When I first heard the news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, my heart became an elevator of sinking emotion.
As with most people, I was stunned at seeing the headline that, "20 to 50 people had been killed and 200 to 500 had been injured" in a mass shooting. Those horrific and staggering casualty numbers are something one might expect in a war zone. Yet, these were the results of a war that occurred on what should be peaceful ground.
Now, people engage in various ways of dealing with horrific events like what occurred on Sunday night. People will try to mitigate and understand how something like this could ever happen. People will try to understand these unbearable events by attaching what seems most plausible to them in order to make sense of it all.
Now, not all of us take to social media and declare these to be the acts of radical religious extremist or fanatical ideologues. However, we all think it. Even if we won’t voice it out loud. Of course, another way to try to comprehend these tragedies is to disassociate from the reality of it all. Often, much to the disgust of the majority of us, those who attempt to disassociate do so by using humor in order to de-fang the trauma of an event.
The truth is I am no different than anyone else in my need to understand why something like this could occur.
Contrary to how television makes it appear, there are relatively a very few number of certified " investigative analysts," formerly called "Profilers" in the world. Roughly, around 100 to 150.
Now, I am by no means a certified investigative analyst. However, I have been fortunate enough, several years ago, to be certified as an analyst by Intelligence Group Alpha. My instructor was one of those few certified profilers, who had previously worked for the FDLE and FBI. My particular teacher was actually one of the individuals who provided profiles for the FBI on Ted Buddy, Aileen Wuornos (the serial killer played by Carlisle Theron in the movie "Monster.") and Danny Rolling, aka The Gainesville Ripper.
For me, in times like Sunday night, I revert back to my investigative analysis and intelligence work to try to examine and understand the type of person who would commit such an egregious act.
Early on, before Las Vegas police had released the name of the most infamous mass shooter in recent history, I was already digging into the past of Stephen Craig Paddock. While social media detectives were busy slandering numerous innocent people, I followed the breadcrumbs of fact. Police had released Paddock’s girlfriend’s name, so through her, I could determine associates, and rather quickly it led me to the man we all now know committed this horrific mass murder.
As I combed through the trail of this man’s life, I found myself on an island in which logical patterns of discernable behavior did not seem to fit.
Human beings follow patterns of behavior that can be quantified largely by patterns described through the use of number theory. This is how profiling works. You take patterns of behavior and trace it back to the source. However, in the case of Paddock, there was no obvious pattern of behavior that would lead from his ghastly actions back to him or vice versa.
Essentially, the man engaged in premeditated planning, tactical positioning, and then put into action an operational engagement that would result in dozens of senseless deaths and hundreds of injuries. Yet he had no discernable pattern of behavior that proceeded it.
The man was apolitical; areligious; did not have any financial issues; no family or relationship concerns; and no extremist or fanatical views. He had no social footprint in terms of social media, or friends. In terms of his family, they seemed to be just as shocked and confused as the rest of us.
Most people that engage in these types of gruesome actions do so because of some perverted messianic complex. Their actions are meant to generate attention for a larger point they want to get across. This is the bedrock of all terrorism events.
Yet, this man, engaged in an act that caused the entire world to sit up and gasp, then he left no manifesto, no final message, no explanation for why he did what he did.
Frankly, that is so far off the grid, this in and of itself is beyond disturbing.
This man had become the epitome of a wickedly evil terrorist… While seeming to be mutually exclusive of any other behaviors associated with terrorism.
The only explanation the shooter’s brother had was, “Something just incredibly wrong happened to my brother.”
Yes! I agree… but what, when, and why?
Now, I understand to a lot of people, I may seem like just a cop. However, understanding human behavior has been my entire life’s pursuit. In fact, if anything my police career, has merely been a facet that has afforded me a front row seat to the richest views of the human experience. I have been allowed to watch life through a lens that has obscured the observed from knowing they are being watched. This, coupled with spending six years of my life dedicated to formal education and research in cognitive psychology, consciousness and human perception.
Yet, none of this experience helped me understand why a man would have done what Stephen Paddock did. Why he would indiscriminately fire upon a crowd of music revelers. Honestly, this is a very frustrating position for a person like me to ever be in.
For all intents and purposes, Stephen Paddock appears to be what is termed a “disorganized killer.” A person who is under significant mental stress and upon the introduction of some innocuous environmental stimuli they “snap.”
