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Vegas massacre gunman grew up in Tucson, father was on FBI Most Wanted list

Stephen Paddock, the man who authorities say gunned down 58 people and injured hundreds in Las Vegas in a massacre Sunday night, spent his childhood in Tucson. His father was a former service-station owner and car salesman who broke out of prison after being convicted in a 1960 Phoenix bank robbery.

Benjamin Paddock was arrested in 1961 for robbing a Phoenix bank the year before. He escaped from prison in 1968, and was put on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

His son Stephen was the oldest of four Paddock children living with his wife Dolores on Tucson's West Side at the time of his arrest, according to archived news accounts. The Las Vegas shooter, who was 64, would have been about seven years old in 1960.

The FBI said in 1969 that the convicted robber had been "diagnosed as psychopathic, has carried firearms in commission of bank robberies ...  (and) reportedly has suicidal tendencies and should be considered armed and very dangerous."

In 1971, the Tucson Daily Citizen gave a front-page run-down of the father's case:

BENJAMIN “CHROMEDOME” PADDOCK

Ex-Tucsonian Makes FBI List Of 10 Most Wanted

By GILBERT T. MATTHEWS

Citizen Staff Writer

Known to his associates as “Chromedome,” “Old Baldy,” and “Big Daddy,” Benjamin Hoskins Paddock is Tucson’s contribution to the FBI’s list of 10 most-wanted fugitives. He made the list after escaping on Dec. 31, 1968, from the Federal Correctional Institution at La Tuna, Tex., where he was serving a 20-year sentence for robbing a Phoenix bank in 1960.

Paddock — alias Perry Archer, Benjamin J. Butler, Leo Genstein, Pat Paddock and Patrick Benjamin Paddock — hasn’t been seen or heard from since. At the time of the robbery, Paddock lived in Tucson with his wife and four children. Neighbors said they couldn’t believe that the colorful businessman, then 34 years old, was involved in crime.

Paddock sold garbage disposal units here under the business name of Arizona Disposer “Chromedome” Co. He called himself “Big Daddy” in connection with a night club operation on North 1st Avenue.

Before selling the disposal units, he operated an East Broadway service station and also sold used cars.

Although he was imprisoned for the $4,620 holdup of a branch of the Valley National Bank in Phoenix, Paddock also had been accused of two other bank robberies.

Those charges were dropped after his conviction.

Federal officers reported that when he was arrested in Las Vegas, Paddock attempted to run down an FBI agent with his car.

“Since he has utilized firearms in previous crimes, has employed violence in attempting to evade arrest and has been diagnosed as being psychopathic, Paddock should be considered extremely dangerous,” said Palmer M. Baken Jr., agent in charge of the Phoenix FBI office.

Baker described Paddock as being “A glib, smooth-talking man who is egotistical and arrogant.”

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According to a 1969 Arizona Daily Star account, Benjamin Paddock robbed $4,627 from a Valley National Bank branch at 19th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix.

He was also charged with robbing another Valley bank branch twice, in late 1959 and early 1960. Those charges were dropped after Paddock was convicted of the first robbery.

Paddock was "known to Tucson authorities as a volunteer worker for wayward youths," the Star reported after his arrest in July 1960.

According to another Star account, Paddock and his family lived in a then-newer home on Camino Miraflores, near Speedway on the West Side.

"We're trying to keep Steve from knowing his father is held as a bank robber. I hardly know the family, but Steve is a nice boy. It's a terrible thing," a neighbor told the Citizen at the time. Eva Price took him swimming as FBI agents searched the family's Tucson home, the paper said.

Paddock had served as a volunteer "special deputy" with the Pima County Sheriff's Department, but was suspended after about five weeks when an FBI report showed he had served two terms for felonies in Illinois, then-Sheriff Waldon Burr told the newspaper. According to the FBI's "wanted" poster, Paddock had previously been convicted for "automobile larceny and confidence game."

Paddock had been "reluctant" to be fingerprinted for his background check, the sheriff told the Star for a July 1960 story.

Paddock, nicknamed "Big Daddy," was connected to the opening of the Big Daddy Club in the 2800 block of North 1st Avenue in June 1960, the report said.

Neighbors told investigators that the Paddocks had moved to Tucson from Chicago in 1956. The home they lived in at the time of the robberies was built in 1958, Pima County records show.

Paddock was "known as a hot rod racer who keeps his head shaved so he resembles Yul Brynner," according to an Arizona Republic story on his arrest in Las Vegas, where he had fled after the robbery.

Paddock was caught because he was a ham radio operator who had a special extendable antenna mounted on his car, the Republic reported. A bank employee who followed the getaway car saw the suspect switch vehicles to a Pontiac with such an antenna. The Arizona Highway Patrol determined that just two 1960 Pontiacs were registered in the state with special tags for ham operators.

He was spotted by a pair of FBI agents at a gas station in Las Vegas, where he attempted to drive off but halted when one agent fired a shot through his windshield.

After his prison escape, the elder Paddock was re-arrested in 1977, living under an assumed name in Oregon. He died in 1998.

Paddock was arrested after garnering attention for running a bingo parlor in Oregon. He was paroled a year after being recaptured, and then charged with racketeering in 1987 after continuing the bingo operation. He served no jail time despite pleading no contest, and spent his final decade living in Texas.

Eric Paddock, brother of the gunman and a Florida resident, told reporters that their father was not present during much of their childhood, being in prison much of the time.

The father "was never with my mom," Eric Paddock told CNN, saying that he was born while Benjamin Paddock was on the run after the robbery.

The family moved to Southern California in the 1960s. Another brother, Patrick B. Paddock II, 60, now lives in Tucson.

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