Las Vegas police officer says proper equipment could have saved lives night of October 1 massacre - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Las Vegas police officer says proper equipment could have saved lives night of October 1 massacre

LAS VEGAS — Smoke grenades could have saved some lives inside the Route 91 Music Festival as gunman Stephen Paddock’s hail of bullets rained down on the concert venue attendees, a police officer said in his report about the October 1, 2017 mass shooting.

The officer also criticized the department’s lack of department-owned armored vehicles.

Another officer was also critical of police radio communications during the Massacre.

On October 8, 2017, the Baltimore Post-Examiner was the first to report that the LVMPD borrowed armored vehicles from a private company the night of the Las Vegas Massacre.

In that article the Baltimore Post-Examiner reported that on the night of October 1, 2017, a dispatcher at the LVMPD Communications Center stated, “Units be advised there is going to be three armored cars enroute to South Central Area Command followed by a silver Dodge Ram, okay per SWAT.”

Several minutes later, 3Ocean 55, broadcasted on the radio, “We have three armored cars that are at Russell and Las Vegas Boulevard, they’re not affiliated with law enforcement, but the sergeant called them from Battlefield Vegas and they’re waiting for orders.”

The police dispatcher then responded, “They’re going to be going to South Central Are Command we’ve been advised.”

As reported in the story, Battlefield Vegas provides customers with the opportunity to fire fully automatic weapons on their premises. The company also owns a fleet of armored military vehicles. Battlefield Vegas and the LVMPD refused to comment when contacted by the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

The South Central Area Command (SCAC) which is located a half mile south of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard, was the police command post and staging area on October 1.

As reported in a May 24 Baltimore Post-Examiner story, SWAT personnel were ordered by the SWAT commander to report to the SCAC and not to respond directly to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.  That decision has been heavily criticized by several law enforcement sources who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner who stated that the immediate threat that night was at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and not at the SCAC.

Sgt. S. Romprey stated in his report that on the night of October 1 he had received a telephone call from Officer Darren Watson, who said that Battlefield Vegas could have armored vehicles respond to help if needed.  Romprey stated that while he was listening to more reports of possible assailants at other properties, he authorized Watson to have Battlefield Vegas send the armored personnel carriers to the SCAC.

In an October 22 Baltimore Post-Examiner story, ‘Three weeks after the Las Vegas massacre and what do we know?  I wrote, “Does not the LVMPD have adequate armored vehicles to protect their police officers and the public and if not, Why?  Is it to protect the image of the city, so it doesn’t appear the police are militarized, after all that wouldn’t be politically correct?   I guess the hell with officer safety. Again, adding insult to injury they broadcasted over the police radio that night for all the world to hear that the LVMPD is short on armored vehicles.” 

The story continued,“Why is it that not all LVMPD police officers have AR-15 platform type rifles in their vehicles?  Some do if they are assigned to special units.  Others don’t, and I am told that they must purchase those rifles out of their own pocket.  What’s going on here Lombardo?  Are you more concerned with running a politically correct police department or one that should have available all the equipment needed?  Purchase additional armored vehicles and store them at each area command in the county so they would be available for a rapid response, to hell with being politically correct.  Initiate Hercules teams as they did in New York City and have them patrolling the Strip every day.  If the police need armored vehicles, give it to them.  If police officers need rifles and other gear, give it to them.  A rich tourist city like Las Vegas and if the police officers don’t have the equipment they need to keep themselves and the public safe, then that is a freaking disgrace.”

LVMPD Officer P. Zaragoza lists ‘Future Considerations’ in his officer’s report

Patrol officers should be allowed to have smoke grenades to create concealment in these types of situations.  Cover did not exist in many parts of the Route 91 festival, but smoke grenades deployed between the shooter and the venue could have created some concealment for the evacuating crowd, obstructing the shooter’s view.  This tool could have saved some lives.

The department should have armored car vehicles.  They could have been used to safely insert strike teams while under the type of fire we were experiencing, or for downed officer/citizen rescues/transports.

We need to be concerned more about our patrol officer’s operational readiness than officers looking too aggressive in appearance.  Officers should be allowed to have rifle plates and rifles pre-deployed, especially where posted and exposed to attacks from high ground or out in the open.  We shouldn’t have to run way out to our vehicles to gear up and get to our rifles.  Right now, this is not only an officer safety issue in this age of terrorism, but it creates a public safety issue as it can affect our response time if we have to take time to gear up in order to become an effective tool with a fighting chance.  When officers need their patrol rifle, we need them now.  To my knowledge, The Airport already open carries rifles on duty when certain events are in town, for which officers are not required to write a Blue Team [Policy that officer’s need to justify why they are removing their rifles from their vehicle].  I would ask that this also extends to patrol officers working in similar venues on the Strip, during the same time.  We should also be allowed to carry extra magazines in however efficient manner each individual officer decides.

