Compromised evidence raises questions about Mandalay Bay security training, policies and equipment - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Compromised evidence raises questions about Mandalay Bay security training, policies and equipment

LAS VEGAS — A vital piece of evidence that could have helped in determining the timeline as to when Mandalay Bay Security Officer Jesus Campos radioed in that he was shot, was compromised, according to a Mandalay Bay Surveillance and Security Officer who spoke to the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

That Mandalay Bay security officer, known only as TB in the transcript of his recorded interview that occurred on October 9, 2017 with FBI Special Agent G. McCamey and LVMPD Detective Breck Hodson, stated that recorded audio transmissions of Jesus Campos and Mandalay Bay Engineer Steven Schuck was off by at least 20 to 30 minutes from the actual time. Remember, both Campos and Schuck called in from the 32nd floor and reported the gunfire.

Security Officer T.B. completed a Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Voluntary Statement on October 9, 2017, as follows:

On October 3, 2017, I talked to [redacted] at 08:07 a.m. Tuesday morning in regards on how to retrieve audio recording to CD.  I start looking at the audio segment to see if there were any recordings of the security/engineering transmission, knowing Security would be asking for a copy.  At that, I noticed time stamp was incorrect.  I proceeded to make the time correct, to see if it would correct any audio that was stored.  Before I noticed time was incorrect the disc that also stored on was full.  I put another disc in, then I waited to make sure it was properly going to be stored on a disc. I think it was roughly around 10 a.m. when time on audio recorder was changed so time would sync with what was going to disc in the recorder itself.  No other system time were adjusted at this time.  Timestamp was 20-30 minutes ahead of actual time. I corrected time to match the Pelco system [surveillance video cameras] time.  I corrected time to match the Pelco system time at that point. I didn’t change the time on Pelco system.

During his interview, TB states that he has worked in Mandalay Bay Surveillance and Security for almost 14 years.  With that tenure, TB is still unfamiliar with some of the equipment.  He also says they have “faulty” equipment and appears to be unsure about policies and procedures.

TB tells the FBI and LVMPD detective that he was looking for audio recordings and video recordings from the night of October 1 because he knew the Mandalay Bay investigators would be asking for it.

“That was the first, my first priority was checking as far if security could see any cameras.  So, my main concern was usually we have the roof cameras that are usually typically always to lose video.”

“So, I proceeded to go check on the cameras in our Pelco System and one of the roof cameras were out at the time.”   

“So, I took the initiative to see, just to see if there was any out, and there was, and it happened to be one of the ones, on the roof that I consider vital for our security to see… it faces the east which happened to be the front. So, I wanted to make sure in case security needed some footage, those cameras were up and running.”

“I started doing DVR [digital video recorder] checks as far as recording. And everything was up and running except in – at our mall.”

TB is asked if at some point did he start working on some time frames with reference to the radio system.  Apparently, Mandalay Bay Security maintains the audio recorders for both Security and Engineering.

“I had just started looking at it to see if there was any recording, and which would have been very helpful.  So, I did on Monday [October 2].  And but didn’t really, look at it.  I just see if there was any recording.  So, later on, I did see there was some for this incident.  So, first I checked Engineerings.  So, and there was a couple of the transmissions saying that the shooting happened and all that.” 

“Tuesday morning [October 3].  My normal routine, check, make sure DVR’s are still online.  In our Honeywell.  That was still on – to check online.  And I let [redacted] know the day before about, — that we might have some audio coverage.  But I didn’t go through to check it thoroughly.  [Redacted] is my supervisor…But I didn’t really go into an extensive check.”

“So, when I found some of the audio recordings on for Engineering on Monday then Tuesday.  I knew they’re gonna probably want some evidence so – but I’ve never been able to re- actually record on a disk before because it was something that we just never did. It was on the actual device itself.”

“So, I got contacted by well [redacted] let me know that [redacted] was interested in those recordings.  So, that’s when I actually further started going into it to see if there was any more on the Engineering side recording.  So, then I check – when I checked Security that’s when I found the crucial stuff.  So, then I didn’t know how to download it exactly onto a disk cause what it does is, it’s a unit.  It burns onto its own disk.  It’s got the hard drive and then it records to a disk.  But I’ve never actually printed onto a disk to give to like the investigators or so before.”

