Las Vegas cop was too scared to confront Stephen Paddock - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas cop was too scared to confront Stephen Paddock

LAS VEGAS — On February 14, Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson, remained outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida taking cover while the massacre unfounded.

Inside the building, dead and wounded children lay bleeding in the hallways and classrooms.  Instead of entering the building and confronting the gunman as quickly as possible, without waiting for back-up, Peterson stayed outside and radioed to his dispatcher, “possible shots fired.”

His hesitation and decision cost lives, law enforcement officials said.

The gunman, who was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines continued his rampage for six-minutes, while the armed deputy sheriff remained outside in safety.  In the aftermath, 17 people were dead, fourteen students and three staff members.  17 others survived their gunshot wounds.

The deputy was later suspended but immediately retired.

The Las Vegas massacre had a strikingly similar scenario, according to documents among the 2,000 records released last Wednesday by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD).

So, what does the Parkland High School Massacre have to do with the Las Vegas massacre?

Both incidents had law enforcement officers on the scene of an active shooter who failed to act to save lives during the gunfire.

At least one report among the 2,000 documents is extremely troubling and requires an immediate explanation by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who told the press that he would not comment on any of the documents that were being released.

That is no longer an option for Lombardo.  The public needs to hear from the highest law enforcement officer in Clark County, Nevada.  Not months from now, but immediately.

The LVMPD Officer’s Report 

On 10/1/17 at 2116 hours, I Field Training Officer C. Hendrex P#9995 along with my day 2 trainee Officer E. Varsin P#16252, while operating as marked patrol unit 3M14, were dispatched to the Mandalay Bay Hotel in reference to a routine custody call.  The details stated that hotel security had two females in custody for trespassing. Upon our arrival, we made contact with security who escorted us to the security office.  We made contact with the females in custody, one of which had prior arrest history for prostitution. 

At approximately 2207 hours I heard an officer get on the radio and say there was an active shooter inside the Route 91 Music Festival which I knew to be across the street from the Mandalay Bay hotel.  I then informed the security personnel that were in the office with me of the information that I had just received, and I immediately got up and walked out of the security room door toward the front of the casino.  I knew if I could come at the shooter or shooters from another side or a different angle then we could surround and contain them from escape and keep them from hurting more victims.

While heading across the casino floor we received more information regarding the shooter or shooters.  I heard on the police radio that at least some of the shots were coming from somewhere inside of the Mandalay Bay about halfway up on the side of the casino closest to the strip and not just from the concert.  One police officer said that they were taking rounds and were pinned down and I could hear gunfire in the background of the radio transmission.  I once again shared this information with the security personnel with me and we continued running across the casino floor.

A moment later one of the security personnel stopped and said that he heard over the radio that the shots were actually coming from the 31stfloor.  I then told him to take me there.  [Doesn’t advise the dispatcher that they are headed up to an active shooter?].  He directed me to an elevator and I asked him if this was the tower closest to the strip and he said that it was.  (It should be noted that Officer Varsin activated her BWC while still in the security officer, I forgot to turn mine on until later.)

We then got into the elevator and I realized that Officer Varsin was right there with me [were else would she be, she is his trainee] along with 3 security managers, whom were later identified as [names redacted in report].  As we rode up the elevator I distinctly remember saying a prayer in my head for all of us in the elevator and the ones still dealing with the shots coming at them.

At some point, I pulled out my firearm, as I do not remember doing this [an FTO doesn’t remember unholstering his firearm?], but when the doors opened on the 31stfloor my gun was in front of me and I was clearing around the corner and then down the hall to try and locate the shooter or shooters.  The floor was quiet, and no one was in the hall.  As I made my way down the hall I had to stop [security manager] from racing down in front of me as I knew that he was a civilian and not wearing any body armor and it was my responsibility to be first in the stack [commendable?].  I told him to slow down and walk next to me if he wanted to. 

While going down the hall one of the guys said that there was a stairwell at the end of the hall.  Once near the end of the hall, we heard a volley of automatic rifle fire start.  [ Again, doesn’t notify dispatcher?]  The sound of the shots were so very loud and reverberated through the hall like thunder all around and above us.  Above us! [emphasis on floor above]. I could tell that it was coming from the floor above us on 32.  I then told everyone to get back and we retreated a few doors from the end of the hall. [Why retreat when the shots were coming from the floor above].     

