LAS VEGAS, NV — Clark County Nevada Coroner John Fudenberg on Wednesday defied a court order to release the autopsy report of Stephen Paddock, the man police say was responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Paddock, 64, who investigators say killed 58 people and wounded close to 700 others during an outdoor concert in Las Vegas last October, was found dead in a Vegas hotel room, the victim of what police claim was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
District Court Judge Timothy Williams ordered the coroner Tuesday to immediately release the results of Paddock’s autopsy, but Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg has thus far refused to do so, stating that he would continue to do so until the report was “finalized”.
Williams’ refusal to release the report was quickly met with outrage from media outlets who say investigators are “playing games”.
“I don’t believe this is consistent with what the court ordered,” Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie, who represents the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press in their November action demanding the release of the reports told the Las Vegas Review (https://www.reviewjournal.com/investigations/judge-orders-release-of-las-vegas-shooting-autopsy-reports/). “They (the coroner’s office) have delayed this for too long, and whatever stage the coroner’s report on Paddock is in, it should be provided to the Review-Journal and Associated Press without further delay. No more games. Release the records.”
“The shooter’s body was cremated Dec. 21,” said Review-Journal Editor-in-Chief Keith Moyer. “How can the autopsy report not be ‘finalized’ when the body was cremated more than five weeks ago? The law is squarely on the side of the public’s right to open government.”
This isn’t the first time that officials charged with investigating the attack have fought to keep the results of their inquiries from the public.
In January a judge ordered the coroner to pay about $32,000 in legal costs to the Review-Journal for refusing to release public records to the newspaper, claims McLetchie.
“The court correctly recognized the presumption of public access to records, even when a mass tragedy occurs,” McLetchie said. “(The judge) also rejected arguments by the coroner’s office that there were any privacy interests with regards to the autopsy of Stephen Paddock, let alone any that outweighed the strong presumption of access to records in Nevada.”
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released a provisional report Jan. 8 on the shooting but gave very little information in regard to Paddock’s activities leading up to the shooting or the result of his autopsy.
“Preliminarily, the injuries noted were on the posterior of both calves and a gunshot wound to the upper palette inside the decedent’s mouth with obvious damage to the upper teeth,” the department stated.
“The cause of Paddock’s death was an internal gunshot wound and the manner of death was ruled a suicide,” the report concluded.
Family members of several of the shooting victims have also expressed outrage over how the investigation is being handled.
“We can’t even get a response from the coroner’s office,” Adam Castilla, brother of Andrea Castilla, a 28-year-old California woman killed during the shooting, told the Review-Journal. Castilla added that, despite multiple requests, his family still has not received a copy of his sister’s autopsy.
“It’s been over 100 days and I’ve called at least 20 times,” said Castilla. “I haven’t gotten one call back. I feel like they’re definitely trying to protect someone or themselves.”