Could Las Vegas police have intervened to stop Paddock’s 600 seconds of terror? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Could Las Vegas police have intervened to stop Paddock’s 600 seconds of terror?

LAS VEGAS — The night of Oct. 1, 2017, was not a case where slow methodical searches and movements were necessary by police and hotel security forces to ascertain where the sound of gunfire from an active shooter was originating from.

Armed Mandalay Bay security officers along with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) police officers were fully aware within seconds of the location of the active shooter, Stephen Paddock after he opened fire.

Why a police assault on Paddock’s suite to stop his deadly action could not be initiated remains unclear to this date and has been the subject of much speculation since Oct. 1, 2017.

Police officers sometimes are seen wearing tee shirts with the slogan, “People sleep peacefully at night because we stand ready to take action on their behalf.”

Those are the key words, to take action.

During the worst mass shooting in American history, the police didn’t arrive on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel until after Stephen Paddock stopped firing.

600 seconds, a full ten minutes is an extremely long time, an eternity as one survivor of the massacre stated when a gunman is firing unimpeded from an elevated position into a crowd of helpless victims.

If you think otherwise then count from one to sixty, ten times, you can get some idea.

Granted, the Oct. 1 massacre should never have happened in the first place.

MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel could have taken preventive security measures years ago to prevent Stephen Paddock’s arsenal of death from ever reaching his room. Instead, the corporation dismissed warnings from the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, post-September 2011, that Las Vegas infrastructure was a prime target for possible terrorist attacks, i.e. Mumbai, India type attack and or an active shooter incident.

Paddock knew the security weaknesses in Las Vegas hotels. He patronized for years multiple casino properties. He knew that he would not be stopped from bringing weapons, ammunition and explosive materials onto any Las Vegas property, so he exploited those weaknesses which resulted in the death of 58 people and the injuring of 851 more.

The LVMPD could have had counter-snipers near the concert arena, on the ready, just in case they were needed to suppress a sniper from any number of hotel high-rise towers that surrounded the open-air Route 91 Music Festival.

It was as the 9/11 Commission stated in referring to September 11, 2001, a failure of imagination, incompetence on the part of MGM Resorts International and the command structure of the LVMPD.

Police commanders are paid to think out-of-the-box and to plan for the worst of possible scenarios, that’s what they get paid to do. For some reason that did not happen which led in part, to the October 1 Las Vegas massacre.

To add insult to injury, the 40-member LVMPD SWAT Team, one of the most respected SWAT Teams in the country, which has been allotted millions of taxpayer dollars throughout the years for manpower, training, and equipment, was not available to enter Paddock’s suite.

The Clark County, Nevada board of supervisors, who control the budget of the LVMPD have remained mute on the subject along with Clark County Sheriff, Joe Lombardo who heads the LVMPD.

The local media has also remained mute on this topic.

I have been writing about this for four months. Why isn’t the local media even slightly interested in why the LVMPD SWAT Team couldn’t make it to the door of the worst mass shooter in American history, even after one hour and five minutes after Paddock fired his last shots.

In the interest of transparency, if that word is even in Sheriff Lombardo’s vocabulary, how about a press conference with the members of the SWAT Team so they can tell the public themselves why they didn’t make it to Paddock’s suite.

SWAT Team members live and train for exactly what happened on the night of October 1, it’s extremely bizarre to me why they weren’t there. So, it must weigh heavily on their minds, that they weren’t there to back up their only team member who was left with no choice but to breach Paddock’s suite with an ad-hoc team of patrol officers. There must be a good reason for this.

The SWAT Team as do other police officers on the LVMPD, do not work for Sheriff Joe Lombardo. They work for the citizens of Clark County and the public has the right to hear from them, to find out what happened that night.

What makes this all the more disgraceful is that the public was told by Lombardo and his Undersheriff, Kevin McMahill that the officers who were in the 32nd-floor stairwell couldn’t take any action until the arrival of the full SWAT Team. We now know that the full SWAT Team never showed up to breach Paddock’s suite.

That was the cause of the delay I contend, why the room was breached an hour and ten minutes after the last shots were fired. I can be totally wrong on that assumption, so if there is some other reason that we do not know about, then Lombardo needs to address it now. He has had over four months to make up a good excuse, so let’s hear it.

LVMPD changes timeline three times

The first timeline we were told by Sheriff Joe Lombardo and his Undersheriff, Kevin McMahill was that Paddock was interrupted about 6 minutes into his firing by Mandalay Bay Hotel Security Officer, Jesus Campos when Paddock fired down the hallway at Campos.

That timeline changed days later, when the LVMPD recanted the first timeline and stated that Campos had now arrived on the 32nd floor at 9:59 p.m., a full six minutes before Paddock opened fire on the crowd.

