Las Vegas Police clarify video of strike team inside Tropicana Hotel - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas Police clarify video of strike team inside Tropicana Hotel

A YouTube video of police inside the Las Vegas Tropicana Hotel allegedly on the night of Oct. 1 massacre has been circulating on social media for several months.

The video is not from hotel surveillance cameras.

Comments posted on social media suggest on what was occurring ran the gamut from a Saudi Arabian prince being escorted out of the Tropicana Hotel to the insanely bizarre. Nothing worthy of mentioning.

I couldn’t verify who was recording the video or the date and time the video was recorded, but it was no doubt taken inside the Las Vegas Tropicana Hotel.

The video was posted on YouTube on Oct. 2 with the heading, ‘SWAT Team enters Tropicana after Las Vegas shooting.’

The video shows a group of armed police officers, wearing various uniforms of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, rapidly moving through the casino area as they are commanding patrons to get their hands up while one member of the group points an assault rifle at the casino patrons as they walk through.

Being commanded to get your hands up while having an assault rifle pointed at you, is a scene that you would not normally encounter inside a Las Vegas casino and raises some questions about proper police protocol involving pointing weapons at civilians.

The LVMPD has had two reported accidental discharges of weapons by their officers recently.

On the night of the Oct. 1 entry into alleged gunman Stephen Paddock’s suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Clark County Sheriff, Joe Lombardo told the press that one officer did have an accidental discharge inside Paddock’s room but did not provide any further details.

The Las Vegas Review Journal reported  a man suffered minor injuries when an LVMPD officers assault rifle discharged on the Las Vegas Strip in the early morning hours of Jan. 1.

When the Baltimore Post-Examiner contacted the Tropicana Hotel on Wednesday and provided them a copy of the video, spokesperson Sara Ryan later said they do not comment on police matters.

LVMPD Police Officer Jay Rivera of the Press Information Office spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner on Wednesday about the video after the BPE also provided the LVMPD with a copy. I informed him I was preparing for a story about the video.

I asked Rivera why the officers were commanding people to put their hands up and it is normal police protocol to aim weapons at civilians, as the officer in the yellow shirt is doing. I also asked Rivera who the two males in civilian attire are as the one with the shorts on has a portable radio in his hand.

Rivera said that there are no members of the LVMPD SWAT Team in the video.

He said he couldn’t answer my questions factually, he could only speculate that the incident happened during the “1 October shooting.” The video is not time/date stamped.

Rivera said, “At that time we had multiple reports of multiple shooters at multiple locations and I know that the Tropicana was one of those locations. They formed up as an active shooter formation, this is not a SWAT Team. These are different officers, same agency but different positions. The one in yellow is a bike officer, the ones in green, they could be, we have many of our units that wear green. The one in tan appears to be a patrol officer. The two people in the back, that is something you typically want to do, get somebody, key personnel to come along with you, especially on a property that is going to have multiple floors and different locations so that they can direct you. They have access keys that allow you to go into different rooms, that’s why they are in the back.”

I asked Officer Rivera is it proper protocol like the bike officer is doing to point a weapon at people and tell them to get their hands up and why would they be telling people to get their hands up, what’s the purpose of that?

Rivera said, “Obviously, that’s not typical protocol. 1 October was a very unusual call for us. It’s been one of the biggest investigations the agency has ever done. It’s not to say we are a small agency, that’s the scale of the incident. We have over 5,000 employees, over 3,000 police officers, so this is major, this is a very big case. We had reports that there were multiple shooters at multiple locations and so we’re looking strictly for an active shooter. Obviously when you tell people to get their hands up, I’m not going to say that this is typically protocol, cause what you are looking for when you come in to something like that is someone who is actively engaging people, so by their actions they’re going to sort of identify themselves. This is a way if you tell people to get your hands up, and people get their hands up you are going to see these are cooperating people, this is not likely to be the subject we are looking for. It’s a safety step that we can take to ensure that if your hands are up you are not armed. We had an unusual response to a very unusual call.”

Officer Rivera went on to say, “Actually it’s not even a team, this is something our department trains on alot and so this is one of the things that we have already done, an after action and we have some good things we did, and we had some bad things that we identified. One of the good things was, we had units or officers from different sections of the department that quickly assembled together as a team, an active shooter team and worked very, very well. This is not like a team; these guys don’t train together. Like I said the guy in yellow he’s a bike uniform officer, so he probably doesn’t deal with the patrol officer, that’s in the back on the side in the tan uniform and the tan uniform probably doesn’t work with the ones in the green. So, these different elements from throughout the department came together to form an element to respond to an active shooter incident.”

Emails I was receiving from people were saying that the guy with the white shorts was a Saudi Arabian Prince who was under police escort. It was obviously not a protection detail. I asked Rivera to comment on that.

Rivera said, “It’s definitely not that. We would be taking him out instead of taking him in. A Saudi prince would have more than one person on a security detail. We get all kinds of dignitaries here, we get movie stars who have more people in their detail than this, so a Saudi prince I can assure you would have more than one person as a security detail. It’s speculating on my part because I don’t know any of these guys. It would be normal to have key personnel from the property accompany you because they have access, they have knowledge of the property. You know somebody gets on the radio, I got a guy on the 32nd floor, get me to the elevator right now, lets go, go, go, take me to the elevator. I wouldn’t know every single property, how to take elevators, how to go to different locations. Somebody shouts out we’re near the so and so restaurant, I wouldn’t know the layout of every single casino. That’s where key personnel would be instrumental in helping an element getting to a place of emergency really quickly.”    

I spent 16 years in law enforcement. Twenty years in the hotel casino industry in Las Vegas. What is shown in the video is something you would hope you would never have to see inside a Las Vegas hotel. However, the night of October 1, 2017 Las Vegas experienced a horrible crime, something the likes of which not only Las Vegas, but the country has never experienced. To date, the worst mass shooting in American history.

LVMPD radio traffic confirms that the police were responding to active shooter calls at multiple properties the night of October 1. The Tropicana Hotel was just one of many.

On October 16, 2017 the Baltimore Post-Examiner published ‘Las Vegas Police shined as medics and lifesavers during massacre.’ I wrote in that article, that as bad as it was that night, it could have been much worse had it not been for the professionalism exhibited by the LVMPD, fire and medical personnel. They say training and experience pays off and that’s true. However, there is something far more profound; Common sense and the ability to react without hesitation and orders amidst chaos, confusion and carnage. That was evident that deadly night.

Entering a building for a report of an active shooter on the premises is an extremely dangerous situation compounded by the fact that you have large numbers of people inside and any one of them could be the suspect.

Many questions remain to be answered concerning the October 1, 2017 Las Vegas massacre and the subsequent police investigation.

Remember the 58 people who were murdered and the over 500 wounded and or injured on October 1, 2017.


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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