“So, when I started checking, I told [redacted] about that, I said, “I’ve never actually burned it to a disk before,” so I tried to find a – the PDF files on how to do it.  And then he let [redacted] know.  I had a tech call me.  That we – he’s been here before to actually rebuild the system ‘cause it crashed about a couple years ago.  So, I asked him some questions like, “Hey, how do I retrieve these videos and put it onto a disk?  Multiple segments.”  And ‘cause I tried like a couple segments first and it only played one out of the eight.  And so, I was doing – obviously doing something wrong as far as – so he said, “I’ll send you the manual, read through the manual.  If you still need help give me a callback, I’ll help you with it.”

TB then says during his interview that the PDF instruction manual was emailed to him and that it took about 40 minutes for him to read through it.  After reading the manual he still had trouble downloading the audio recordings from the hard drive to a CD.  Through trial and error, he finally got it right.

“I was having issues with that one, same thing, it played only one file. OK, not good.  All right, so I read the manual again, try and like, okay, I did this one why can’t I do this one?  Maybe it was too big.  So, I grouped it smaller, the critical part.  Still wouldn’t burn.  It burned just that part, but it wouldn’t play like I wanted it to. So, like, okay, that’s no good. So, then I kind of just had to – for me if I get frustrated as far as like technical, I just kind of like walk away.  Maybe just – you know, just get afresh memory so…So, I finally got it to work.”    

Considering the magnitude of the October 1 massacre and the possibility of civil litigation, from a risk management perspective alone, the cavalier attitude concerning the importance and these recordings is disturbing, coupled with the fact that an employee who was inexperienced in the audio recording equipment was handling this.

The preservation and downloading of all video and audio recordings should always start immediately after any critical incident.

Radio audio recording system timestamp not correct since August 2017

Here is where things go further downhill.

So, when I went there and that’s when I noticed that the time was a little bit off.  So, I didn’t realize it, you know how much it was off and then too – when I looked on the Pelco that’s where it was like about 20 or 30 minutes roughly.”  [If he hadn’t done so already, he should have notified his supervisor immediately as soon as he had a problem.]

So, when I put the disk in it started syncing back to when at that – when it stopped.  To load on the disk which is – I would want to say August.  So, then it’s got to catch up.  And so, I normally assume it – it would catch-up with the time. So, I just let it on there or so. And loaded it and it takes a while for it to finally catch-up I guess, from what I saw.  So, then that’s when I went back to my desk and just kind of waited for a little bit to see.  So, then that’s when I did the further research of finding more of the audio clips.  For the next day or so.” 

Police: So, you notice the time’s off now on…

TB: Yeah.

Police: On these audio recordings?

TB: Yeah.

Police: So, what do you do about the time?

TB: I corrected it to our Pelco System which has a stamped time.

Police: Did anyone give you any instruction to do that?

TB: No.

Police: Is it something you just decided on your own to do?

TB: Yeah. Because it’s – normally if something’s off, got to correct it right away so there’s no problem as far as discrep – you know what I mean?  Time frame or so.

Police: When you corrected the time what happened to the time frame that – of what was recorded?

TB: It started syncing. So, it started putting all the audio recording onto that disk.

Police: Do you remember the times?  From what the original – so even though it would have been off what was the timestamp?  For example, with the radio transmission that occurred up in the hallway?

TB: Well, it said – it showed it as the 10 – from – when I read it or heard it and the time stamp I think it showed it at around 10:38 the first call was the Engineering. From our dispatch.  So, I think it was like 10:38 or 10:33 according to the time stamp.  So, and then that was the first call ‘cause they were trying to find out what room the suspect was in.  All they knew it was in the 100 wing and our dispatch asked ‘em, “What’s the room number,” and he said he can’t because he was being shot at.

Police: So then at that time then you – so you have those – you have those time stamps that are – that are off essentially so.  The 2238 time would have been off correct?

TB: Yeah, but I didn’t know what time the actual…  So, I’m actually assume 10:38 was the first call from our dispatch to him and said, “Oh, something happened on that time.” [He should never have touched the system.  He never noted the actual time that it was off].

Police: Now when the time resynced to the correct time did it change the time stamp on that audio recording?

TB: On the audio recorder itself, yeah, ‘cause I had to physically change so you’ll see it in the top right-hand corner of the actual unit that it changed.  But as far as syncing with that actual segment. I assume it naturally would have. But I don’t know and when you play it on a disk. So.

Police: So, you said this is the first time you’ve ever had an incident where you’ve recorded audio recordings and when it’s come to, in relation to a criminal investigation, is that correct?

TB: Yes.

Police: Do you guys have a protocol for that type of thing?  Is there a policy or anything that you guys abide by on like when you guys are starting to download things, it would be considered evidence as far as the company’s concerned?