Then days later, the LVMPD recanted their second timeline when Lombardo told the press that Paddock fired on Campos, near 10:05 p.m. when the mass shooting started.

Until all evidence is made public on why the police timelines kept changing and how the police arrived at the third and final timeline, I remain skeptical on those timelines to this date.

MGM Resorts International releases statement

The owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel disagreed with the LVMPD’s second timeline.

On Octo 12, 2017 MGM Resorts International released the following statement:

We know that shots were being fired at the festival lot at the same time as, or within 40 seconds after, the time Jesus Campos first reported that shots were fired over the radio. Metro officers were together with armed Mandalay Bay security officers in the building when Campos first reported that shots were fired over the radio. These Metro officers and armed Mandalay Bay security officers immediately responded to the 32nd floor.

Then, Sheriff Lombardo told the press that he agreed with MGM’s statement.

Then later, MGM Resorts Int’l released an audio recording of Jesus Campos calling in to the security dispatcher, advising them that shots were being fired from room 32-135.

Just based on that alone, then why didn’t that four-man team consisting of two armed Mandalay Bay Hotel security officers and two LVMPD police officers make it to Paddock’s suite to take whatever action they deemed necessary to stop him from firing.

If the LVMPD officers were aware of the location where the shots were originating from almost immediately after Paddock opened fire, then why was the LVMPD dispatcher not aware of that as was evident by the police radio traffic that night.

Regardless, that armed team of security supervisors and police officers should have, without any hesitation whatsoever, immediately converged on room 32-135, and most likely that would have been while Paddock was still firing. That’s what you do when you are responsible for the safety of hotel guests as is the case with the security force and the public at large as the police are.

You go to the location of the threat and try to stop it. In this instance, the police were already aware that people were being shot at the concert venue and now they had direct information, almost immediately, where the active shooter was firing from.

When I was running the security and surveillance operations at the Riviera Hotel, I cannot remember one instance where my armed security supervisors and other armed personnel did not respond post-haste to any disturbance, regardless of what the call was, prior to police arriving. The urgency was even greater when it was a security officer who was in trouble. Our policy was we responded immediately while the security dispatcher was on the phone notifying the LVMPD 911 Communications Center of what was occurring and that we needed back-up.

What does the LVMPD 81-page preliminary report indicate

Page 6 and 7:

Campos heard what he described as automatic gunfire coming from the area of room 32-135 and realized he had been shot in the left calf.

He took cover in the alcove of rooms 32-122 and 32-124 and utilized both his cellular phone and radio to notify his dispatch he was shot.

As the active shooter incident was occurring, two LVMPD officers were in the security office of the Mandalay Bay handling a call for service reference two females who were in custody for trespassing.

The officers heard the radio broadcast of gunfire at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

As they were making their way through the casino, security personnel advised the officers of an active shooter on the 32nd floor of the hotel. (Information obtained from LVMPD body-worn cameras.)

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 32nd floor. The officers made a tactical decision to respond to the 31st floor and take the stairwell to the 32nd floor.

Page 13:

Approximately 2207 hours. LVMPD Officers Varsin and Hendrix left the Mandalay Bay Security Office with two armed Mandalay Bay Security Officers.

Page 14:

About 2211 hours. LVMPD Officers Varsin and Hendrix arrived at the center Core area of the 31st floor and began walking up the 100-wing along with armed security officers from Mandalay Bay.

Two armed Mandalay Bay security officers exited the guest elevator on the 32nd floor and went to the Center Core. [Who they were and what they did is not mentioned in the preliminary police report.]

Approximately 2216 hours. LVMPD Officers Varsin and Hendrix along with Mandalay Bay security officers made entry into the stairwell on the 31st floor. [By this time Paddock had stopped shooting.]

Conclusion

Paddock opened fire at 10:05 p.m. His last shots were fired at 10:15 p.m.

According to the statement issued by MGM Resorts International, LVMPD officers were with two of their armed security personnel when Jesus Campos called in that he was being fired upon and that the gunshots were originating from room 32-135.

Was it possible that they should have been able to respond to Campos’ location on the 32nd floor while Paddock was still firing?

You had a security officer in distress, calling in shots fired. Back-up, in this instance, was his armed security supervisors and two LVMPD officers, who should for all practical purposes have immediately responded to his location.

Instead, according to the police preliminary report, they made a tactical decision to go to the 31st floor first. I have never heard of not responding immediately to the exact location where an officer needs assistance specifically when he had called in shots fired.

