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

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


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.

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:

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.”