Las Vegas gunman may have scouted Boston locations online, including Fenway
The gunman who killed 58 people and injured hundreds at an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas researched major Boston-area concert venues, including Fenway Park, two officials briefed on the case said Thursday.
One government official briefed on the matter said Stephen Paddock Googled Fenway Park and the Boston Center for the Arts, a visual and performing arts center in the South End. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said it was unclear whether Paddock was ever in the city or when he conducted the searches on the Internet.
A second source, a law enforcement official briefed on the case, said Paddock was searching online for large concert venues in the Boston area.
In recent years, Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, has become a hub of outdoor summer concerts, hosting some of the biggest names in music and drawing huge crowds. In 2016, Jason Aldean — who was playing at the Las Vegas concert that Paddock attacked — sold out Fenway in 90 minutes. The most recent concerts held at Fenway were Lady Gaga in early September and Billy Joel a few days earlier, at the end of August.
The Boston Center for the Arts hosts art, drama, and dance performances in six different spaces, ranging from a 90-seat black-box theater to a 372-seat venue.
Governor Charlie Baker, the FBI, and the Boston Police Department said Thursday there is no immediate threat to the area, where sporting events and other large public gatherings have already seen stepped up security following the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
Boston police Commissioner William B. Evans told reporters Thursday night that security will be stepped up at all upcoming events both in uniform and plainclothes.
“We are aware of the media reports referencing a Boston connection to the Las Vegas mass shooting incident that occurred on Sunday, October 1, 2017,” the police said in a statement. “There is currently no known threat to the Metro Boston Homeland Security Region related to this incident.”
In addition to researching Boston-area venues, Paddock booked a room in early August at Chicago’s 21-story Blackstone Hotel that overlooked Grant Park, where the Lollapalooza music festival was being held, a law enforcement official said Thursday.
The official said no evidence has been found that the shooter went to Chicago that weekend.
The weekend before the Las Vegas massacre, Paddock rented a high-rise condo in a Las Vegas building that overlooked the Life is Beautiful music festival, Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said. He offered no other details about what led Paddock there. The music festival featured Chance the Rapper, Muse, Lorde, and blink-182.
A federal official said authorities are looking into the possibility Paddock planned a car bombing, among the other attacks he might have contemplated. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Authorities previously disclosed Paddock had 1,600 rounds of ammunition in his car, along with fertilizer that can be used to make explosives and 50 pounds of Tannerite, a substance used in explosive rifle targets.
Lombardo said it appeared Paddock had planned to survive Sunday’s attack and had an escape plan. Investigators have been combing through his background but remain stumped as to his motive.
NBC and ABC News initially reported that Paddock was researching sites in Boston.
The Red Sox entered the playoffs Thursday in Houston and will return home Sunday to face the Astros in Game Three at Fenway Park.
Evans said he was confident the ballpark’s security measures are adequate. But he added, “We are going to step up our attention,” noting that a Bruno Mars concert and road races are also planned in Boston.
Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said federal authorities “will be working closely with the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, and all of our law enforcement partners to fully investigate any and all potential leads that stem from the ongoing investigation in Las Vegas.”
“We’ve been in constant contact with Boston police and Massachusetts State Police since the Las Vegas shooting,” Shaw said in a statement. “Any possible nexus to Boston discovered during the ongoing investigation has and will be immediately briefed to the Boston Police Department, and other affected law enforcement agencies.”
Red Sox spokeswoman Zineb Curran said in a statement Thursday that the team was aware of reports about Paddock’s interest in Fenway Park.
“While there is currently no credible threat to Fenway Park according to public safety agencies, the Red Sox have been working with city, state, and federal officials on increased security measures for postseason games at Fenway Park,” Curran said.
Fenway is “a national model for safety,” said Tom Nolan, a retired Boston police lieutenant who teaches criminology at Merrimack College.
“They have plainclothes police, uniformed police, their own private security, every [bag] is searched,” Nolan said. “Anyone who has tickets to the game [Sunday] should feel that they’re going to be as secure as they can be.”
In addition, Nolan said, surrounding hotels are not as tall as the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, where Paddock opened fire. But no place, Nolan added, is ever completely secure.
“The bottom line is, there are limits to what law enforcement can accomplish,” Nolan said. “If someone brings 30 long guns into a hotel room to do what this individual did in Las Vegas, how do you prevent something like that?”
Max Abrahms, a political science professor at Northeastern University who specializes in security and terrorism, said copycat attacks are a serious concern.
“The fact that this guy used this particular mode of killing could well spur other people to carry out a similar act in other cities,” Abrahms said.
Gregory Ruffer, chief executive of the Boston Center for the Arts, said he was surprised to learn from news reports that Paddock had researched the center.
He said Boston police stopped by on Thursday to assure staff there that there was no immediate threat.
He said he doesn’t anticipate the center, which currently employs private security guards, will need additional security measures.
“We feel we are doing all we can to help people feel safe and enjoy the art we present,” he said.
Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.