After Paddock stopped firing Las Vegas police wanted to breach suite but thought room was barricaded and booby-trapped - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

After Paddock stopped firing Las Vegas police wanted to breach suite but thought room was barricaded and booby-trapped

LAS VEGAS — Within minutes after Stephen Paddock fired his last shots into the Route 91 Harvest music festival from his sniper’s nest inside his Mandalay Bay Hotel suite, multiple Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department patrol officers were on the 32nd floor.

Upon their arrival to the 32nd floor, the police met with Mandalay Bay Engineering Supervisor Shannon Alsbury, Mandalay Bay Security Officer Jesus Campos and armed security bike patrol officers who had already been on the floor during the shooting, along with Mandalay Bay Security operations Manager, Anthony Sottile.

The police had access to the master keys that opened the hotel rooms, yet no attempt was made to breach Paddock’s suite after the gunfire ceased, although the possibility still existed that the gunfire could erupt again at any time, leading to more casualties.

So why didn’t the patrol officers conduct an armed assault on Paddock’s room?

Well, in fact, some officers wanted to, but as you will see from the LVMPD body-worn camera video, Batch 7 #45, from LVMPD Officer M. Fetherston 156SE, that idea quickly changed.

Officers J. Beason, 179 Sam Easy, and M. Fetherston teamed up when the gunfire started.

Audio excerpts from the video:

10:11 p.m. Gunshots were being fired as officer transmits on his radio, “159 it’s coming from like the 50th or 60th floor. North of the Mandalay Bay, it’s coming out of a window.”

Then he says to his partner, “We gotta advance on that dude”. They both start running to the entrance of the Mandalay Bay as the gunfire continues. The time is 10:12 p.m. [If I ever meet these guys I’ll have to shake their hands].

As they approach the entrance the officer in the front is looking up. His partner who is to the rear says, “Right there, right there. It’s about halfway up.”

At 10:13 p.m. they enter the doors to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

“I need security, where’s security? Where’s security?” the lead officer says.

Where the fuck is security?” he yells.

“Security!”

“Fuck, we need security bro”. Go back and get security he tells his partner. The time is 10:13:41 p.m.

His partner starts looking for security, as he approaches a desk with a female attendant. “Where’s security?” he asks.

“I called earlier, nobody is picking up,” the female says. “It’s ringing, ringing, ringing.” It’s now 10:14 p.m.

I need to get on that floor that guy is shooting from”, his partner says.

Both officers head up the escalator. They spot a security officer.

“I need to get into that room”, he says. [That is the proper response to an active shooter incident, touché’.]

It’s 10:15:37 p.m. Security and the police officers are running to get to the elevator. The security officer says, “It’s 135”.

As they enter the elevator, security says “32”. Another security officer asks him if that’s confirmed and he says “Yes, 32-135”. “Are you sure?” “Yes,” It’s now 10:16 p.m. [Paddock’s firing stopped at 10:15 p.m., however, the police officers are unaware of that.]

Strike Team in Mandalay Bay elevator.

Police:Do we have access to get into that room”.

Security: “My managers are all up there”.

Police: “Are we going to have access to that room?”

Security: “Apparently my managers are on scene, so as soon as you guys get there, they’ll let you guys know”.

Police: “Do you want to make entry, we’re going to have to”, he tells his partner. Partner responds, “We’re going to have to”. It’s now 10:17 p.m. [Again, touché’].

Police: “Do you want to wait for two more, or do you want to just make entry? Is he still shooting”?

Police: “I don’t know if anybody else is close. I think everybody else is pinned outside.” [As these two officers are busting their butts to get up to the room, unbeknownst to them, LVMPD Officers Cordell Hendrex and Eliff Varsin along with three armed Mandalay Bay security supervisors were retreating in safety on the 31st floor.]

10:17:16 p.m. Both officers are out of the elevator entering the guest rooming area on the 32nd floor.

10:17:54 p.m. Officer transmits on his radio, “We’re doing that right now. 32nd floor. Okay is he still firing, if not, we’ll wait for more, it’s just two of us”.

