- By Lt. Tim McMillan
Knowing When To Tap-Out
The dark hotel room begins to come into focus, as the blurriness of sleep fades from my eyes. My vision quickly darts all around the room... nothing.
Only the hum of the room's air conditioner is disturbing the calmness of the summer's early morning hours. I look down at my right hand. In it, I find my .40 caliber Glock pistol. I glance again at the murmuring air conditioner and realize...
Something isn't right.
I am not internationally or federally certified as a criminal investigative behavioral analyst; which, this is really just a long name for the more contemporarily taboo law enforcement term, Profiler.
Most people probably aren't aware there are only about 100 to 150 federally or internationally certified profilers in the world. It's not exactly an easy club to get into and it can be quite a lengthy, costly, and taxing endeavor to achieve official these official distinctions.
Now, exclusive from my law enforcement career, the bulk of my personal and educational passions have been in the area of cognitive psychology. Essentially, going back to a child, I have always been fascinated with the "how" and "why" people behave the way they do.
Therefore, it was only natural that in the summer of 2014 I would find myself in a large lecture hall listening to a retired FBI and FDLE profiler introduce himself. I was going through a course that would certify me as an Investigative Behavioral Analysis from one of the nation's top private firms.
Consider this like a junior-profiler merit badge, if you will.
As my instructor told the class about his experience, I easily recognized the names of the serial killers he had once profiled and help play a part in their eventual capture. In that moment, I felt like I was ready to jump off into the deep end of understanding the minds of people who most would consider that of pure evil. At least I thought I was ready.
It wouldn't take long for me to realize, "Nooooooo, I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready."
Behavioral analysis and conventional criminal investigations are similar endeavors, with some distinctly different approaches.
In traditional investigations, one looks at the evidence and clues in order to try to find a suspect. Conversely, in the behavioral analysis the "how" and "why" is more important than the "what," when it comes to examining evidence and ultimately finding the bad guy.
Most people may not realize this, but human beings are very pattern driven creatures. We all form our perceptions and behaviors based on putting together pieces of information to form larger functions or images. Fundamentally, human being’s behavior can be examined mathematically as a facet of chaos theory. Essentially, the way a people behave or thinks is a consequence of a series of previous interactions, random happenstances, or uncontrollable outcomes. For example:
If I was task with profiling or investigating Stephen Paddock, the man responsible for the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, one of the first places I would examine would be his actions during the week of June 13-17, 2016. Specifically, I would want to know what he was up to on Thursday, June 16th, between 12 pm to 5 pm.
Well, because I would say that’s a good place to start looking for the beginning stages of the deadly rampage he would carry out more than a year later. That time frame would have been the week after the Pulse Club mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. The impact of this event would have been influenced by two key factors. One being that his mother lives less than 15 miles from the Pulse Club. The proximity to his mother would cause him to draw personal geographical significance to this tragic event. The fact that it was associated with his mother would be critical for the other reason, which was the timing of the event.
I would hypothesize that the time around June-August would be a subconsciously difficult time for Stephen Paddock. This would be something that he would have dealt with his entire life. These months would trigger subconscious emotional feelings that could manifest in a multitude of ways including, anxiety, depression, or simply stress.
The reason would be centered on the fact that his father was arrested for bank robbery in July of 1960. Out of the four Paddock brothers, only Stephen was old enough to have suffered an emotional “stamp” surrounding the time of his father's arrest We can deduce this was a difficult thing for his mother to endure because ultimately she lied and told her four sons that their father was dead. All of this would have had an impact on him and left subconscious scarring that could be triggered by like events. In this case, the actual time of the year.
Additionally, I would consider the time around August to September to be when Paddock would be most critical in terms of mental instability. This would be because it was August of 1956 when his father, Benjamin Paddock was released from prison and would suddenly appear in Stephen and his mother’s life.
Stephen would have been just shy of three-years-old at the time when, a father that he’d never met, abruptly showed up. More importantly, this was a father that was a career criminal and conman, who demonstrated classical symptoms of being a sociopath and psychopath during his 1960 psychological evaluation before his federal trial for bank robbery.
Ultimately, the makings of a monster most likely occurred from August 1956 to July 1960 when Stephen Paddock was being raised with his criminal psychopathic father. This would also fall in-between several very critical childhood developmental stages in his life and any adverse or traumatic experiences he would have faced would ultimately be what shaped who he was for the rest of his life. The rest of Stephen’s siblings would be completely oblivious to what occurred during those years, as they were either far too young or not even born yet.
Ultimately people who commit horrific crimes indeed do so following a series of patterned behaviors. These behaviors are very consistent and allow you to develop a behavioral profile that can lead to identifying a suspect. People would be surprised at how highly accurate you can profile specific traits or past history of individuals based on how they commit their crimes.
Of course, one key element that is necessary for one who wishes to chases the minds of monsters. You must understand the mind of monsters.
This is where things can get very rough on me.
Early on when I went through training I discovered that understanding the mind of evil required one to be able to see through the eyes of evil. From day one of class, we began to be bombarded with photographs of horrifically gruesome crime scenes. Even more disturbing we watched videos that had been recorded by twisted individuals that wanted to save their grisly crimes so they could enjoy them at a later time.
I began to peer into a world of mentally twisted and sick persons who keep trophies of their crimes as it is a huge source of motivation for their actions. The thoughts of a serial killer or serial rapist emerge from very sick and poisoned minds. These people receive psycho-sexual pleasure from hurting or killing others. They will engage in very sophisticated mental and physical ritualistic behaviors in order to heighten this sexual high they get from almost unspeakable acts.
Ultimately, if you can imagine it, the mind of a monster is, even more, perverse and disturbing than the crimes they commit.