I know I hesitated and remember being terrified with fear and I think that I froze right there in the middle of the hall [did his trainee and the 3 security managers freeze also] for how long I can’t say. [ Why the terror if he was on the 31stfloor, the shots were coming from the 32ndfloor.]  I do know that at 2212 hours I got on the radio and told dispatch that I was inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31stfloor and that I could hear the automatic fire coming from the floor above us. [About time].  (I regret not being clearer in my radio traffic and saying 32ndfloor because after hearing myself later I said, “coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us, I stumbled my words).

I once again hesitated as the shots were still being fired from the 32ndfloor[what’s all this hesitation, the shots are upstairs] and I remember saying another prayer in my head for God to keep us safe. [He was safe, he was on the 31stfloor].  I did not know what to do next.[Get your ass up to the threat and do your freaking job.  And he’s an FTO?]       

[While he is hesitating to get to the 32ndfloor, people were being slaughtered and he has four armed personnel with him].  I remember thinking that I had myself, my day 2 trainee and 3 security managers. [All armed]. Between the 5 of us, only I and officer Varsin were wearing body armor and all of us were only armed with a handgun each.  [So, was that the reason for all the hesitation, freezing and not knowing what to do next?].

The shooting stopped and all I could think was to stop the shooter or shooters from becoming mobile and or escaping. [How was he and his team of four armed personnel going to do that when they are on the 31stfloor?]  At 2215 hours the last shots were fired, and we made our way back to the end of the hall to the stairway.  [That’s great, once the gunfire stopped one floor above him?].  Once at stairwell door I had to again stop [security manager] from opening the door as once again I knew it was my responsibility.  [The security manager had more guts than him]. I then made entry into the stairwell and quickly cleared down then up and around the stairs to the 32ndfloor door.  [Now that it was safe, and the gunfire stopped]. 

I then made entry into the stairwell and quickly cleared down then up and around the stairs to the 32ndfloor.  I walked up to the 33rdfloor and I know that my tactics were lacking [more than just his tactics were lacking] because I do not remember taking my eyes off of the 32ndfloor door and the front sight of my handgun.  (I don’t remember looking and clearing where I was walking).  [This guy’s an FTO?  He didn’t even check the 32ndfloor door, if he had he would have found that it was secured and wouldn’t open].  

I walked up to the 33rdfloor looking down I saw that everyone was just standing on the stairs except for me and it did not seem right to me and felt like a tactical mistake and put us at a disadvantage should someone start shooting and or another shooter come from lower levels.  I told everyone to go back down to the 31stfloor of stairwell and to try and be quiet as possible because at some point one of the guys told me that the door to the suspects room was just outside the stairwell door to the left and I knew that the suspect or suspects were just feet from where we were all walking. [This is a disgrace, he never made an attempt during the gunfire or after to respond to and confront the threat, then they stayed in the stairwell after the firing stopped].  After we returned to the 31stfloor I realized that [security mgr.] had followed me all the way up and had not come back down with us so I asked [security mgr.] to radio him and have him come back down to us.  Once we were all back on the 31stfloor I heard Officer Varsin’s camera beep, [that’s the first time he heard that beep?] indicating that it was recording, and I realized that I had forgotten to turn mine on.  I then reached down and turned my BWC on, [convenient] moments later at 2217 hours I got on the radio again and said: “control 3M14 I’m in the stairwell on the 32ndfloor.”  I then heard on the radio that there was another group of officers who were on the 32ndfloor as well but on the opposite end of the hall from where I was, I assumed that they had come up the elevator or another stairwell.     

I could feel my mouth was extremely dry and cotton mouth and I had no spit, I also felt myself starting to get tunnel vision and I can remember concentrating on tactical breathing to calm myself. [Calm himself for what, he didn’t do anything but hide on the 31stfloor while an active shooter was slaughtering people across the street.]  I could hear over the radio that there were multiple other properties, the New York New York I remember in particular because my daughter is a lifeguard there, that we’re having reports of active shooters as well with people sheltered in place and the radio was still very busy with officers updating and calling for medical as well.  I thought that Las Vegas was under a very coordinated attack.  [That he may have been able to stop had he done his job and responded to the gunman’s room one floor above instead of sheltering in place on the 31stfloor during the gunfire.]   

