The motives of Stephen Paddock, the person who killed 58 people and injured hundreds in a shooting spree in Las Vegas, remain a mystery. Investigative journalist Greg Palast writes that he went to school with Paddock and recounts his impressions of him from that time. He says that he and Paddock lived and went to school in a poor part of the greater Los Angeles area, where their proximity to the elites of Beverly Hills constantly rubbed their noses in the fact of the sheer unfairness of class privilege that some were born into and which opened many doors for them, and others were not.
This is where Paddock and Palast were bred: Sun Valley, the anus of Los Angeles. Literally. It’s where the sewerage plant is. It’s in a trench below the Hollywood Hills, where the smog settles into a kind of puke yellow soup. Here’s where LA dumps its urine and the losers they only remember when they need cheap labor and cheap soldiers when the gusanos don’t supply enough from Mexico.
Paddock. Palast. We sat next to each other at those drafting tables with our triangular rulers and #2 pencils so we could get jobs at Lockheed as draftsmen drawing blueprints of fighter jets. Or do tool-and-dye cutting to make refrigerator handles at GM where they assembled Frigidaire refrigerators and Chevys.
But we weren’t going to fly the fighter jets. Somewhere at Phillips Andover Academy, a dumbbell with an oil well for a daddy was going to go to Yale and then fly our fighter jets over Texas. We weren’t going to go to Yale. We were going to go to Vietnam. Then, when we came back, if we still had two hands, we went to GM or Lockheed.
(It’s no coincidence that much of the student population at our school was Hispanic.)
But if you went to “Bevvie” – Beverly Hills High – or Hollywood High, you didn’t take metal shop. You took Advanced Placement French. You took Advanced Placement Calculus. We didn’t have Advanced Placement French. We didn’t have French anything. We weren’t Placed, and we didn’t Advance.
Steve was a math wizard. He should have gone to UCLA, to Stanford. But our classes didn’t qualify him for anything other than LA Valley College and Cal State Northridge. Any dumbbell could get in. And it was nearly free. That’s where Steve was expected to go, and he went with his big math-whiz brain.
Palast does not suggest that this early history entirely explains Paddock’s behavior, let alone excuses it. But he does say that the fact that Paddock seemed to earn plenty of money from his gambling may not mean that he did not still see himself as a loser whose abilities were insufficient to overcome the class disadvantages that he was born with. That is the kind of thing that can breed rage and resentment against an unfair world.