Stephen Paddock’s vehicle may have been rigged to explode in an escape attempt, CBS News reported Friday. The revelation came after investigators in the Las Vegas concert shooting recovered “at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition” in a suitcase and Tennerite in a duffle bag inside a vehicle owned by Paddock. The car was located in a parking garage near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where police say Paddock shot and killed 58 people and injured nearly 500 others before turning a gun on himself in a 32nd-floor suite.
It’s unknown exactly why the car was loaded with the explosives, and CBS News homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues reported investigators are looking into if he planned to use it as an explosive. The same substance was found at his home in Mesquite, along with other automatic weapons and ammunition. According to the CBS News report, authorities are examining the potential that Paddock was planning an escape, but Mandalay Bay security guard Jesus Campos halted his plan.
In August, Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, accompanied him to a car dealership, Las Vegas police said. There, Paddock purchased a vehicle for almost $15,000 with a check.
A neighbor of Paddock and Danleys, Susan Page, told The Washington Post Paddock recently purchased a new silver minivan while Danley drove an SUV.
At a Friday news conference, Las Vegas Metropolitan Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said he’s not sure what Paddock planned to do with the Tannerite, but it didn’t look like he crafted the material into a bomb.
“We found it in the condition that it was and it was not an (improvised explosive device),” he said.
Tannerite contains a mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder. The substance is legal and can be purchased at sporting-goods stores or on the internet for a relatively cheap price tag. The manufacturer sells 10, 1-pound packs on its website for $89.99.
In 2013, the F.B.I. expressed concern that the use of ammonium nitrate could be used in homemade bombs.
The FBI assesses with high confidence recreationally used exploding targets, commonly referred to as Tannerite, or reactive targets, can be used as an explosive for illicit purposes by criminals and extremists and explosive precursor chemicals present in ETs can be combined with other materials to manufacture explosives for use in improvised explosive devices.
Former assistant director of the US Marshals Service Art Roderick told CNN that Paddock’s use of the substance could have acted as a car bomb if he were to fire a weapon at it.
“Those explosives, that’s the scary part,” Roderick said to the news outlet. “What was he going to do with those? I mean, you don’t just acquire them and leave them in your vehicle and not have a plan for them. The Tannerite could have set off the ammonium nitrate,” Roderick said. “So, was he using that as a vehicle-borne explosive device?”