The lights in the stairwell were motion activated and at some time they came on from below us but as we looked we couldn’t hear or see anyone.  An unknown amount of time for me passed and we were once again alerted to movement from below but this time as I looked through the stair railing I could see an officer in a green SWAT uniform wearing a flack helmet and I told my team that it was SWAT.  The officer said, ‘Metro Metro Metro” and I echoed back to him “Metro Metro Metro”.   When he made his way to us I recognized him as K9 Sergeant Bitsko because I have worked the yearly K9 trials for the last several years now.  (I have never been happier to see another man’s face in my life). Sgt. Bitsko had a 3 or 4-man element of other officers with him and he asked us where we came from and asked if we had cleared the 31stfloor.  I don’t know exactly what I told him, but I know that we came from the elevator on 31 and down the hallway but had not cleared the floor room by room when the shooter or shooters had started another volley [while he and his team remained safely on the 31stfloor] and that we came into the stairwell to prevent an escape once the shooting stopped.  Whatever I told him Sgt. Bitsko told us to stay where we were, covering down on the 32ndfloor door while his team cleared 31. We did and at 2255 hours Sgt. Bitsko returned to the 31stfloor door.  He went out along with more officers with him this time. (I was happy to see him again).

I was very relieved that Sarge was now in charge and making the decisions.  Plans were made to breach the door [breached at 2320 hours] and I assisted in taking down the lights on the stairwell to make it dark and give us a tactical advantage.  More officers arrived from the 31stfloor and one of them was carrying a bag of water and Gatorade and was asking if we needed any.  I was once again very happy as my mouth had been extremely dry for what seemed like hours.

——————————————————————————

There are plenty of holes in this story. He fails to mention that they knew the shooter was on the 32nd floor.  Page 6 of the FIT report says that as the active shooter incident was occurring, two LVMPD officers [Varsin and Hendrex] were in the security office.

The officers heard the radio broadcast of gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  Both officers, along with security personnel, exited the security office and responded towards the Las Vegas Village. As they were making their way through the casino, security personnel advised the officers of an active shooter on the 32ndfloorof the hotel.

The footnote in the FIT report states this was confirmed by LVMPD BWC, [body worn camera of Varsin].  The officers then directed security to escort them to that location.   The officers and security personnel entered the Center Core guest elevators and were again advised the shooter was on the 32ndfloor.  The officers made a tactical decision to respond to the 31stfloor and take the stairwell to the 32ndfloor. Hendrex makes no mention of this.

The FIT report states at approximately 2011 hours Officers Varsin and Hendrex arrived at the 31stfloor and began walking up the 100-wing along with armed security officers. The FIT report states Paddock was firing rounds into the venue during this time.  At 2212 hours two armed MB security officers arrived on the 32ndfloor also while Paddock was firing.  Paddock continued firing until 2215 hours.

There are some contradictions in the security officer’s statements and Hendrex’s report, but the fact is they were on the 31st and 32ndfloor during the gunfire.

I am still not convinced that the timeline is correct.  However, we have armed officers both police and security on floors 31 and 32 for at least two minutes while Paddock was still firing into the crowd and no one made any attempt to intervene during this time.

Two minutes is an eternity when people are being killed and wounded, every second counted.

Right after the gunfire stopped LVMPD officers were all over the 32ndfloor and no one made any attempt to enter 32-135.  No one could have been sure that gunfire would not start again, yet with all the police officers on site on 32 they did not make entry until one hour and five minutes after the last shots were fired.  That fact is undisputed.

It was not a barricaded suspect incident as Lombardo stated early on.  It was still an active shooter scenario until he was neutralized.  The police are all trained under the same protocol, once they were on scene they should have made entry immediately into Paddock’s suite. That did not happen on the night of October 1 and the public deserves an answer from Lombardo on this.

SWAT Officer Hancock before he made entry with his ad-hoc team of patrol officers, stated on the radio that they weren’t even sure anybody was still inside the room and that they may have left and gone somewhere else.  That in itself should say a helluva lot about who was giving commands that night.

To add insult to injury Lombardo all out lied on a November 2, 2017 KLAS -TV television interview when he said, “In this case because of what the suspect did, officers made the decision to breach this doorway of the hotel room in case the guy was reloading, maybe he was reloading magazines, we didn’t want to give him the opportunity to keep firing and when they made entry they found out he committed suicide.”

Considering the magnitude of the October 1 massacre, that must be the biggest lie in the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. They were so concerned for the public’s safety according to Lombardo, that they were worried Paddock may have reloaded and opened fire again, yet they waited over an hour to enter his room.

More than several LVMPD officers who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner have said that the mentality of the LVMPD command structure is to call SWAT, call SWAT, call SWAT for everything and that many officers are afraid to do their job. They said, “you put yourself in harm’s way when you have someone shooting hundreds of people, this SWAT thing goes out the door, end of story.”

I agree.

We will always remember the 58 people who died on the Las Vegas Strip in the worst mass shooting in modern American history, October 1, 2017.  It should never have happened.

 

 

 


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.
COMMENT POLICY

HOME / ABOUT / CONTACT / JOIN THE TEAM / TERMS OF SERVICE / PRIVACY POLICY / COMMENT POLICY