10:18 p.m. The police officers meet up with Jesus Campos, an armed Mandalay Bay bike patrol officer, and Engineering Supervisor, Shannon Alsbury in the center core.

Campos shows him his leg and says, “I don’t know if it’s a pellet or a .22”.

Police: Do we have access to this room?

Alsbury: It’s the room at the end of the hall. Apparently what he [points to Campos] was saying he put a bracket up on the stairwell door, so you can’t get access to that. If you look down the hallway it’s the last one with the double doors.”

Police:Was he shooting this way”.

Campos: “He was”.

Security Operations Manager, Anthony Sottile is seen standing in an alcove in the 100 wing close to the center core and a security bike patrol officer is seen further down the 100 wing hallway also standing in an alcove to a room.

At 10:19:17 p.m. the armed security bike patrol officer walks out of the 100 wing into the center core and says, “The very end, double doors on the very end.”

According to statements given to the police, Sottile who was armed, and two armed security bike patrol officers were on the 32nd floor for several minutes during Paddock’s gunfire.

10:22:29 p.m. “Control 159SE. I need the radio, please.  I’m on the 32nd floor, the room is going to be 135 break”.

At 10:22:51 more Metro officers arrive on 32nd floor at the center core.

Police: “I’m trying to get on the radio. The room is going to be barricaded, we can’t get in”.

As near as I can tell, somehow in the confusion, the bracket on the fire stairwell door morphed into the suite being barricaded.

One of the arriving officers says, “If he’s still shooting we gotta go.”

Why is it that all these police officers knew what to do, but not Field Training Officer Hendrex?

Police:No, no, no. We can’t get in, it’s been barricaded, stop, sssh”.

Police: “It’s barricaded, most likely it’s booby-trapped”.

Police: “We’re not going to make entry into the room”.

“It sounded like there were two shooters, we were at the event”, one officer says.

Police:I saw gunfire coming out of this room”. I believe this is 159SE saying this, as he and his partner saw the gunfire as they were approaching the Mandalay Bay.

Campos: They’re shooting outside…their shooting down the hallway…people… I got hit in the leg”.

At 10:23:30 p.m. another police officer is on the radio, “It’s room 135 on the 32nd floor, I need the SWAT to respond to this floor, subject…”

One hour and five minutes after the shooting stopped an ad-hoc team of patrol and K-9 officers, along with a detective lead by lone SWAT Officer Levi Hancock breached Room 32-135 at 11:20 p.m. and found Paddock dead.

The LVMPD full SWAT Team never made it.

Authorized to breach rooms if shots fired or hear screams

LVMPD body-worn camera video from Batch 30 #855 shows a strike team consisting of two SWAT officers and four uniformed police officers, in a service elevator with a Mandalay Bay Hotel security officer at 11:49 p.m. on October 1, 2017.

The following is an audio excerpt from that video;

“Okay guys listen up, here’s what we got going on. Right now, they’re cleaning up some of the parking garages and the other floors. Once we get up there, if for some reason we hear shots fired, we hear somebody screaming inside a room we’re going to be breaching that door and we’ll be going in. That’s what the ninety-nine is for us on authorization, right. We work together, stay together as a team…”

As far as the police believing the room was booby-trapped, I was wondering why nobody had called for the ARMOR unit and the bomb specialists. There is no mention on any of the radio traffic that such units were requested prior to the room being breached with an explosive charge.

There is also no mention of any such request noted in the LVMPD’s final criminal investigative report on the Las Vegas Massacre that was released in August.

This passage is included in the final report on Page 63:

“Sergeant Matchko observed a food service cart near the suite where he was told the shooting was coming from. He was concerned about the cart, believed it looked out of place, and thought that it might be a trap or an IED,” [Improvised Explosive Device].

Somewhere along the line that concern must have been addressed prior to entry into the suite because placing an explosive charge on a room door to make entry when the police suspected booby-traps or an IED in the room or the vicinity, seems questionable if not reckless.

Great job LVMPD Officers Fetherston and Beason. You both knew exactly what you needed to do. Neither of you hesitated, froze or stopped to pray. My hat’s off to you both.


About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.
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