News Outlets Challenge FBI Secrecy on Las Vegas Shooter

Police officers stand at the scene of an Oct. 1, 2017, shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino in Las Vegas. Multiple victims were being transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Strip. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (CN) – Vying for investigation records connected to last month’s massacre of Las Vegas concertgoers, news organizations told a federal judge that there is no need for secrecy when deceased shooter Stephen Paddock is believed to have acted alone.

Paddock, 64, carried out the deadliest shooting in U.S. when he holed up in his 32nd floor hotel suite at the Mandalay Bay casino and fired more than 1,000 rounds into the outdoor country music festival Route 91 Harvest. Using a bump-stock device that allowed his semiautomatic rifle to simulate the fire of of an automatic weapon, Paddock wounded more than 500 and left 58 dead in just 10 minutes. An hour after firing his last shot, the Mesquite, Nevada, man was found dead in his hotel room from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Represented by the firms Ballard Spahr and McLetchie Shell, eight news outlets petitioned a Las Vegas federal judge on Thursday to unseal search warrant applications and associated judicial records.

“A full month later, significant questions remain unanswered about the shooter’s actions and the response of public agencies,” the 14-page filing led by ABC and CNN states.

Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock is pictured in this undated photo. On on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, Paddock opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival, killing dozens and wounding hundreds. Before killing himself, Paddock left behind few clues about what led him to carry out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Paddock’s brain is being sent to Stanford University for a months-long examination after a visual inspection during an autopsy found “no abnormalities,” Las Vegas authorities said. Doctors will perform multiple forensic analyses, including an exam of the 64-year-old’s brain tissue to find any neurological problems. (Courtesy of Eric Paddock via AP, File)

Joined by local news outlets like KSNV-TV and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the petitioners ask what basis there is for secrecy when both state and federal investigators have confirmed that the deceased Paddock acted alone.

“Here, no party has demonstrated that sealing of the records is necessary to protect any compelling state interest,” the petition states. “The law enforcement authorities in charge of the criminal investigation into the October 1 massacre have publicly declared that the deceased shooter, Stephen Paddock, acted alone. Although the criminal investigation that prompted the FBI to seek and obtain the warrants from this court is still ongoing, it cannot credibly be claimed to be directed toward the future filing criminal charges against any other suspect.”

The lawsuit asks the court to demand law enforcement agencies to hand over information about the warrant to search Paddock’s residence at 1372 Babbling Brook Court, as well as 911 and dispatch calls, evidence logs, surveillance footage, and body-camera footage.

“Courts must treat the blanket sealing of judicial records as a last resort – one they can employ only after engaging in a thorough analysis of reasonable alternatives, including redaction, and concluding that none of those alternatives would be sufficient to protect the compelling interest at stake,” the petition states.

Though his office has not held a news briefing on the shooting since Oct. 13, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo hinted at Paddock’s motive on Wednesday night in an interview with the Las Vegas network 8 News Now.

Some of the casinos along the Las Vegas Strip dim their marquees signs for about 10 minutes on Oct. 8, 2017, in Las Vegas, to pay tribute to the victims who spent that much time under fire in the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)

“This individual was status-driven based on how he liked to be recognized in the casino environment and how he liked to be recognized by his friends and family,” Lombardo said. “So obviously that was starting to decline in the short period of time and that may have had a determining effect on why he decided to do what he did.”

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Associated Press round out the group of plaintiffs. Joel Tasca with Ballard Spahr represents ABC, CNN and four of the other petitioners.

Along with the federal complaint, Tasca also filed two petitions seeking similar relief with the Clark County District Court.

The AP and Las Vegas Review-Journal are represented by Margaret McLetchie with McLetchie Shell.

Neither the attorneys and nor Las Vegas police have returned calls made after business hours Thursday.

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