Las Vegas cop says police supervision not supportive of his off-duty response to October 1 massacre - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas cop says police supervision not supportive of his off-duty response to October 1 massacre

LAS VEGAS — Detective Robert Garris wrote in his report that his supervision did not support his decision to respond while off-duty to the worst mass shooting in modern American history and what was the worst tragedy in the history of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Garris said on October 1, 2017, about 10:30 p.m. he was home preparing to go to sleep for the evening when he started receiving multiple phone calls alerting him to an active shooter incident in progress on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Garris immediately grabbed his patrol radio and tuned it to the SCAC [South Central Area Command] channel and heard confirmation of the news reports.  His wife turned on the news and began relaying information that she was receiving as well.  He grabbed clothing along with any tactical gear and firearms that he had and told his wife that he had to go.  Garris said his wife was upset and begged him not to go.  He told her he had to go, and she then told him to be careful.

After loading his vehicle with tactical gear, he contacted his brother who is also an LVMPD officer, to advise him of the situation and to determine his location.  His brother told him he was aware of the incident and was currently en route to the CCAC [Convention Center Area Command] to obtain his marked patrol vehicle and rally with his squad members.  Garris told his brother that he had received no communication from his supervision or guidance as to any deployment plans and he decided he would meet with his brother and then report to the command post being established at the SCAC.

Garris:“Upon arrival at CCAC, my brother and I, along with several of his squad members began a caravan to SCAC.  While driving southbound on Las Vegas Boulevard, the SCAC radio channel was abuzz with nonstop radio chatter advising of active shooter situations at Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, along with several other Strip resort properties.  It was at this moment that we all realized that we may be dealing with a very well-coordinated attack, with an unknown potential for several suspects and mass casualties.  I recall hearing a dispatch communication advising of three female suspect’s armed with weapons near a dumpster and a male running on Tropicana Boulevard with a firearm.  Moments later I heard an update advising that three women were being taken into custody and several firearms were located to the rear of a dumpster in an unknown area.”

“Unable to drive southbound on Las Vegas Boulevard due to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, we were forced to take an alternate route onto Koval Lane to E. Reno Avenue, Giles Street, and eventually emerging back onto Las Vegas Boulevard.  While passing the east entrance to the Route 91 Harvest Festival, we observed several deceased victim’s lying near the roadway and large groups of people dressed in western wear fleeing the scene.”

“Once we arrived at the SCAC command post, we were immediately advised to check-in with our names and personnel numbers.  We were given the call sign, 9M93 and designated as Strike Team 30, assigned to Sgt. Romprey.  Shortly thereafter, we were advised to move from the north end of the Route 91 Harvest Festival to Harmon Avenue on Las Vegas Boulevard, in order to maintain a police presence in the area and provide for a quick response to any further criminal activity.  While driving northbound on Las Vegas Boulevard, we observed another deceased victim lying in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.  It was explained that the victim had been loaded into a wheelbarrow and had been brought to the intersection to escape the gunfire and locate an ambulance.  We maintained our area of assignment until approximately 0630 hours when we were advised to secure.”

“Upon securing, I text messaged and left a voicemail for my sergeant, Mike King, advising him of my location and on-duty status for the active shooter incident.  Approximately thirty minutes later, I received a phone call from my lieutenant, Terry Bernard, asking where I was.  I explained to him that I responded to the Route 91 Harvest Festival active shooter incident late Sunday evening.  He asked if I had been working overtime.  I stated that I had not, I responded because of the urgency and severity of the incident as it was happening in real time.” 

“Lt. Bernard explained that we were now on A/B Roster [12 hours on, 12 hours off] and our squad was responsible for securing the LVMPD Headquarter Buildings.  I asked him if anyone else from our detail responded to the active shooter and was told “a lot of people did,” and our resources were now spread pretty thin.  I offered to immediately dress out and respond to headquarters.  I was told to stay by my phone.  Approximately fifteen minutes later, I received a phone call from my sergeant, Mike King.  King asked me again where I was last night.  I explained the entire chain of events again and was asked specifically who I worked for, what time I responded, where I was assigned, what my call sign was, who I worked with, what time I secured, and who I secured with. I answered every question thoroughly and was again advised to stay near my phone.  I repeated my willingness to immediately dress out and respond to headquarters but was again told to stay near my phone.”

“Now realizing that my supervision was not supportive of my decision to respond to the active shooter incident the evening prior, I began to immediately dress out in a patrol uniform.  While getting dressed I received a second call phone call from Sgt. King advising me to dress out and respond immediately to headquarters and be prepared to work until at least 1800 hours that evening, Monday, October 2nd.  Upon arriving at LVMPD Headquarters I was greeted by my sergeant who apologized to me for the “misunderstanding” last evening.  He advised that he was happy I said that and assigned me to a fixed post within building “B” on the first floor.  That is where I stayed until 1900 hours, Monday, October 2nd.  A/B Roster continued until Wednesday, October 4that 1800 hours.”

“I believe without hesitation that my self-initiated or self-dispatched response to the Route 91 Harvest Festival active shooter incident was not only necessary, but it was the morally and ethically responsible thing to do. To be at home, not receiving any guidance or direction, witnessing a mass casualty incident unfolding in real time, and not responding, would have been reprehensible.  Eighteen years’ worth of training and experience guided my decisions that night and I would respond in kind if presented with the same circumstances again.”

I agree with you Garris.  You did good that night, thank you.

Stephen Paddock brought the entire city to its knees with the death of 58 people and the wounding of over 400 others. Hundreds of others sustained injuries.

It is evident by reading the officer’s reports that have been released by court order, that the LVMPD was short on manpower that night.  Many officers who were off-duty did respond, as they should have.

What would happen if Las Vegas experienced a terrorist attack by multiple assailants?

Would there be sufficient manpower to handle multiple attacks at multiple locations?

The unsung heroes inside the concert venue on October 1 were those attendees, the civilians, off-duty firemen and police officers, and military, who sprang into action and saved lives by providing emergency medical care and victim transports to hospitals in privately owned vehicles.

Witness statements from those who attended the concert also questioned the lack of available paid rescue personnel on scene immediately after the gunfire stopped.

The police radio traffic from that night provides some insight on that.

“There are multiple trucks loading multiple people up to take them to the hospital, just let them know.”

“I’m with FD.  We have a ton of rescue’s [ambulances] that are available.”

“Ask them if I can throw them in my truck, they need to go now.”  “Copy that, go ahead and go.”

“Medics are asking if they can go to Four Seasons and the Boulevard or if they can have officers drive their vehicles that are there with injured civilians down to a safe area.”

“They can’t get to them safely, but if officers can drive these vehicles to a safe location they can service them.”

As far as manpower goes, Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the LVMPD, should revisit the department’s reserve police officer program that has fallen off the tracks in the past few years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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