[What Officer Zaragoza stated here is so true. Remember, the Baltimore Post-Examiner raised the issue in multiple stories why it was that Paddock was able to fire for ten minutes without any police officer countering his fire.  It was evident from not only the police radio traffic that night but from officer’s reports that have since been released that multiple officers saw the location of Paddock’s gunfire.]

Overwatch (2 man) should be provided in either or both an overt or covert capacity.  Multiple Overwatch positions on surrounding high ground should be utilized, having different angles over the large crowd (e.g. New Year’s Eve) Officers in Overwatch position should have binoculars with heavy magnification, body armor and optics such as night vision, thermal vision (FLIR) and Infra-Red illuminators.  Assailants can buy all of this type of equipment online.  So why don’t we have it?  We should be the ones with the tactical advantage, not them.

Designated marksmen should be deployed with Overwatch at multiple locations, armed with very accurate, higher caliber bolt guns (e.g. .338Lapua), with greater effective range for threats at a distance.  These designated marksmen should also have suppressors as to not give away their positions so easily to assailants.  In large events, multiple designated marksmen should be deployed, in different positions and different angles on the venue.

QRF’s [Quick Reaction Force] should be in position and pre-deployed if not at every Strip property, at every other Strip property. Having strike teams in place up and down the Strip, every day, or at least during large venues that attract massive crowds, would be a huge asset in neutralizing such threats quickly. We should have teams posted as often as possible.  Not just two Safe Strip officers in front of each property during the summer months.  [Authors note: Model after the NYPD’s Hercules teams.]

We see the vulnerability on the Strip on New Year’s Eve.  We have been lucky so far.  What countermeasures do we have to thwart multiple active shooters?  How about swarm drone attacks that are weaponized chemically/biologically?  What countermeasures do we have for those scenarios?  We could at least have rifles pre-deployed at multiple strategic locations up/down the Strip.  We as a department need to be more proactive and pre-emptive, instead of reactive, in this day and age.  This takes courage to push back on political correctness.  The “C” in I.C.A.R.E. [LVMPD’s motto] is supposed to stand for courage.

After the 5 Dallas Officers were killed by the suspect with the assault rifle, a member of Command Staff came to NWAC [Northwest Area Command] and spoke to officers.  He mentioned that the Department was looking into providing Flak vets for patrol officers.  I raised my hand and said that many officers already have rifle plates/tac-vests and asked if we could deploy them when on fixed posts and exposed for long periods of time. I was told that it was a good idea and that it would be brought up.  I still haven’t heard any more about this topic, but I would ask the Department again to reconsider it, especially if we are going to be required to paint targets on ourselves with bright green, reflective traffic vests.  This would also show that the Department truly does value its employees and those we serve.

The Baltimore Post-Examiner has said consistently in several stories that incompetence led to the October 1 Las Vegas massacre, both on MGM Resorts International’s and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s part.

Officer Zaragoza is right on with his recommendations.  I never met him and know nothing about him, however, I would hope that he moves up the ladder to a command position during his career.

It’s very sad that we did not have someone of his caliber, who obviously thinks outside the box, involved in the planning stages for the Route 91 Music Festival.

That festival was an open-air concert venue that the LVMPD took no advanced precautions to defend against, a sniper attack from an elevated position.  As I said, Paddock fired unimpeded for ten minutes.

What is so bad about that, is the fact that the LVMPD and FBI had previously trained for just such an attack years before as reported by the Baltimore Post-Examiner in our May 4 story, ‘FBI’s elite hostage rescue team and the Las Vegas Police trained for similar mass-shooting scenario years before’.

From LVMPD Sgt. M. Ruiz’ officer’s report

Issues arising from our assignment included lack of available communication with other agencies to traffic control (both pedestrian and vehicle).  As a supervisor on scene, it was immediately evident that manpower was limited and the availability to complete closure of the Las Vegas Strip was very difficult if not impossible.  I would, however, suggest using blockades placed by hotel security as well assistance in freeway and strip vehicular traffic with Nevada Highway Patrol. Should an active shooter be mobile on the Strip it would have been nearly impossible to engage due to the possibility of civilian casualties.  In response to communication issues, it is my belief the event should have been transferred to a mutual aid channel, where every assisting agency would have access.

The lives of 22,000 Route 91 Music Festival attendees changed forever on October 1, 2017, during the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

It didn’t have to be that way. Did it Sheriff Joe Lombardo?


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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