TB: No, we don’t. I mean as far as the – yeah, no. As far as I know, no, we don’t. [Lack of training, policies, and procedures.]

Police: Is this something that you notified your supervisor about?

TB: Yeah.  I mean if I didn’t really think about it because I didn’t know the time was off on there.  Until I checked that morning.  And then like, oh, it’s off.  So, then I didn’t really say anything to my boss about it because I didn’t know what time – I thought about it like so if that time – so what time was the action.  I never heard anything about the actual time.  If I did then I would have mentioned to my boss right away, “Hey, let you know that audio recording’s off because the actual time, machine, was this.” So, I had no – I assumed it was around 10:30, 10:50, based on what I heard.  That the time the shooting was.

Police: And so, you changed the times then you burned the audio to a disk?

TB: I grabbed more segments because I only did like maybe up to midnight.  But I wanted to see – I assumed there would be more critical stuff afterward, so I like I looked further into it and I think I grabbed like up ‘til like 9 o’clock the next morning.  When everything kind of died down from what I can hear. So, I grabbed it up to there. Then I started – well, then made a copy and then I gave it to the investigator.  They said part of that, he said the Engineering copy was fine but the Security side, he said, “Halfway it cut out or it stopped. I said, “Okay, all right, when I get a chance let me see what I can do, see what happened.”  There are sometimes some of the segments got corrupted.  So, I’m assuming that’s what happened when I grabbed more files.  There might have been some that were corrupted so it didn’t – it stopped it right there. So, then I burned another one with more of the longer segments and then I gave it to the investigator day before yesterday. [October 7].

There was more talk as to why the time stamp was off on the dispatch radio audio recording system.

“So, I’m assuming ‘cause this has happened – this is not the only time. This has happened numerous times on that audio recorder.  But I usually don’t check it unless they want me to.  So, this time it was about 30, 40 – no – 20, 30 minutes off.  So, it had to be a couple months the last time I checked because when I put the new disk into load – that it loads all the audio on.  Usually, I’m able to store on the disk two months of recording. That’s 24 hours of recording. So, when I put the new one in it started from August. So now it’s got to catch-up to October.  So, it takes a little bit for it to load up all on there.  So that was probably the last time I checked it.  So that explains why if you don’t check it periodically, time gets to the point where it is…So our whole system, ‘cause we have issues with that.  To connecting to one specific server to have all the other machines sync 100 percent.”

Mandalay Bay Security radios are horrible

A Mandalay Bay security dispatcher, BB, stated during his interview, “Then I don’t recall, any radio traffic and you know, our radios are horrible, it could have been static.”

“HOTSOS Is a system that comes up on the computer if a door is ajar from a hotel guest room.  Some officers actually call the guest to notify them this is security dispatch, you know, just want to let you know your doors ajar, can you please check it. A lot of times the latch doesn’t click, you can’t push on it.  If no one actually answers the call, then we will send an officer to respond to that room to make sure the door is secured.”  [Faulty door latches on guest rooms, a lot of times? If true, that is a serious guest safety issue].

When asked by the police what the time frame on when the door is left ajar until the dispatch center is notified, he replies, “I’m not really sure, because I’ve been told various things.  I don’t know actually the time when the doors ajar to when it actually pops up on our system…I’ve heard ranging from five minutes to up to an hour, you know, but I mean that’s what I’ve been told.”

Inconsistent policy on the HOTSOS system:

“On swing shift, we actually ask the officer to give us an update on each door.  I know on other shifts they’ll just say, you know, its taken care of.  All the rooms are secured or whether I’m done, give me the next batch of HOTSOS.  I know graveyard does that a lot.  For swing shift, we actually ask the officers if the security officer closed it, if the door was already locked or closed or if the guest closed it or the guest wants it open.

The police were trying to lock down the time Jesus Campos was completing the HOTSOS open door checks.  That also went nowhere.  It appears they log the calls as handled as soon as the officer gets the room numbers.  They never had a standard operating procedure for HOTSOS, the dispatcher tells the police.

“I don’t know the system that well, so it’s difficult to go back in to try to actually find that room to update it with whatever the officer said when he called back,” he said.

I found an officer’s report from SWAT Officer M. Burris that is rather disturbing:

“Upon contact with Security, we attempted to find the hotel service elevator, of which the security officer on hand could not advise on.

Mandalay Bay has quite a few issues with Security, to say the least.  Let me rephrase that, with security management, training, policies, and procedures.

 


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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