Could Lombardo and MGM Resorts International be covering up for incompetence and cowardice? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Could Lombardo and MGM Resorts International be covering up for incompetence and cowardice?

LAS VEGAS — It has been eight months since the October 1 Las Vegas Massacre and we still don’t know the truth about that tragic night.

It is a disgrace that we now learn from the release of court-ordered documents, that the police tried to halt the that release. Once again the police have not been transparent and forthcoming with all the facts as to what happened on that horrible night.

As first reported in the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been mute as to why one of his police officers failed to confront gunman Stephen Paddock as he was firing on helpless concert-goers the night of October 1 from his 32nd floor suite inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. It is certainly comparable to the Florida school shooting where the officer did not go into the school when he heard the shots being fired.

We have two entirely different accounts of LVMPD Officer Cordell Hendrex’s location inside the Mandalay Bay.  Hendrex stated in his report that he was on the 31stfloor listening to Paddock’s gunfire coming from the 32ndfloor, which is heavily contradicted by Mandalay Bay Security Manager Sottile, who stated Hendrex was with him on the 32ndfloor as Paddock was firing from his suite.

Both cannot be right; someone’s account is not true. Either police officers wrote a false report, or a Mandalay Bay security manager was not truthful to the FBI and the LVMPD when he gave his recorded statement.

No matter how much MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Sheriff Lombardo may try to spin this to save the reputation of their respective organizations, in the end only one account can be factual.

Then again, there is also the possibility that neither are factual accounts.

There are also contradictions in statements given by other security personnel.

In addition, there are also contradictions with the LVMPD 81-page Force Investigation Team Report that was released in January. I cannot in one single article identify and list every discrepancy and contradiction.

We need answers as to what happened.  Whether Hendrex was on the 31stfloor or the 32ndfloor, whichever floor he was on, he still failed to take any action whatsoever to stop, disrupt, or distract Paddock while he was firing from inside his suite.

MGMRI have not released their own internal statements taken from Mandalay Bay security personnel.  We only have those statements taken by the FBI and the LVMPD.

What does Hendrex say

Hendrex, who is also a field training officer (FTO), stated in his Officer’s Report that on the night of October 1 he was on the 31stfloor of the Mandalay Bay while Paddock was killing and wounding attendees at the Route 91 Music Festival across from the Mandalay Bay and took no action to confront Paddock.

Hendrex states he was at the Mandalay Bay Security Office with his day-two trainee, Officer Elif Varsin, and security officers who had two females in custody, according to the officer’s report.

Hendrex states he was fully aware of the active shooting incident occurring at the concert venue and that he heard on his police radio that at least some of the shots were coming from somewhere inside the Mandalay Bay about halfway up on the side of the casino closest to the strip. He heard one police officer say they were taking rounds and were pinned down and that he, Hendrex, could hear gunfire in the background of the radio transmission.

According to Hendrex one of the security personnel told him that he had heard over his security radio that shots were coming from the 31stfloor.  Hendrex states he then responded with Varsin and three armed Mandalay Bay security managers to the 31stfloor.

Hendrex: “A moment later one of the security personnel stopped and said that he heard over the hotel radio that the shots were actually coming from the 31stfloor.  I then told him to take me there.”

“While going down the hall one of the guys said that there was a stairwell at the end of the hall.”

“Once we were near the end of the hall we heard a volley of automatic rifle fire start.  The sound 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.  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 fire coming from the floor above us.”

Hendrex goes on and says, “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.”

After the last shots were fired at 2215 hours, Hendrex states they then made their way back to the end of the hall to the stairwell.  They all remained in the stairwell until other officers arrived.

Major contradictions discovered

LVMPD Officer Elif Varsin’s Officer’s Report

Varsin:We then along with three other security officers left the security office and went out on the casino floor where we first heard the active shooter was at and he was shooting people.  Few seconds later call was updated to active shooter is now on 31stfloor shooting out from a room.  Security officers then escorted us to the elevator lobby and took us to the 31stfloor where we were told the active shooter was.  Once we got to the 31stfloor we started clearing the hallway.  As we approached to the end of the hallway on 31stfloor, we heard rapid automatic gunfire directly above us.  We then entered the stairwell on 31stfloor and headed up to 32ndfloor in attempt to clear the hallway. Halfway up to the 32ndfloor in the stairwell myself and three other security officers held back and posted up between 31stand 32ndcontaining the area until SWAT arrived.”

Varsin doesn’t state where Hendrex was during the time she and the three security officers were in the stairwell.

