EDITORIAL: Answers still elusive when it comes to Stephen Paddock’s motive

Conspiracy purveyors love a vacuum and the unsuccessful search for a motive in last week’s Strip massacre has created a void they’ve been happy to fill.

Metro police and the FBI have yet to dig up an explanation for the heinous actions of 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 when he opened fire last Sunday night on an outdoor music festival from a 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay. He then took his own life. Clark County Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Friday afternoon that the department has looked at “everything” but at this point has “no credible information to report to you on motivation.”

At the same time, the FBI announced it will use local billboards to publicize a tip line urging those who may know anything about the mass shooting to come forward.

As could be expected, particularly in this time of social media and unfiltered “news” websites, the mystery surrounding Paddock’s behavior has prompted rampant speculation. The conjecture runs the gamut from somewhat credible to wholly idiotic. The police have a difficult enough time dealing with an incident of this nature; rumors and hearsay only make the task more difficult.

The undersheriff said the department has been forced to “debunk” several theories floating around the web. He repeated that the investigation has found no ties between Paddock and any terror groups, despite the fact that ISIS has more than once claimed responsibility for the carnage.

Amid all the ambient noise, Undersheriff McMahill vowed that the department “will remain focused on truth and fact.”

Indeed, facts are stubborn things and tend to eventually triumph over baseless assumptions and scattershot claims. We all need help understanding what could drive a human being to slaughter dozens of innocent strangers with whom he had no quarrel. Or, as columnist Patrick Buchanan wrote, we crave to learn “what turned Paddock into a psychopath without conscience or a moral code that would scream to him that what he was planning was pure evil.”

Make no mistake, the commitment and diligence of law enforcement will lead to additional developments and eventual explanations, no matter how unpleasant. But it will take time and hard work, both quaint relics in this era of instant gratification.

“This is critical, ” said FBI Special Agent Aaron Rouse. “We have not stopped, we will not stop, until we have the truth.”

The victims, their families and the community deserve no less. Because while unfounded conspiracies may help soothe some troubled or confused souls, they are the enemy of rational analysis.

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