Las Vegas Gunman's father robbed bank and fled FBI

Las Vegas Gunman’s father robbed bank and fled FBI


Stephen Paddock’s father lived a life of crime.

In his early 30s, Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, the father of the gunman who opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday night, killing at least 59 people, sold garbage disposals and worked as a repair man in Tucson. But he also had another source of income: robbing banks.

During an 18-month span in 1959 and 1960, Mr. Paddock hit two branches of the Valley National Bank in Phoenix, making off with $25,000, according to an article in The Arizona Republic in October 1960. The authorities caught up to Mr. Paddock in Las Vegas.

He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, when Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas gunman, was 8. Mr. Paddock was sent to a federal prison in West Texas.

Another of Mr. Paddock’s sons, Eric Paddock, said Monday that their father was largely absent from their lives. Eric Paddock said that he was born while his father was on the run and that their mother raised the children. A paid obituary for Mr. Paddock lists only one son, Patrick Paddock.

Mr. Paddock served less than half of his sentence in Texas. In 1968, he escaped from La Tuna prison and made his way to San Francisco, where he robbed another bank that June, and eventually traveled up the coast and settled in Oregon.

He altered his appearance, shaving his head and growing a forked goatee, and changed his name to Bruce Werner Ericksen.

In 1969, the F.B.I. placed him on its Most Wanted list, describing him as 6 feet 4 inches, 245 pounds and “diagnosed as psychopathic.”

“He reportedly has suicidal tendencies and should be considered armed and very dangerous,” the poster read, adding that he was an “avid bridge player.”

In Oregon, Mr. Paddock played poker with friends in Eugene and opened the state’s first permanent bingo parlor in the late 1970s, the Bingo Center in downtown Springfield. Through his lawyer, Mr. Paddock borrowed $12,000 from Frederick van Deinse II to buy bingo equipment for the parlor.

“No one was privy to who he was previously,” Mr. van Deinse said in an interview on Monday night.

He said that Mr. Paddock, who was called Bingo Bruce, never spoke about his past — not about his family, how he came to Oregon or his life as a bank robber. Mr. van Deinse said he first learned of his criminal history on the night of Sept. 6, 1978, when Mr. van Deinse was running a bingo game in the parlor.

What you need to know to start your day, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.
You agree to receive occasional updates and special offers for The New York Times’s products and services.

A group of men entered the hall and asked Mr. Paddock to help with an issue outside. It was a ruse, and when he went outside, federal agents arrested him.

“He was a con artist,” Mr. van Deinse said. “I took it in the shorts. The money was gone.”

He said that Mr. Paddock corresponded from federal prison with friends he had made in Eugene. But once again, his stint in federal prison was short-lived, this time because he was released on parole after a year in custody, according to an article in The Eugene Register-Guard.

Mr. Paddock returned to Eugene, where he was welcomed by elected officials. He “did one hell of a lot for kids,” a mayor told a federal parole board, according to the newspaper.

He also returned to bingo, opening a hall sponsored by a church, but ran into trouble again. State authorities charged him with racketeering in the 1980s. Mr. Paddock settled the civil charges and avoided jail after paying $623,000, and he eventually left Oregon for Texas, where he lived until his death in 1998.


Comments are closed.