Lunatic Fringe: Survivalist forum praises Las Vegas gunman

​Within hours of last weekend’s Las Vegas Mandalay Bay mass shooting, far-right extremists were quick to cast blame on a host of familiar enemies, such as antifacrazed liberals, Democrats, and even the Islamic State.

Their conspiracy theories swirled around multiple gunmen, a staged hotel room, false flag operation — even the murder of the gunmen, Stephen Craig Paddock, by government agents prior to Sunday’s shooting. Preppers, survivalists and militia extremists are debating familiar messages of an impending gun ban, violations of their Second Amendment rights, and gun confiscations in the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Amidst this nonsense and paranoia, one extremist message shockingly rose above it all. It amounted to tacit praise for Stephen Paddock, the man responsible for killing 59 people and injuring over 500 others. In survivalist circles, Paddock is being characterized as the “perfect example” of a “Gray Man.”

The “Gray Man” (also referred to as “Grey Neighbor” or “Grey Man”) is a term used within the survivalist/prepper community to describe someone who blends into society, avoids attention, conducts their weapons stockpiling and other operational activities in secret, and, most importantly, remains elusive from detection by government authorities. According to the Survival Think Tank blog, the Gray Man is “an individual who possess the skills, ability, and intent to blend into any situation or surrounding without standing out, concealing his or her true skills, ability, and intent from others.” In other words, they dress, behave, and conduct their activities in such a way that others never notice or suspect them. People simply forget them and can’t recall what they look like or did.

On October 3, 2017, a person using the Internet moniker “Survivor” posted a link to an article entitled “Stephen Paddock: The Perfect Gray Man.” In his post, Survivor says, “the goal of the Gray Man is to blend in, and Stephen Paddock did just that.” The writer boasts, “Somehow, he planned, implanted, and executed a mass shooting, and never raised a red flag.”

Survivalist Kevin Felts, author of the primary Gray Man article about Paddock, points out that the gunman adhered to Gray Man principles. Paddock had no criminal record. He reportedly had no political ties — or, at least, did not openly speak of them. Further, according to his youngest brother, Paddock had no religious affiliation and didn’t express any strong political views. His family and friends never realized Paddock was amassing a deadly cache of firearms and ammunition. Paddock also had no history of mental illness. Most importantly, he had no past incidents of violence. Paddock’s only encounter with law enforcement was the receipt of a minor traffic ticket issued several years ago.

In his article, Felts praises Paddock, stating that he “was able to plan and pull off mass murder, and he flew under the radar the whole time.” Felt continues, “By all accounts, Stephen Paddock was a model citizen.”  Felts, however, rightfully points out that perhaps no amount of gun laws would have stopped this horrific crime.

Comments to Felts’ article contained the usual far right conspiracy theories. Paddock is a patsy. Gunfire supposedly erupted from other locations at the hotel — but the person who suggested this theory had a hard time explaining how broken windows were repaired so rapidly before the media arrived on scene. Others suggested there were multiple shooters. Some surmised that Paddock must have been jacked up on drugs. A few, however, dismissed these claims for what they are — unreliable conspiracy theories and false rumors.

As America awaits news about possible motives for this mass shooting, it’s scary to think how a 64-year-old man was able to pull off such a well-planned, highly sophisticated act of mass murder. According to police, Paddock amassed nearly 50 firearms (many considered assault rifles) and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Authorities believe Paddock likely spent tens of thousands of dollars to acquire his formidable arsenal. Paddock learned about, then acquired, several “bump stocks” and used them with proficiency. He reportedly had two shooting platforms and surveillance cameras both inside and outside his hotel room. He wanted to know when the police were nearing his room. Paddock possessed ammonium nitrate and tannerite explosives both in his car and at his residence. He had over 10 minutes of uninterrupted automatic weapons fire which required a lot of endurance. Surprisingly, Paddock meticulously planned his attack from the Mandalay Bay hotel after casing other music venues in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

It’s important to note that Paddock’s shooting rampage was only interrupted when police attempted to gain entry into his hotel room. If not for the officers’ heroic efforts, the automatic gunfire would have continued even longer, which would have resulted in more casualties. Investigators now believe Paddock may have been planning other violent attacks and purportedly planned to escape the Mandalay Bay hotel alive.

In the words of a survivalist, Paddock possessed and practiced many of the skills and tradecraft of a true prepper — weapons stockpiling, ammunition hoarding, marksmanship and operational stealth, among other traits. Obviously, Paddock had to learn these skills from someone. Authorities say it appears unlikely that Paddock committed this violent act alone, which begs the question: Was Paddock secretly affiliating or acquainted with the prepper lifestyle? From what we’ve learned thus far from authorities, he certainly possessed many of the qualities of a modern-day survivalist. Whether Paddock embraced survivalism or its dark, end-times world view may never be known. Nevertheless, Paddock will be forever remembered within the survivalist/prepper community as the “perfect” Gray Man. And, this disturbing fact further adds to the mysteries surrounding Stephen Paddock’s life.