Lombardo defends Hendrex 'cowardly' actions in radio interview - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Lombardo defends Hendrex ‘cowardly’ actions in radio interview

LAS VEGAS — Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department once again defended Officer Cordell Hendrex who chose not to enter Stephen Paddock’s room while he opened fire and killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more.

Lombardo was interviewed by Alan Stock of Las Vegas radio station KXNT 840 AM on July 11.

As it turned out it was another softball interview by another Vegas media outlet, and as usual, Lombardo was in true form sounding incompetent as a leader and ignorant of some of the facts.

Lombardo tried to do some damage control by making excuses for and defending Hendrex, an admitted coward by his own words, who failed to take action to save lives on the night of October 1.

The following is a transcript of that interview, in part:

Stock: Congratulations on the election, it’s not a run off so you have it in the bag.

Lombardo: I don’t have to go to the general, which is a benefit and the people spoke, unanimously voted me back in the office and I absolutely appreciate that, and I thank each of, every one of them.

Stock: I think people are very relatively speaking, happy with how things have gone since the October 1 and appreciate what you did.  There are some people I know are upset that not every bit of the story was told.  One of the issues that have come out since all of this has occurred has been this video showing a member of Metro, terrified and not willing, he was on a floor below I believe, and the way they put it in the paper, he was terrified with fear.  That’s the quote that they use, here on this.  Was this one of the reasons that you didn’t want to release everything right away because there are some officers that hesitated?

Lombardo: No, absolutely not, everything and absolutely everything would have been released in due time.  Our time schedule was pressed by the court and there was a lot of reasons behind that on both sides of the fence, but no, that has nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing to do with it.

Stock: I’m just going to ask you straight out this question.  We know about this one officer, were there other officers who also froze in that situation?

Lombardo: Not that I’m aware of, and I don’t know if I would describe him as freezing. I think freezing would have meant that he stayed down on the basement of the casino.  He went with his partner along with security to investigate what the situation was, and he was confronted with an overwhelming level of gunfire and you know what, it’s just like the fog of war where you have no idea of how you would react until a situation.  Talk about it until the cows come home until you are put in that situation, you don’t know how you react and everybody’s’ actions associated with 1 October will be evaluated.

Stock: By the way, I don’t disagree with you.  Everybody can say what they want to and show all the bravado you want on a show, easily I can shoot the guy and say anything you want to say when you’re confronted with that and there’s automatic fire going on so when you’re confronted with something like that it’s different than being hypothetical in a nice setting where you’re having a nice cocktail and relaxing, so I don’t necessarily disagree with that for people who are comparing it to the officer who did not go into the building and confront the shooter at Parkland in Florida at the high school.  They were saying this guy was of a similar type of character.

Lombardo: Yeah, people can form his own opinion on anything.  Monday morning quarterbacking and all the things that go along with it, but you have to keep in mind what are the unknowns, what were the unknowns in the officer’s mind at the time of the incident. We have the luxury of knowing what the unknowns were, way after the fact but during this time you know you hear automatic gunfire, you don’t know how many assailants there are, you don’t know exactly where the assailant is located.  Some things that the public is not privy to, that I’m comfortable in mentioning.  You have to recall that the doorway at the 32ndfloor was barricaded, and it required us to wait for individuals to breach the door with the tools and other things that were unknown is but is public knowledge which to put two and two together is, there was another team up on the 32ndfloor at that time.  Remember, the officers encountered the security guard there, Mr. Campos and so everything will be evaluated, and we have to ensure that the officer is able to perform into the future.

Stock: Is there more that is going to be coming out, more videos coming out?

Lombardo: Yeah, we’re doing it on a regular basis and I believe today is the release that’s probably been released already, the next batch of videos, 911 calls and documents.

Stock: Is there anything that is of noteworthy that you can speak about?

Lombardo: I’m not familiar with anything of noteworthy, uh, everything is noteworthy, but I guess a better word would be controversial.  And I haven’t been briefed on anything controversial.

Stock: You’ve seen probably all the videos, I’m sure.

Lombardo: No, I haven’t.  I have not seen all the videos.  That’s another irony behind it.  It takes a long time for people to continue to work in the business to 24/7 of what we do as a police agency and to evaluate everything else and I don’t have the ability to know everything that is going on all the time, nor is it my job to do that and if I did I wouldn’t sleep.  But I’m not privy to every video.  I haven’t had the opportunity to go through 21,000 hours of video.

Stock:I’ll ask you this then.  Is there anything else of a controversial nature that you are aware of that will be coming out, today or in the future?

Lombardo: No, I haven’t been made aware of anything.  I’m sure there, well there is, I’m aware of a video where one of my officers was being unprofessional.  He wasn’t neglecting his duties, but he was being unprofessional and that will be coming forward.  We’ll wait for the video to come out.

Stock: I’m trying to get an idea, unprofessional?

Lombardo: Interaction with the public that’s all.

Stock: Let me take one quick call from Bob and then I will take a break and come on back, so I’ve got a lot to talk to him about.  Bob, you’re on KXNT, interview with the sheriff, go right ahead.

