As the TV cameras rolled, reporters held microphones high, hoping to gain insight as to why Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, had done what he’d done. If anyone had an answer, it would be his brother, right?
“We have absolutely no clue why this happened,” Eric Paddock said. His hair was ruffled, and his voice rose to an almost comical pitch. “He was just a normal guy.
“He’s not an avid gun guy at all. The fact that he had those kind of weapons is just – where the hell did he get automatic weapons. He’s just a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite, drove down and gambled in Las Vegas. He did stuff. Ate burritos.”
Eric’s speech turned hyper, almost manic, and his eyes flitted rapidly. “Steve had nothing to do with any political organization, religious organization, no white supremacists, nothing. As far as I know.”
As far as I know.
As it turns out, Stephen Paddock was an avid gun guy. According to a recent report, he’d been stockpiling weapons since 1982. He bought 33 guns last year alone. If Eric was so unknowing of that segment of his brother’s life, could he be unknowing of other parts? Could Stephen have aligned with a political or religious organization? Or white supremacists?
In a follow-up interview, Eric spoke about his relationship with Stephen. He appeared even more disheveled and frantic. “We didn’t talk much. Steve had no help. Steve did not take help. He was a stand-alone guy.”
“When was the last time you spoke to him?” a reporter asked.
Eric had to think about it. Finally, he answered, “Six months ago. But he texted me after the hurricane. ‘How is Mom? Did you get power?’ That was it.”
Oh, and he sent a picture that he won 40,000 on a slot machine, Eric added.
Listening to him, I couldn’t help but wonder, did Eric know his brother at all? Did anyone know Stephen? But isn’t it common that whenever someone commits treachery on this scale, and the reporters interview the neighbors and distant relatives, the repeated refrain is one of disbelief: They seemed like a normal, nice person.?
It begs the question: do any of us really know our neighbor, our brother, our sister, our friend? At least in a real way, one that goes beyond coffee counter banter. How’s work? Good. Busy. You?
As humans, that’s what we do best: hide from others, whether it’s by isolation or keeping relationships on a surface level—a lifelong game of hide and hope not to be seeked. And it’s so easy. As population grows, losing ourselves takes little effort. So many faces to hide behind.
Stephen Paddock lived an isolated life in Nevada. Meanwhile, his mother and brother resided 2,000 miles away without a clue as to the double life he was leading.
I live the same distance from my family. I could live a double life if I wanted to, and they’d never be the wiser. As for my friends here, they know I like burritos. But do I let them know the other stuff? Sometimes, no. When I’m doing something wrong, something stupid, I don’t want a friend’s call. I don’t want visitors knocking on the door. In those moments, I want to stay hidden.
That’s a choice we make: to keep hiding or let ourselves be known.
I heard a stat the other day. The average American has two friends. This is down from twenty five years ago, when the average person had three friends. Two people in a person’s life, to keep that person from isolation, to help that person through times of confusion. How long before that number shrinks to one … then to zero?
Near the end of that interview, Eric Paddock finally slowed his manic speech and took a second to reflect. “Maybe I should have called him instead of texting,” he said. “I might have picked up something in his voice. A hint that something was wrong.”