to the last detail. Paddock had booked hotel rooms near other music festivals, including Lollapalooza in August, possibly feeling out possible locations for the mass murder he was plotting. He was described by most as a quiet and unassuming high-roller with little to distinguish him beyond his flush bank account and a peculiar childhood as a son abandoned by a bank robber father.