Alleged Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock removed the hard drive from his laptop computer before he shot himself, but investigators have been unable to find the device, sources tell ABC News.
The missing hard drive could be a crucial source of insight into Paddock’s life and lead investigators toward discovering the motive for the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.
Paddock bought software designed to wipe hard drives clean, but without the hard drive in hand it would be impossible to tell if he ever ran the program, a source told ABC.
Paddock left virtually no digital trail, police say, baffling investigators as they struggle to discern the motive for the shooting. The ISIS terrorist group has claimed responsibility, but authorities say they have not discovered any evidence to link the massacre to terrorism.
Police say Paddock hauled an arsenal of weapons to his 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay hotel, and on Oct. 1, broke the window and rained down hundreds of bullets into the crowd attending a music festival below, killing 58 people and injuring more than 500.
In pursuit of the motive, authorities have chased an immense amount of leads and have spoken to Paddock’s family, friends, and associates. Investigators are also looking at his finances, health, and travel patterns.
The shooter’s finances have largely been cleared, ABC reports. Paddock settled his debts with casinos shortly before the shooting.
In prior mass shootings, authorities have uncovered writings and manifestos that would clue them into the motive, but no such writings have been discovered connected to Paddock.
But Paddock isn’t the first to destroy or hide digital evidence.
Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung Hui removed the hard drive from his computer and threw away his cellphone before killing 32 people in 2007. Investigators never recovered the items
Northern Illinois shooter Steven Kazmierczak removed the SIM card from his phone and the hard drive from his laptop before he killed six people in 2008. Authorities never found either item.
Sandy Hook elementary school shooter Adam Lanza removed the hard drive from his computer and damaged it before killing 20 schoolchildren and six adult school staff in 2012.