Bob: Thank you so much.  Sheriff Lombardo you know, I really want to congratulate you on your re-election.  My name is actually Eddie and I’m the one that filed a criminal complaint against you in Internal Affairs.  And I’m really glad you got re-elected because I have to see you go to jail in that uniform of yours.

Stock: Wow, a very dishonest, disingenuous call.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself, but it’s okay.  You are, I’m sure you’re looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, now there’s a piece of crap.  I’m sure that’s what you say to yourself, so have a good night.  [Automated voice says, message deleted].  That was easy to do.  If you want to call and be honest about something, I mean I’m upfront with you, the sheriff’s being up front, and again you don’t like the sheriff, you can call in and say up front whatever.  But this guy lied right off the bat.  So, there you go.  But again, I understand he looks at his mirror in the morning and he says, oh my God, what a piece of crap.

Stock: There are some reports of undocumented workers that witnessed the 1 October shooting and supposedly they are asking you to assist them to apply for survivor visas and what can you tell us about that?

Lombardo: Well my responsibility on visas is the initial stage of achieving a visa, so in other words, I uh, they present their situation to my office and my office determines whether their situation is legitimate, in other words, are they a victim of a crime or a witness to a crime and with their information would it be a benefit to solving a crime or assisting them, if they’re a victim.  We determine the validity of that and one we are presented with that information, all I do, my office signs off on the validity of it, then it’s presented to the government for a decision, whether they’re issued a visa.

Stock: They can’t be a witness because the perpetrator [Paddock] is long gone so that’s not an issue.

Lombardo: Well, you’re correct in that but until the investigation is completed we don’t know that okay, so where in the throes of that investigation.  Hopefully, we’ll have a finality here at the end of the month.  [What is Lombardo saying here.  The report is coming out at the end of the month, but the investigation is still ongoing. Bizarre]. But if they are a victim of the crime they are of equal I guess, I’m losing the adjective I’m looking for, but they are of equal concern under the eyes of the law as far as the visa.

Stock: Quickly, you just said something, by the end of the month.  So, what you expected to release by 1 October which was the final report, are you saying that that final report will be out by the end of July?

Lombardo: Yeah, now our end of it, LVMPD, Metro end of it I anticipate we should have that report finalized in close proximately of the end of the month. But there’s a behavioral analysis portion that the FBI is tasked with and they don’t anticipate to be complete with that until the end of this year, anywhere between the 1 October anniversary and the calendar year.

My commentary on the interview

Lombardo, you were not unanimously voted back in by the people.  That word denotes that you had the consent of all the voters, which you did not.

Before I go any further let us revisit the Officer’s Report of LVMPD Field Training Officer Cordell Hendrex and not just refer to a few phrases from a newspaper article that Stocks did during the interview.

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 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 they were taking rounds and were pinned down and I could hear gunfire in the background of the radio transmission; Once we were near the end of the hall we heard a volley of automatic rifle start. The sounds of the shots were so very loud and reverberated through the hall like thunder all around and above us.  Above us!  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 for how long I can’t say. I know I hesitated and remember being terrified with fear and I think I froze right there in the middle of the hall for how long I can’t say.  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 gunfire coming from the floor above us; I once again hesitated as the shots were still being fired from the 32ndfloor and I remember saying another prayer in my head for God to keep us safe.  I did not know what to do next; At 2215 hours the last shots were fired, and we made our way back to the end of the hall to the stairwell.”

Lombardo, you said that you wouldn’t describe Hendrex as freezing. You don’t have to, he did that himself in his report.  You said he responded with his partner and security to investigate.  Big deal, they didn’t do anything to save lives once they got there.  That is no different than a firefighter responding to a building fire knowing people are inside, and then calling it in and remaining outside while people are dying because they do not know the danger they would face if they went inside.

Fact is Lombardo, it is you who are Monday morning quarterbacking as you say.

Hendrex was fully aware by his own admission that people were being killed and wounded by an active shooter that was inside the Mandalay Bay and that his fellow officers were being pinned down by gunfire before he exited the 31stfloor.

To make matters even worse we learned from the body worn camera of his partner that they all heard over the police radio while they were cowering on the 31stfloor that people were being killed, wounded and other officers were saying that they had to get to the shooter. Knowing all this Hendrex and his armed contingent of four others did absolutely nothing.  They failed to take any action to reach the shooter to stop, disrupt or distract his gunfire.  They remained in total safety on the 31stfloor while other LVMPD officers with guts were running through the gunfire to get into the Mandalay Bay to get to the shooter.

As the head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department your remarks are an embarrassment, how can you even try to justify Hendrex’s failure to attempt to save lives and defend someone who said he was too scared to act?

It’s also a kick in the face to your own heroic officers who at least made the attempt to get through the gunfire to reach the shooter, albeit too late, and to the families of the 58 who were killed and those that survived.

You can defend Hendrex until the cows’ home Lombardo all you want.  I now know why you didn’t receive the support that you needed to be endorsed by the rank and file police union members during your re-election campaign.

You said that Hendrex didn’t know where the assailant was located.  Are you freaking serious?  Hendrex knew the assailant was on the 32ndfloor and if you listened to the BWC footage audio, the Mandalay Bay security manager tells him that the gunfire was coming from 32-135.

