Vegas gunman was a high-roller poker player — then ‘something went wrong in his head,’ brother says

This undated photo provided by Eric Paddock shows his brother, Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock. Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, killing at least 58 and wounding more than 500. (Courtesy of Eric Paddock via AP)
This undated photo provided by Eric Paddock shows his brother, Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock. Stephen Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, killing at least 58 and wounding more than 500. (Courtesy of Eric Paddock via AP) AP

To some, Stephen Craig Paddock was a ghost, rarely-if-ever seen and one who kept his political and personal views to himself. To his family, he was a retired accountant who gambled for a living and lived about an hour outside of Las Vegas. Video poker was his forté, his brother said.

To the rest of the world, Paddock, 64, is the gunman who opened fire from inside a 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas late Sunday night, killing at least 59 people and injuring more than 500 others who were attending a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

Police said when Paddock ended his shooting spree, he turned a weapon on himself and took his life. Police found at least 17 rifles in his hotel room and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

“There’s no there, there,” Paddock’s brother Eric Paddock said during an hour-long interview with assembled media outside his suburban Orlando home Monday afternoon. “He’s a guy who freaked out. Something went wrong in his head.”

Stephen Paddock has no military background, according to his brother, and no political leanings. He liked to travel, eat at good restaurants and play poker, often for high stakes. He lived with a woman two years his junior named Marilou Danley whose LinkedIn page says she once worked as a hostess at Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nevada.

“He won cars, $250,000 checks. It was a job to him,” Eric Paddock said. “They need to do an autopsy to find out what happened to him.”

Eric Paddock said his brother retired as an accountant several years ago and bought a home in Viera, near Melbourne, about an hour east of Orlando. The Heritage Isle retirement community is like many other Orlando suburbs, multi-colored ranch-style homes guarded by manicured lawns, devoid of shade trees and surrounded by man-made lakes.

Most of his former neighbors who were home Monday couldn’t remember or didn’t want to talk about Stephen Paddock. Some wished aloud for the media throng to leave. Those who did know him say they didn’t know him very well.

Heritage Isle is a community of about 550 homes for those over 55. The area has roads named Legacy Boulevard and Stadium Parkway. Calvary Chapel sits across the street from Viera High School, which is next to a large baseball complex.

Brevard County records showed Paddock lived at 3405 Sansome Circle for a little over two years, from 2013 until he sold the property in 2015.

George Franzen has lived with his wife and daughter next door to Paddock’s old home for over a decade. He said in all the time Stephen Paddock owned the home, he saw him maybe four times.

Franzen learned of the shooting when he got a call from his daughter while he and his wife were on their way home from Mass on Monday.

“He never said a word about religion. He wouldn’t talk politics at all,” said Franzen. “He was an enigma. He wasn’t here enough for us to get to know him.”

Franzen said Paddock used the home as a stopover when he was going or coming from vacation, usually somewhere in Europe. The couple liked to take cruises and go overseas. He said the only frustration he ever heard from Paddock was that he had trouble getting into the gated community because he always drove a rental car.

“He was articulate, clean. He said he was retired and liked to travel a lot. He asked me to get his mail and toss the junk mail,” Franzen said.

Another neighbor told the Washington Post the home was sparsely furnished, like a dorm room.

Franzen said they never spoke about weapons, religion or politics.

That was a common theme with Paddock’s brother Eric as well. He said guns were like chess pieces to his brother, something to collect and store — hardly ever to use. He said his brother owned five guns that he kept locked up.

The last time he said he saw his brother was nine months ago when he picked up his son from college in Los Angeles. They visited Stephen and had dinner at the Wynn resort in Las Vegas. He said his brother called their 90-year-old mother a few weeks ago to see how she did after Hurricane Irma. She lives in the Orlando area.

The New York Times reported that Stephen Paddock had purchased a handgun and two rifles from Guns & Guitars in Mesquite, Nevada, last year, where he owned a home. The gun store owner told the Times the purchases were legal and cleared federal screening and that he had no criminal history.

Eric Paddock, a computer technician, said federal agents were at his home for several hours early Monday morning, asking many of the same questions posed by reporters. He said all his answers were the same.

“He [Stephen Paddock] had guns. He shot guns occasionally. But he had bad knees,” he said, adding that his brother was not a marksman. “He was 62 years old and didn’t take too good care of himself.”

He also said their father, whom Eric Paddock said he never knew, was Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, a bank robber who escaped from federal prison in 1969 and was captured eight years later running a bingo parlor in Oregon. He was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

Eric Paddock believes someone illegally sold his brother the automatic weapons he used to take the dozens of lives Sunday night — and that person should be punished.

“That person should absolutely get the maximum penalty,” Eric Paddock said. “Frankly, they are complicit. I’m not going to be the poster child for gun control because I own guns. How he got an automatic weapon is the $64,000 question now.”