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Las Vegas shootings, gunman don’t fit pattern of other attacks, Rowan expert says

Journal Staff Report | 10/7/2017, 7:03 a.m.
There’s much about the mass shootings in Las Vegas that doesn’t fit patterns of other attacks, according to Rowan University ...
On October 1, 2017, a mass shooting occurred at the Route 91 Harvest outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. During the closing performance by Jason Aldean, a gunman opened fire on the crowd from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort.

There’s much about the mass shootings in Las Vegas that doesn’t fit patterns of other attacks, according to Rowan University Law & Justice Studies Professor Joel Capellan, an expert in mass public shootings and lone-wolf terrorism.

The shooter, whose motive remains unknown, was 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada. He fired into the crowd for almost eleven minutes and was later found dead in his hotel room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. With 59 deaths (including the perpetrator) and 489 injuries, the massacre is the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

The shooter, whose motive remains unknown, was 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada. He fired into the crowd for almost eleven minutes and was later found dead in his hotel room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. With 59 deaths (including the perpetrator) and 489 injuries, the massacre is the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history.

Suspect Stephen C. Paddock seemingly does not fit the psychological profile of most mass shooters and also used automatic weapons, which are not commonly used in mass shootings, according to Capellan.

On Sunday, 58 people died and more than 500 were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. From a window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Paddock fired upon a crowd gathered for a country music concert in Las Vegas. He committed suicide in his hotel room, according to reports.

“The weapon of choice for mass shooters isn’t an automatic weapon. It’s a handgun,” says Capellan, whose 2016 doctoral dissertation was titled “Looking Upstream: A Sociological Investigation of Mass Public Shootings.”

“Eighty percent of all mass shootings have been done with a handgun.”

Paddock “is very atypical” from other mass gunmen, such as the Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary School killers, notes Capellan, who, in his research, studies personal characteristics of mass shooters and the weapons they use, among other topics.

“The information is still coming in, but what sticks out is how different the offender is,” Capellan says. “He was relatively well off, retired, was in a happy relationship, has no history of mental illness, no criminal record and no known terrorist connections.

“Shooters are usually loners or maladjusted. So from that perspective, he’s very unique.”

In his research, Capellan has identified mass shooters along three categories:

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Rowan University Law & Justice Studies Professor Joel Capellan is an expert in mass public shootings and lone-wolf terrorism. -Rowan University Photo

Ideological shooters: “They are self-radicalizing and make up 15 percent of mass shooters,” Capellan says. These individuals are looking to send a message by their violence toward others, he notes.

Victim-specific shooters: “By my count, 60 percent of mass shooters are victim-specific. They conduct shootings as a way to gain control and enact vengeance against someone,” says Capellan.

Autogenic shooters: "Seventy percent of autogenic shooters suffer from a history of mental illness,” says Capellan. School shooters, such as the Columbine High School and Sandy Hook killers, were autogenic, he notes.

Capellan says Paddock looks to be an ideological shooter, though the killer’s message thus far is unclear.

“We don’t know what message he was sending,” says Capellan, adding that Paddock’s meticulous planning of the attacks also sets him apart from other mass killers. “It’s too soon for us to know what the motive was.”

Source: Rowan Today, a publication of Rowan University