Being that you talked about assailants and that Hendrex didn’t know what to expect, what LVMPD policy delineates that during an active shooter incident that the number of assailants have to be known before an officer responds to the threat to save lives?

More breaking news Lombardo.  The team that you referred to that was on the 32nd floor, they didn’t get up there and make contact with Jesus Campos until AFTER the gunfire stopped.  The only armed personnel that were up on the 32nd floor with Campos while the gunfire was still going on, were Mandalay Bay armed bike patrol officers.  Have you even read any of the reports before you gave this interview?

If we are missing something here Lombardo and you had police officers up on the 32nd floor while the gunfire was still ongoing, then how come they failed to take any action to stop Stephen Paddock?

It’s has been one lie after another with you for nine months Lombardo.

Remember how you said that the full SWAT Team breached the suite.  Remember when you said that they had to enter the room because you didn’t want Paddock to open fire again and or reload.  So much concern for the public safety that somebody gave the order not to breach the room until over an hour after the last shots were fired.  And when they finally did it was with an ad-hoc SWAT team and they weren’t even sure anybody was still in the room.

I am not questioning police officer’s actions that night, except for Hendrex.  They were just following orders.  I am questioning inept leadership within the LVMPD.

Hendrex was the closest police officer to Paddock’s suite.  Five armed trained personnel that could have made a difference that night, but nobody took any action to even try.

Lombardo, why did the SWAT commander give the order for the SWAT team members to stage at the South Central Area Command, which is half a mile from where the threat was, the Mandalay Bay Hotel?

I praise SWAT Officer Levi Hancock who I heard said screw it and responded directly to the Mandalay Bay where the threat was. Good for him.  If I’m leaving any other SWAT officers out that also directly responded to where the threat was, my apologies.  I wonder if Hancock had not responded directly to the hotel and formed an ad-hoc team, would Paddock’s suite have been breached much later.

Lombardo, how’s that internal investigation going on the police officers who compromised the criminal investigation of the worst mass shooting in modern American history by leaking crime scene photographs to the press? Haven’t heard anything on that for nine months.

I can keep going on and on with this.

So now we hear you say during the second week of this month, that the investigation is still ongoing, but the finalized report will be coming out at the end of this month.  That’s very perplexing to me.  How do you finalize a report when you said in your own words just a few weeks ago that you still have outstanding questions concerning Marilou Danley and that you are still receiving leads?

Will we find out who Katie, Laura, and Joann are, those three mysterious females that were registered with Stephen Paddock to his room, that you never divulged to the public.  We only found that out because of the court-ordered release of the documents and audio files.

During this interview Lombardo, you said that you are not privy to everything that is going on with this investigation. Really, you are the head of the police department who is investigating the biggest criminal case in its history and you do not know everything that is ongoing.  Here is some advice, take it for what it’s worth.  I don’t expect you to look at 21,000 videos or read every single statement and report.  What I do expect from the head of any law enforcement agency is that they are briefed daily if need be and given a summary of any major investigation and how its progressing.

Maybe then Lombardo you won’t put your foot in your mouth every time you talk.

Let’s see what some experienced Monday morning quarterbacks, as you call them Lombardo, had to say about Hendrex.

Retired LVMPD Lt. Randy Sutton, a 30-year police veteran said on the Wayne Allyn Root show on June 29:

Root: This guy could have saved lives and didn’t.  To me, he’s no different than the guy outside Parkland high school.  He’s a coward.

Sutton: I wish I could disagree with you.  The body-cam footage that came out, it’s really disturbing Wayne and you know it’s frustrating to me both as a retired police officer, especially with Metro, to see this made public and to feel the frustration that he didn’t do anything, that he froze, even by his own report, was so frightened that he didn’t do anything.  And not only him but since he was the senior officer, the trainee that was with him didn’t act nor did the security people because they were waiting for his lead… and so when there is a screw-up or when there is an embarrassment like this, I have to be truthful about it as much as I find it distasteful to talk about.

On July 4ththe Las Vegas Review-Journal published a letter from Retired LVMPD Lt. Wayne Petersen, who said that he spent almost 29 years in law enforcement and that he was disgusted by the inaction of the coward of Broward County, and that he was now disgusted by the inaction of Officer Hendrex.  By his own admission, Petersen said, Hendrex was too afraid to act.

“Anyone who pins on the badge knows there are risks and dangers inherent in the job of being a police officer.  All of us who have worn a police uniform know that it could cost us our life.  Mr. Hendrex is an embarrassment to the uniform and the badge and to every officer who has been killed in the line of duty.  Mr. Hendrex needs to find another line of work in which he can feel safe.  Every politician who condones his inaction should also find a backbone and another line of work,” Petersen said.

I said from the outset that the Las Vegas Massacre was both foreseeable and preventable.  Because of incompetence and ignorance Paddock was allowed to bring his arsenal of death into the Mandalay Bay Hotel, drive his vehicle with 50 pounds of explosive materials onto the property, and fire down from his 32nd-floor suite onto the Route 91 Music Festival, unimpeded for over ten minutes.


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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