Las Vegas Airport Police cite shortage of manpower, supplies, and ineffective perimeter fencing - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas Airport Police cite shortage of manpower, supplies, and ineffective perimeter fencing

LAS VEGAS — Police officers attached to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Airport Bureau, who are responsible for the safety and security at McCarran International Airport raised serious security concerns in their reports after the October 1 mass shooting.

Police officers at the Airport were busy assisting Route 91 Music Festival concert-goers who had breached the airport perimeter while fleeing the gunfire.  If that wasn’t enough to handle, they also had to contend with unruly off-duty and retired police officers.

Officers D. West and J. Arrigo report describes the chaos on the grounds of McCarron International Airport on the night of the tragedy.  The report also describes some very troubling vulnerabilities at the Airport, which very easily could be exploited by nefarious persons with evil intent.

The Airport Control (ACC) broadcasted a black SUV had breached the airfield at Gate 47.  Further, this vehicle was left parked in an active taxi-runway.  ACC broadcasted that Department of Aviation personnel were reporting large amounts of people were breaching the fences and running onto the active taxi and runways throughout the west side of the air field.

A swing shift ramp unit was requesting back-up as that unit was arriving to the west side of the airport; he confirmed a large number of people were breaching the airfield and confirmed a black SUV was left abandoned in the active taxi-runway area.

Sgt. Toney directed Airport 12 squad members to deploy their rifles.

Prior to leaving Terminal Three, Officer Arrigo and I attempted to locate extra shotgun and pistol rounds in the T3 substation but could not locate any.

We responded to the west airfield via traveling around runways 25, up the south fence perimeter, to the west fence.  When we arrived at the Maverick helicopter terminal, we started conducting a perimeter fence check, traveling north to Signature, Jen Air Terminal, until we made contact with approximately 63 people sitting just inside the airfield by the Video Poker hanger/building and Gate 47 area. Officer Arrigo and I quickly screened these persons for weapons and no one was armed.  They were all visibly and noticeably upset, distraught, crying, and emotional spent. 

At that time, there were numerous dispatches of other possible armed suspects in our immediate area, just north and west of our location.  Also, we checked for gun-shot wound (GSW) victims and made a limited assessment of all possible injuries.  No GSW victims found within this group, but there were some minor injuries.  At this point, we set up a victim-survivor collection point by the airfield fence, just northeast of the Video Poker hanger.

The Video Poker Terminal northeast entrance area, glass door and windows, had been broken into.  I noticed several people inside the lobby area.  I ordered these people out of the building one by one.  I visually inspected them for threats. These people were also noticeably upset, distraught, and crying.  I had these people sit with the others by the fence just outside of the airfield.  One white male adult identified himself as a fire department paramedic.  After I confirmed this through his identification, I asked him to assess this group of people for injuries.

Because there were still reports of other possible armed suspects, I took a position to protect the area of the survivors and victims.  We set up a transition point that persons must pass through before being allowed into the collection point.  This transition point was used to challenge, identify, and screen all civilian persons who entered the area.  For this area, I found cover west of that location, on Haven Street, between the hangars.  I challenged all persons who were either walking or driving into this area. Officer Arrigo was radioing the ACC of our status and requested medical.  Three other officers arrived at our location.

Arrangements had been made to move the victims and survivors, just north of our location, inside of Hangar 8 as a safe zone and as transportation pick up point to transfer these victims to the Thomas and Mack Center.

After this group were secured in Hangar 8, officer Arrigo and I walked westbound on Haven to survey the damage done to airport buildings, hangars, and property up to Haven Street’s main sliding gate.  This gate had been pulled open to gain entrance to airport property.  Several office windows had been broken to gain entrance into the various buildings and hangers. Officer Arrigo and I made contact with approximately 17 other survivors.  One person had a possible dislocated right shoulder. We escorted these people to Hangar 8.