The MGM statement is not factually correct because the officers did not respond to the 32nd floor as MGM says in their statement. The police and security officers decided to go to the 31st floor first. Remember, the stairwell door to the 32nd floor in the 100-wing was screwed shut with an “L’ bracket to prevent entry onto the 32nd floor, albeit unknown to the officers at that time.

The LVMPD states in the preliminary report that they are basing the times of the two police officers on their body-worn cameras. Why the times are approximate in that report is unknown as the BWC footage should be time-stamped down to seconds. Why is that important? Because every second that was going by, bodies and injuries were mounting.

The timeline needs to be solidified.

Campos called in at the same time as or within 40 seconds of Paddock opening fire (according to MGM) that gunshots were originating from room 32-135. We all heard the audio recording.

What we have never heard and is not mentioned in the LVMPD preliminary report is what the rest of the security communications were with Jesus Campos while he was waiting for back-up.

It’s pretty much industry standard that when a security officer calls in a life-threatening situation, that the dispatcher is going to clear the channel so that the security officer can communicate unhindered with other security personnel who are responding to his location and or to give updated information.

What I cannot figure out from the available information is why the police officers and the armed security supervisors didn’t respond directly to Campos’ location on the 32nd floor.

They knew he was unarmed, he was a sitting duck. Campos already called in the exact location of the gunfire, room 32-135. They all knew that the gunman was still contained in that room and not in the hallway, yet they still decided to take a detour to the 31st floor. I don’t get it.

Page 14 of the police preliminary report under the heading, approximately 2212 hours, states that a Mandalay Bay security officer who was with LVMPD Officers Varsin and Hendrix advised over his radio, “We can hear rapid-fire above us. We are on the 31st floor. We can hear it above us.” [On the LVMPD radio traffic recording from that night we hear, “Control 3Mary14, I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor, I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”]

The time on that is 10:12 p.m., Paddock continued firing for three more minutes. Had they been on the 32nd floor and not on the 31st floor could they have intervened in some manner?

Why were they not concerned what would have happened if Paddock had emerged from the room? Jesus Campos and Maintenance Engineer, Steven Schuck, could have been killed.

I want to hear the entire Mandalay Bay security communications from the time Campos called in shots fired until the police arrived on the 32nd floor which was after Paddock stopped firing.

Campos must have been in communication with his supervisors. MGM Resorts Int’l has possession of those recordings. They only released a short blurb of Campos calling in the shots fired.

The entire scenario makes no sense to me, why they didn’t immediately respond directly to the 32nd floor where an unarmed security officer was in peril.

It would be interesting to determine how long it would take from the time the LVMPD officers who were with the armed security supervisors were first notified of Campos calling in the shots fired, to the time it would have taken to arrive directly on the 32nd floor.

Is it possible that they could have arrived on the 32nd floor while Paddock was still firing and if that is the case could they have been able to intervene to stop his gunfire?

Again, every second counted that night.

We most likely will not know the answer to any of these questions until all evidence is released and all parties involved are deposed during civil litigation down the road.

There is plenty here that we do not know. We still have not seen any of the evidence that backs up the preliminary police report.

We might have the opportunity to review some of that material because this past week a Clark County District Court judge ordered the LVMPD to release all video and other evidence that would not compromise any ongoing investigation.

MGM Resorts International erasing the number 32 at the Mandalay Bay

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this week that the Mandalay Bay is changing the floor numbers 31 thru 34 to 56 thru 59. Erasing the number 32 might be like washing their hands of the entire massacre and along with that the memory of the night of October 1. There are also rumors that they might even change the name of the hotel.

What can never be erased is the fact that 58 people are dead and 851 injured and wounded because MGM Resorts Int’l failed to implement proper security measures that could have prevented the massacre.

It just goes along with MGM Resorts International’s callous decision to allow Jesus Campos and Stephen Schuck to appear on a television show, which was nothing short of a publicity stunt, to be “interviewed” by comedian, Ellen DeGeneres.

In the words of the LVMPD press information office, I guess we can take it for what it’s worth, as they told the Baltimore Post-Examiner two weeks ago referring to the 81-page preliminary police report.

And let us not forget those words of wisdom from the highest law enforcement officer in Clark County, Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who said speaking of Stephen Paddock, it’s important for us to forget that and move on.

I seriously doubt that the families of those 58 lost souls who are no longer with us will ever forget what happened, as well as those who survived the worse mass shooting in American history that occurred on the Las Vegas Strip, October 1, 2017.

A final note here. Clark County Coroner, John Fudenberg, has still not released the autopsy report for Stephen Paddock as he was ordered to do so by a judge a week ago this past Tuesday. That is very disturbing. I can only hope that when the autopsy report is released, it is going to be scrutinized by an independent forensic pathologist.


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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