McDowell County native recalls Stephen Paddock as “peculiar” but not violent

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A McDowell County native once met Stephen Paddock while on a vacation this spring, and while she remembers him as “peculiar,” she never expected to recognize the man responsible for the Las Vegas shooting.

IMG_5035Sara Tuggle and her husband C.J. went on a cruise to Mexico for their honeymoon in May. When the couple reached land, they went on a Jeep excursion, and by chance, were paired up with Stephen Paddock and Marilou Danley for the day.

“In no way, shape or form would I have ever gathered he could be capable of something to this magnitude,” Sarah Tuggle said on MetroNews’ Talkline Friday. “He didn’t even speed. He was a cocky personality, but nothing that I would’ve taken him to be violent.”

When Tuggle first saw Paddock’s name mentioned in the Las Vegas shooting, her initial reaction was to screenshot the photo of the couple and send it to her husband.

“I’m thinking my mind’s playing tricks on me. I’m going to send this to him and see what he has to say,” she said.

Her husband recognized the couple from the Jeep tour right away.

“And at that point I almost vomited. You know, it was a little bit of a sick uneasy feeling,” she said. “He had been at work since 5:30 that morning, and he hadn’t even heard anything about the shooting at this time.”

Tuggle immediately began thinking back to that day and whether Paddock said anything that could have alluded to this act occurring.

“My husband had a bad feeling from the beginning,” Tuggle said. “The exploring tour guide had taken pictures as we were pulling out. They’d take a picture of each Jeep, and I texted my mom and said, ‘Just in case we don’t make it back to the ship, the tour line has a picture of the people that we were with.

“Of course at the time, we were joking,” she said.

While no erratic behavior came to mind, Tuggle said Paddock’s personality was very arrogant and cocky.

“Everything that was said or talked about, he had something better, a better vehicle or better this or that,” she said. “Everything that was conversed on, he could top the story, so to speak.”

However, Tuggle said that Paddock did make small talk with the couple, asking where they were from, and then if they had ever been to Las Vegas.

“He said, ‘That’s that main reason that we take these cruises. We like to gamble, and we like the food on the cruise ships,” she said.

Tuggle then mentioned her son and that she hated to leave him at home while on their honeymoon.

“He made the comment, ‘That’s why I don’t have kids. I never had children because I don’t want to be tied down to them,” she said.

One moment on the excursion that made Tuggle feel especially uncomfortable came during a stop when the various groups were walking back to their respective Jeeps.

“We’re in the middle of Mexico and he yells very loudly, ‘When is Trump ever going to build that wall to keep out the Mexicans, and some people in the group laughed,” she said. “I did not laugh. It made me feel very uncomfortable considering we were walking through the streets of Mexico.”

Tuggle said Danley’s personality was the complete opposite.

“She was a very kind woman. She was very sweet, neat-natured,” Tuggle said. “She very rarely said much of anything. She spoke about the food a couple times.

“I was telling about our excursion we had done a couple days before in Haiti, which was a dolphin excursion, and they had mentioned that they had done so many different cruises that they really done excursions,” she said. “She commented on the dolphins and said, “Oh, I bet that was cute,’ and just passing conversation.”

While Paddock’s personality was not nearly as friendly as that of his girlfriend, Tuggle said she didn’t see any hints that he could harm so many people.

“I played it in my mind over and over to see if there was anything that I thought he could’ve been violent, and honestly there was not. He was odd, he was different, but to me, he did not seem anywhere near capable of something of this magnitude.”