We returned to the breached fence area by the Video Poker hanger.  We heard people inside that office section of that hanger.  Arrigo, two unknown police officers, and I cleared this office section. We located approximately 16 other survivors.  We escorted them to Hangar 8.  When we returned, a Department of Aviation maintenance crew was patching up the breached section of the fence.

There were persons reported on the rooftops of various hangars and buildings on the west side of the airport.  A request was made to have an air unit conduct a fly by. Other officers were clearing these buildings and hangers as well as the rooftops.  Arrigo and I returned to Hangar 8.  I advised the survivors and victims, they would be transported off the airport to the Thomas and Mack.  I answered various questions asked and provided a cell phone, so some survivors could call their relatives to advise them, they were safe.

During this time, I came into contact with [redacted], [redacted] said he was staying at the Mandalay Bay in room [redacted] was at the Route 91 concert when the shooting started.  He said there were at least two types of weapons being fired.  Initially, he though firecrackers were being lit and thrown into the air, then exploding because he saw the torn paper casing floating into the air.  Next, he heard heavier arms fire with the projectiles or bullets hitting the ground.  I took [redacted] information.  Sgt.  Lardomita gave me a phone number to forward this information: [redacted.  I spoke with a lieutenant and gave [redacted] information.

Off-duty and retired police officers caused problems

During this incident, Officer Arrigo and I came into the contact with a retired [redacted] later identified as [redacted].  He had been consuming alcoholic beverages and was carrying a concealed firearm.  Initially, I challenged [redacted] in the safety-screening zone.  [Redacted] showed a badge and identified himself as a retired [redacted].  I confirmed [redacted] was carrying concealed.  I could not clearly see his badge to determine its authenticity. As I was ordering [redacted] into a lighted area, he would not comply, [redacted] attempted to control our interaction, until I racked a round into the chamber.  Not until then, he complied with my directions and orders. Another officer recognized [redacted] and told me.  With [redacted] identity confirmed, he was allowed into the collection point to look for his daughter.

Later, we had another problem with [redacted].  [Redacted] was directing the survivors and victims to leave/exit Hanger 8 after they had been placed there to wait for transportation. This caused more confusion for the survivors/victims being in the hanger.  [Redacted] had to be threatened with arrest for obstruction before he complied and stopped interfering.  [Redacted] level of intoxication was not determined.

There was another off-duty LAPD officer who gave us some minor problems in Hanger 8.  He was told to comply or face arrest.  He apologized and followed directions.

Manpower and airport perimeter security problems

The officers stated:

The Airport Bureau was fortunate the swing shift squad had not yet secured. If the only manpower available had been Airport 12 squad members, we would not have been able to handle the security breaches and other issues resulting from this active shooter incident.

Further, this incident exposed that the airport’s security perimeter fence was soft and ineffective.  These survivors and victims were able to breach the airfield by various means and methods.

After the October 1, 2017, mass shooting, Las Vegas officials asked for a review of the jet fuel tanks safety issues that were hit by Stephen Paddock’s gunfire.

It appears they have much more to be concerned about also.

McCarran International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the country, in the richest tourist city in the country. Las Vegas may still boast that it is the safest tourist city in the world after the worst mass shooting in modern American history occurred right on the Las Vegas Strip, but how secure is it.

Civilians easily breached the perimeter fencing to gain access to the airport property and made it all the way to active taxi and runway areas.  A vehicle which could have very easily been a car bomb made its way right onto a runway.  Airport hangars and other buildings were accessed.  The roofs of these buildings were also compromised.

As a former police officer and security professional, all the above is extremely troubling.  Seventeen years since the September 11, 2001 attacks and an American international airport’s security was easily breached.

Disgraceful.

And on another note, what’s up with no extra shotgun and pistol ammunition available at the airport police substation. Once again like I have previously reported in other stories, LVMPD officers lack the necessary equipment to protect themselves and the public.

I would like to ask Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the LVMPD that question, but he already put the word out that the LVMPD will not comment on anything that has to do with the court-ordered release of the October 1 records.

We will have to see just how long Lombardo’s silence last.


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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