Note: I am publishing this immediately rather than wait for the print date. Some information may be out of date even now. Point stated last line remains.
I got up today intending to write what we call a light piece, i.e. something amusing and heart-warming. Perhaps something about our new puppy.
Well as John Lennon said, 'Life is what happens when you're making other plans.'
Grimly appropriate, Lennon was a homicide victim.
By the time this goes to print you'll all know more about the mass shooting in Las Vegas than I do now. So take this as an exercise in evaluating what we know for certain, what is not known for certain, what we can reasonably surmise, and what we can reasonably discount.
At present count, 50 people are dead and at least 400 wounded. The death toll may rise but it already qualifies as the worst mass shooting in our history.
The shooter has been identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, described as a white male, and he is dead. Either killed by police or suicided, accounts differ. I would guess the latter as this is the common pattern, but there are accounts one deputy was killed so at present, not certain.
Paddock fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and came equipped with a sizeable arsenal of weapons, apparently including automatic weapons and loaded magazines. The attack took place during a country music concert.
Police are looking for a person of interest, Marilou Danley, 62. Danley is reported to have been living with Paddock.
She is described as Asian " which is no help at all. 'Asian' is not race but geography, a part of the world where live the peoples related to Han Chinese (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans). Malay (Malaysians, Indonesians, many Filipinos), Polynesians, Melanesians, Negritos, the immense diversity of Indians, etc.
From a Facebook page now deleted, she is said to have traveled widely. She is also said to have been employed at the hotel and if confirmed this is significant. Anyone can rent a room, but sneaking in that much fire power presents a problem.
Unconfirmed stories have it a woman, not positively identified yet, told concert goers they were all going to die.
So far, Paddock is the only known shooter. Apparently there were reports of shots fired from several locations causing police to clear a few different hotels.
It is reasonable to attribute this to the confusion of large panicked crowds in the streets. It is possible this was a planned diversion in light of the high level of preparedness in this case.
Reports call Paddock a 'lone wolf' but that apparently is from descriptions by his neighbors at his retirement community.
There are rumors he is a Muslim convert, unsupported at the time of writing.
A Facebook post alleged to be from Australian Antifa hails him as a comrade raining death down on those 'fascist Trump supporters.'
I shouldn't have to point out that ANYONE can put up a post identifying themselves as anything they like.
Paddock is described as not having a criminal record but some accounts say he is 'known' to law enforcement. That could mean anything from minor contacts with police to 'this is a nut to keep an eye on' in some agency's files.
What can we reasonably surmise?
This incident shows a high degree of planning. The concert venue, the firing position, the arms and ammunition, all designed to create exactly what happened, a mass shooting with the largest casualty rate in American history to date.
Paddock expected to die, either from direct suicide or 'suicide by cop.'
It seems likely he had help, and at present it seems likely to have come from his 'companion' Danley. What is significant is she did not join him in death and is at large at the time of writing. If she had no involvement it seems likely she'd have contacted police.
No ideological motive is known at present. No suicide note has been reported yet.
However it seems unlikely a right-wing terrorist would target a country music concert.
More data will emerge in the hours, days and weeks to come. In the meantime I urge not jumping to conclusions because a lot of people are going to be choking on their words as it does.