The Criminalistics of the Las Vegas Mass Shooting

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Credit: @CassidyWhitaker

By Ilouisa Lourdes Salazar & Travis Farmer

On the night of Oct. 1 at 10:08 p.m., tragic struck Las Vegas, Nevada. A man identified as Stephen Paddock opened fire, using an automatic weapon on a crowd of concert goers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

With over 500 people injured and over 50 killed, the event became known as the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

As of Oct. 3, the motive of the suspect is currently unknown but remains under investigation.

Criminal Justice Assistant Professor Dr. Joseph Cillo stated that Paddock “fits the criteria for a mass killer.” Cillo said, “he may have been acting out of imagined insult and/or injury,” further questioning whether Paddock was aware of his reasons. “We may never know.” “Impulse is a possibility,” continued Cillo.

Many motives are possible, when dealing with mass murderers. For example, Timothy McVeigh was the person behind the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, killing 168 people. McVeigh’s motivations comprised of his anger toward the government and for the injustice he saw in both the Waco and Ruby Ridge events.

A mass killer, or mass murderer, is different from a serial killer. According to Cillo, mass murderers tend to kill for different reasons. In addition mass murderers do not usually exhibit signs in early childhood years; whereas serial killers do. Another factor that differs between the types, is that of a numerical one. In order to be considered a mass murderer someone has to kill four or more victims at one time, while serial killers have to murder at three separate occasions taking place over a month in order to be considered a serial killer by the FBI, according to Cillo.

“Most killers fall into three categories: sociological, biological, and psychological,” explained Cillo. It was discovered that the father of the suspect, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, had a criminal background. He was a bank robber and was on the FBI’s most wanted list for eight years, and subsquently spent time in prison. The fact that both the father and the son were involved in criminal activities suggests that a genetic link may be possible, but ultimately not probable.

The gun control laws in Nevada may be up for questioning and review now. According to the case McDonald V. Chicago (2010), the right to bear arms is an essential concept of self-defense. In this Supreme Court case, Justice Alito wrote that self-defense is “at the core” of the 2nd  Amendment. This opinion set legal precedent that the 2nd Amendment is truly based around self-defense.

Cillo emphasized that protection against gun violence and another shooting incident such as this one is challenging to put into place since Paddock was located in an entirely different area than the concert. There is a balance between violating an individual’s rights and protecting people from future situations such as this one.

This shooting has also reinvigorated the debate on how the media covers mass shooters. Cillo explained that some pundits and experts have argued that the way the media covers mass shooters may “put their name in lights”, paving the way for copycats. However, Cillo is not convinced. “Copy Cats will exist regardless of coverage,” he stated.

The release of video footage from citizens who attended the concert serves to educate the public on the matter at hand. According to Cillo, when people become “aware of the threat,” the media will start to become less critical of law enforcement.

When people become aware of the threat, they can understand that society is violent and that acts like this will continue to happen among different age groups.

Professor of criminalistics and retired FBI agent Charlotte Braziel informed that now that the FBI has ruled out terrorism, they will not be taking the case. However, since it is so large, “They will be assisting the police department with victims, advocates, and crime scene investigators,” stated Braziel. Braziel served in the FBI for 26 years.

The flags on University Campus will fly at half-mast until sunset on Oct 6. Additionally, the University is working on having a blood drive on campus to receive donations.

When a tragedy as sudden and senseless as this occurs, all that is left in its wake are the thoughts of how could this be prevented in the future.

Criminal experts such as Cillo and Braziel are vital voices in helping to understand how events such as this can happen.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Red Cross have set up a hotline at (866) 535-5654 for people still attempting to contact loved ones that may have been at the concert.

When people become aware of the threat, they can understand that society is violent and that acts like this will continue to happen among different age groups.

Since the F.B.I has ruled out terrorism, they will not be taking the case according to Charlotte Braziel, professor of criminalistics and a retired F.B.I agent. However, since the number killed is so large they will help. [The F.B.I] will be assisting investigators, victims and advocates. Flags on University Campus will fly at half-mast until sunset on Oct 6. Additionally, the University is working on having a blood drive on campus to receive donations.

When a tragedy as sudden and senseless as this occurs, all that is left in its wake are the thoughts of how could this be prevented in the future.

Criminal experts such as Cillo and Braziel are vital voices in helping to understand how events such as this can happen.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Red Cross have set up a hotline at (866) 535-5654 for people still attempting to contact loved ones that may have been at the concert.

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