On the same day that a man convicted of killing eight people at a California synagogue was sentenced to death, survivors spoke about the pain they’ve carried for years, and expressed gratitude that victims won’t have to hear the name of the defendant again.
Authorities say a former fraternity brother targeted the room where Shabbat worshippers gathered in the Jewish community center in the town of Thousand Oaks, 40 miles from Los Angeles, and unleashed a firestorm of gunfire.
Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, sat stone-faced during the sentencing hearing for the shooting, replying only “Yes, Your Honor” to a barrage of questions posed by the judge.
On March 22, according to a court transcript, Judge Mark Nazzaro asked: “Will Mr. Paddock make no statement or show no signs of remorse?”
“I think it’s time for the survivors and families to be heard,” Nazzaro said to the victim impact statements.
After pleading guilty to murder and other charges in April, Paddock’s sentencing came as a kind of close fitting of his calculated plan that left 58 people dead on Oct. 1.
The victims “are not in my thoughts,” he wrote on a slip of paper, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I am by myself and I am used to that.”
The community center is located in the center of Thousand Oaks, a city of about 140,000 that is surrounded by vineyards and set amid the rolling hills of eastern Ventura County. Last month, the same town marked the fourth anniversary of the shootings with remembrance ceremonies.
In the courtroom, family members of the victims spoke about the effects of their loss on those they loved and the toll that the trial took on them. Some recalled the many funerals, the parties that broke up, and the support they received from co-workers, friends and acquaintances.
Josh Lefkowitz, 35, who survived the attack, said the pain had been unreal, but he and his wife had found a community.
“It was while fighting for those who could not fight for themselves that the grief was manageable and healing,” he told the court, according to the Times.
At the sentencing hearing on Friday, the judge offered some words of encouragement to survivors and their loved ones: “You are not alone. This country stands behind you.”
In addition to the eight victims in the synagogue shooting, Paddock also killed two law enforcement officers in Las Vegas, where he is also believed to have opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival concert on Oct. 1, 2017.
Paddock had targeted hotels on both ends of the country music festival, where he was staying just before killing 58 people and injuring hundreds of others.
During his visit to Las Vegas, police said, Paddock checked into a room at the Mandalay Bay, the same hotel where he started the shooting at the nearby concert. The Mandalay Bay windows were illuminated by security cameras.
Investigators said Paddock did not stay at a hotel closer to the concert that could have been more susceptible to attacks. The annual festival attracted 22,000 people each year, and police suspect that Paddock checked into the Mandalay Bay before the festival because of how many pedestrians were in his way.
As he approached the festival, Paddock rang a bell in his room and ignited a pyrotechnic device. He didn’t set off the device inside the hotel.
The office in Washington Post Producer Christian Parenti’s Washington family has been planning a memorial service to commemorate the attack, and it is scheduled for May 24, 2018, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle.
Below is an article with more background on the trial.