Like some type of macabre play or novel the deeper you peer into the mind of monsters, you will find yourself swimming through a dense fog of wickedness only to eventually emerge into a world of innocence and youth. For me, this is one of the hardest aspects of going deep inside the minds of madness.
Suddenly, you discover that indeed, no one is born evil. Instead, these irredeemable psychopaths, at one time were enveloped by the innocence of youth. Had it not been for the interference of violence, trauma, and pain some of the most notorious psychopathic killers the world has ever known, may have turned out to be completely different people.
Suddenly, you find sympathy for the devil.
The truth is there are very, very few “random” acts of crime. Now, indeed you can have victims who do not know their perpetrators, and to this extent, the victim and offender are random strangers. However, for the suspect, the victim is almost never selected at random. With the exception of crimes that come from a defensive drive, most victims are selected because they fulfill some psychosexual requirement for the offender. Almost always the specific traits that an offender seeks will be related to a stressor or trigger for them. For example, a killer who only selects women who resemble their mother.
Therefore when you try to profile someone, one of the first things you do, is perform what is called “victimology.”
Basically, you go into the mind of the victim and learn everything you can about them. This will help you ultimately understand why the offender chose that particular victim.
For me, this can be the first dip on the emotional rollercoaster.
Essentially, regardless of what you discover inside the mind of the victim, they still will always be, just that… a victim. An innocent person who has lost their life. For me, this doesn’t just involve suddenly feeling and taking in the emotional pain of the innocent victim, rather, also the pain of the family and loved ones left behind.
The next step on this emotional ride is will come with actually trying to take a cerebral journey into the mind of the offender. You begin to have to balance your normal empathetic and humanistic thoughts against those of a sociopathic predator. Basically, you must begin to think about how or why a homicidal deviant would view the world they live in.
If that wasn’t taxing enough, once you identify a perpetrator you begin to trace through their episodic memory to the points in which the monster came out of the closet and into their minds.
For the people who engage in criminal behavioral investigative analysis as their profession, my hat’s off to you.
For me, I discovered this was a rollercoaster I think I’m pretty good at riding. However, it comes at a significant cost.
Around the mid-way point of the training course, I found myself at a restaurant eating by myself. Normally, I would have been enjoying the broccoli and cheese bread bowl I was having for dinner, however, that particular dinner was a nerve-racking experience.
I was in a constant state of unrest and anxiety as I sipped my soup that night. My eyes constantly darting around just knowing that any one of these people could be a sadistic murderer. The images of horrific murder scenes gnawing at my consciousness.
Later that night when I jumped out of my bed and grabbed my gun because the subtle noise of the air conditioner turning on had sent me into a state of panic, I realized that the rollercoaster of looking in the minds of monsters was something I would not be able to do full-time.
My mental state during this time is the closest I can think of relating to some of the stories I hear people tell about living with PTSD. Thankfully, as a component of the course, we had to engage in a form of group therapy allowing us to release some of the emotions over what we were being exposed to.
For me, I was very fortunate that my state of mental unease was only temporary and after about two weeks after the course ended I was able to go back to what I consider my normal state of mental rest.
For reasons I don’t understand and cannot help, for my entire life I have always taken in the emotions of other people. I can both feel and experience the emotions of other people.
Under normal conditions, when I don’t seek out the darkness of human emotion, I can find myself consumed by the feelings of deep-rooted evil in this world. For me, there are times when it feels like the world is flowing against the natural current in which it should exist and operate. This can be overwhelming because it brings about feelings of confusion or sadness.
On an intimate level, I don’t understand why these types of negative energies exist, to begin with, if all it does is hurt, other people. The dark side of this natural ability is that I have to try to maintain more positive energy than negative energy because even tragic and negative worldly events many miles away from me can cause me to feel depleted, exhausted, or fatigued.
In a way, it feels like I have to store up positive energy because when I encounter people or situations that are surrounded by the darkness of negativity, an exchange occurs. I give out something positive and in turn, I take on something emotionally burdensome.
For someone like me, dealing with the emotions and feelings required in order to be successful in behavioral analysis proves to be too much to bear. Essentially, I don’t have the natural ability to compartmentalize or not empathically feel or care when it comes to the human beings these events involve. This is probably the most difficult once an event can be traced back to the source. Suddenly you feel the innocence before the monsters were born.
To this day, have a great passion for understanding the human mind. However, I have come to learn, I can only peer into the darkness for so long before it is time for me to tap-out.
I know that I mentioned several times this past week, I would write out the second part of the things I had discovered when I examined the Las Vegas shooting, and Stephen Paddock.
I do feel like I learned a lot about these horrific events and the mind of the monster who did them. I’ve already mentioned some of the ways I went about examining Paddock or this incident in the beginning of this blog post.
However, unfortunately, all of these circumstances caused me to reach a point where it was time for me to tap-out.
I apologize for this and I will indeed hopefully write out and share the conclusions I came up with. I will say that there is no longer any doubt to me that Stephen Paddock committed these horrible crimes. I also believe he had planned to cause considerably more death and destruction than what he actually achieved. He was a man that lacked the emotional connections to human beings but understood artificial systems and objects very well. This is why he was able to make millions off of playing slot machines; a mechanical device that is designed for the user to fail.
In the end, he died with the mind of a monster. Irredeemably gone, just the like the minds of any of the other monsters that have plagued the world. Unfortunately, the tragedy of what poisons the mind to this level of toxicity is irrelevant once the monster has been born. By this point, as contradictory as it may feel for some, including me, their existence no longer belongs in this world.
Eventually, I’ve learned I’m better for other people and I’m better for myself when I stock up my mental bank with positive, instead of negative wealth.
So when it comes to the events of Las Vegas... it is time for me to take a break... it is time for me to tap-out.