Conspiracy theories spread quickly after 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting

True Crime

Photo: Duncan Phenix

MYSTERY WIRE — Three years have passed since one man shot and killed 60 concert goers in Las Vegas. Yet even after three years, multiple conspiracy theories continue to be debated about what took place that night.

One fact that cannot be ignored is that the October 1, 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Officially, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro or LVMPD) and the FBI agree it was a single shooter, Stephen Paddock, who carried out the massacre.

But it took only minutes for rumors to begin circulating across the internet about the shooting and some of those rumors turned into full blown conspiracy theories.

Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo tried to debunk many of the theories within days of the shooting.

George Knapp sat down with Sheriff Lombardo one month after the shooting. In a wide-ranging conversation Sheriff Lombardo and Knapp talked about the 58 victims (now 60 victims), the shooter, the investigation, and conspiracies.

“I’m amazed at people’s ability to cause this kind of disturbance,” Lombardo told Knapp. “The maze of people’s mental state to post the stuff that they post, just amazed at the conspiracy theories, and thinking that we’re trying to hide stuff or were conspiring together to hide stuff is ridiculous.”

Lombardo’s department spent 10 months on the investigation and on August 3, 2018 released a final report. Metro determined Paddock acted alone, shooting from a suite at the north end of the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

“Some of them need to be investigated,” Lombardo said about the conspiracies. “Some of them need to be put to bed, so to ensure that we don’t have another shooter … but that’s a normal part of (the) investigation. We can’t spend our time chasing our tail with stories on the internet.”

Metro police and MGM International (Mandalay Bay owner) working together to hide evidence and come up with a favorable story was one of the leading theories.

Sheriff Lombardo did his best to shut this rumor down, “There is no conspiracy between the FBI between LVMPD and MGM. Nobody is attempting to hide anything.”

Frustration seemed to be at the heart of many theories Lombardo dealt with. He wanted answers he was not getting. Many in the public expressed this feeling. People online tried filling in gaps in the timeline. “You know, people are frustrated,” Lombardo said. “What is the reason? Why? … I’m frustrated too. What is the reason? Why would this individual take it upon himself to cause the worst mass shooting in our lifetime? Without reason or cause or understanding and we haven’t gotten that answer yet.”

Answers would be hard to come by for everyone involved. Eventually Metro released more details of its investigation on January 30, 2018 in a series of redacted search warrants.

The FBI also concluded it found no motive for the shooting and that Paddock acted as a lone gunman.

Other conspiracy theories ranged from Iraq taking responsibility to a helicopter gunship to multiple shooters on top of other hotels on the Las Vegas strip. Both the sheriff and FBI concluded none of this happened.

SECOND SHOOTER

A second shooter rumor almost immediately spread. The sound of the shots coming from Paddock’s room were echoing off other tall hotel buildings on the Las Vegas strip. People as far away as the Bellagio claimed there was someone shooting nearby.

In the hours after the shooting, when video of the shooting was circulating, there was a clip seeming to show flashes coming from a fourth floor room of Mandalay Bay. One local television station speculated it was gunfire. This was later debunked when video from earlier that night was found showing the same flicker of light and later the next day there was no sign of any broken windows on a lower floor.

HELICOPTER SHOOTER

At the time of the shooting, shortly after 10 p.m., the Las Vegas strip normally has multiple tour helicopters flying a FAA pre-approved route.

This route takes the tour helicopters north from McCarran International Airport and along the east side of the strip, then a slight turn northeast at the Stratosphere tower, followed by a northwest turn over downtown Las Vegas and a return flight on the west side of the strip eventually bringing them back to above or near Mandalay Bay where the pilots make their final turn back to their respective bases at the airport.

After speaking with several pilots working that night, Mystery Wire was told at that exact time it was normal for tour helicopters to be turning east near Mandalay Bay. During the turn people on the ground hear a louder than normal thud-type repetitive sound because the helicopter blades are rotating, sending the sound toward the ground.

No pilots Mystery Wire spoke with believe there were any helicopters in the air with someone shooting.

SECURITY GUARD WAS INVOLVED

Jesus Campos was the Mandalay Bay security guard who made the first call about a shooting. Campos, according to the investigation by both Metro and the FBI, confronted Paddock at the door to his room and was shot by Paddock. Campos is now widely considered the reason the shooting was not worse since he interrupted Paddock’s shooting through the windows.

In the days following the shooting, Campos remained quiet and out of the media spotlight. But when he abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, theories of him covering up involvement took off. According to his union, that night Campos went to a walk-in medical clinic instead of doing the interview.

It also didn’t help when Ann Coulter tweeted in all-caps, “MANDALAY BAY SECURITY GUARD, JESUS CAMPOS, NOW MISSING AFTER SCHEDULING 5 MEDIA INTERVIEWS.”

This was followed by self-described investigative journalist Laura Loomer declaring, “If #JesusCampos is truly a hero, why would he cancel his interview with @seanhannity ? That’s like ripping up a winning lotery [sic] ticket!”


There are many more theories online. Web sites such as snopes.com have large collections that are well sourced looking at other, more obscure theories.

“I want to emphasize Paddock is solely responsible for this heinous act,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said a couple days after the shooting. “We are aware of the rumors outside of the media and also on social media that there was more than one assailant.” McMahill and all law enforcement has concluded there was no evidence to support the theory of another shooter.

On June 6, 2019, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police released its 164 page After Action Review of the shooting in which Metro stated “The undertaking of this review is to probe deeply into what went well and what could have been done differently but also to collect lessons learned for other organizations. As the number of active shooter incidents grows annually around the world, the more we share within the field, the better positioned we all are to respond effectively to the scene and to victims, their families, and the community at large.”

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