Problem is, Paddock’s behavior was overwhelming that of an “organized killer,” or one who had specific intentioned desires that provoked him to kill. The police recovered twenty-three firearms from his hotel room, including guns that had modified to allow for automatic fire. At his home, they found nineteen more firearms, explosives and several thousands of rounds of ammunition. In his car, was several pounds of ammonium nitrate. The same type of explosive compound used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing. All of this takes considerable forethought and planning.
Essentially, not the actions of a man who abruptly just had something go wrong.
I had a conversation with a friend last night about the incredible lack of behavioral patterns that could have predicted this 64-year-old retiree would have become a mass murderer. I said, “it doesn’t make any sense!” To which my friend replied, “But it all makes perfect sense.”
“It’s the Law of Averages devil Come collect his due. Even if there is a 99.99% chance this person would NEVER do that, it’s that .01% that gets ya.” – “One day, it was going to be somebody who fits NONE of the patterns, to whom NONE of the excuses applied.”
In truth, I cannot understand how any person could take the life of other innocent people, so callously, and in cold blood. However, I can understand the mind that is capable of committing murder at least in how one justifies it to themselves.
However, right now, my friend is right. I truly cannot comprehend the horrifying tragedy that brought on so much pain and death at a country music concert on a seemingly random October night.
At the end of the day, there may be some very pertinent truth to what my friend told me.
Maybe, indeed, the devil came to collect his due…
The reality is the world right now is a very broken place…
Last night I saw countless social media post, and even had several personal conversations, in which people who had watched some of the videos that were filmed while Paddock rained down indiscriminate death, said, “Hearing those sounds reminds me of being back downrange in war.”
These were the words of military veterans. Individuals whose minds had been sucked back to the blood-soaked ground of battlefields, the very moment they heard the sounds of automatic gunfire.
The roar of an automatic weapon took the lives of innocent people, who did nothing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, that snarl of metallic thunder also traveled far beyond the Las Vegas night. Those sounds seared themselves into the minds of men and women, who once had been sent off to wage war on a particular chosen enemy of the state.
And yet… here we are today… Surrounded by the very veterans we say we love and support… contemplating sending them off to fight another war in the Pacific. This time with an enemy who equally says bring it on.
A seamless never-ending cycle of physical and mental pain.
While people were bleeding to death on hospital gurneys and their bodies had yet to grow cold; people were already pointing fingers at who it was that must be responsible.
Remarkably, for the first time in many years, I observed that the majority assumption for who was responsible was not Islamic terrorists. Instead, I watched as people declare fault must lie in the hands of a person who represented the opposite side of the political spectrum as them.
Sunday night I realized just how many people there are in America, who truly believe that those whose political beliefs differ from them are their sworn enemy. An enemy that is capable of mass murder.
Let that sink in for a moment…
We no longer hate and fear foreign terrorists… Instead, we have become terrorists ourselves.
We have become what we’ve spent decades fearing the most- We… as Americans… have become the terrorist to each other.
Threats are something I have significant experience with. My entire adult life has been spent defending people from threats to their life or property. Basically, as a law enforcement officer, I have been a pursuer of justice and defender of righteousness from a multitude of asymmetrical and continuous threats. With that experience I can say without a doubt there are always two kinds of threats to anything that exists. There external threats and there are internal threats.
External threats are unremitting, yet easily defended against. Because external threats attack the outside of the body, they must inherently pass through natural or artificially established defenses. Every time an external threat adapts to penetrate the defenses, the body always has the upper hand of the high ground and can rather quickly counter defend itself.
Internal threats, on the other hand, are much more destructive and damaging. Ultimately, it is the internal threat that will bring the body down. In fact, for a poison to be effective it must exist within the body and not merely on the outside.
Currently, the body of America is inflicted with a poison that is coursing through its veins and ripping us apart from the inside out.
I wish I had an answer for it… I wish I had an antidote.
We live in an era, in which the head and the tail have been cut off of the snake, and now the body has been left on its own. We have no one guiding us towards unity. The only leadership we have is coupled with megalomaniacal financial sectors that both benefit from keeping us apart. We are leaderless left to wallow in a toxic mess.
Yes… I wish I had an antidote for it all… I wish I had a magic pill.
Amongst the chaos and confusion, maybe the pattern that led to the mass murder of innocent people cannot be found within the mind of one man. Rather, the wings of the butterfly effect swing back and forth, right from within us all.
I pray for an antidote… for a magic pill.
After that, all I can do is have faith and hope in the goodness of humanity. To trust in those glimmers of light within us all…
All I can do is accept that I alone cannot extract this poison we have infected upon ourselves. Instead, I can simply try to cast a stone across the water and hope that it creates many ripples leading us to relief…