Statement of Mandalay Bay Security Manager Sottile given to FBI Special Agent Mollica and LVMPD Det. Hodson

Sottile states that they had made an arrest when they found two recognized prostitutes in a bar on the casino floor and escorted them to the security office pending arrival of LVMPD officers.  While in the security office with Hendrex and Varsin, Sottile states that a radio transmission came over Hendrex’s radio indicating that shots were fired at the festival lot and that Hendrex looked at him and asked him if he heard that and he responded yes, and they responded out to the casino floor.

Sottile: “… As we hit the craps tables our radio transmission came from our security officer who was patrolling the hotel at that time [Jesus Campos], his radio transmission was, control shots fired 32ndfloor 100 wing I think I’ve been hit. So as soon as we heard that I yelled at Hendrex and said, elevators-elevators, shots fired on-elevators.  So, we ran, we grabbed an elevator.  Me, my [names redacted], Officer Hendrex with Metro, his trainee-which I don’t know the name, it was her first day and myself we were in the elevator heading up to 32.  When we hit around the 23rdto 25thfloor our radio traffic came on and said, shots fired 31stfloor, so I pushed the 31stbutton.  And the 32 was obviously pressed already. We were all going to 32.”

Doors opened on 32. [Names redacted] and the training Metro officer got off on the 31stfloor.  Me and Hendrex got off on the 32ndfloor.  When we got off on the 32ndfloor we heard active shooting still going on.” 

[Note: At this point in the interview, LVMPD Detective B. Hodson asks him if Hendrex was with him on 32 and left his trainee on 31 to which Sottile responds yes.  Sottile then tells Hodson that the trainee got off with his two assistants on 31.  LVMPD officers who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner stated this is a major violation of LVMPD policy for an FTO to leave their trainee.]

“And Hendrex went up with me to 32.  When the elevator doors opened we heard active, semi-fire.  I hugged the left wall at center core. He [Hendrex] hugged the right wall and there was active shooting going on in the room from approximately two minutes more.  About two minutes more there was still gunfire going on.  Then it got quiet.  That was it, done.  And then myself and Officer Hendrex with our weapons drawn on the room way down the hallway now.  We maintained our position to conceal, to confine rather, that room, hopefully nobody would be coming out.  And then we waited, and then I’m gonna say maybe three to four minutes later some uniform Metro cops started showing up, gathering in center core.” 

[Note: Further in the interview Det. Hodson asks Sottile, “Do you remember any communication between yourself and [name redacted] from your staff, where he was positioned at the that time?”  Sottile replies, “I remember they were on the 100-wing stairwell on the 31stfloor with [redacted] my other [redacted] and the newbie Metro officer.”  Det. Hodson asks, “So they were holding the stairwell, you guys were holding the hallway, essentially holding the end suite [Room 32-135].”

Sottile replies, “Correct, so we have it sealed.  So that they will run into something if they’re trying to escape.  It’s either gonna be me and Hendrex down the hallway or it’s gonna be the two [redacted] and the new Metro officer in the stairwell on the 100-wing.  No one left the room.  From the time that me and Hendrex were up there nobody had left the room. That door never opened.”

Sottile mentions Hendrex by name nine times during his interview.  It appears he knew exactly what police officer he was with on the 32ndfloor.

What I found very interesting was that neither FBI Special Agent Mollica nor LVMPD Det. Hodson, during the interview with Sottile, never asked him one important question, “Did you and or Hendrex do anything to try to stop the shooter and did you at anytime fire your weapons?”  Was not asking that by design and is that what MGMRI and the LVMPD are trying to cover up, armed personnel who took no action to stop Paddock.  After all, by their own statements, both Hendrex and Sottile knew before responding to the floor that the Massacre was taking place across the street.

If Hendrex was with Sottile on the 32ndfloor, then how could he be with Varsin and the others on the 31stfloor.  More importantly, Sottile told the FBI and the detective that he and Hendrex had the door to 32-135 covered and that nobody exited the door.  Again, how can that be if Hendrex’s statement is to be believed? If Sottile is not truthful, then he could also not be truthful about covering 32-135, and if so then how could we be sure no one exited Paddock’s suite before the arrival of other officers.

The Baltimore Post-Examiner was the first to report that the lock interrogations for 32-134 and 32-135 will indicate if anyone came out either of those rooms after the gunfire started and prior to the police breaching the door over an hour later.  The lock interrogation reports have yet to be released.

Another fact that is omitted in both Hendrex’s and Varsin’s statement is that according to the Force Investigation Team’s Preliminary Investigative Report, “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 32ndfloor of the hotel.  The officers then directed security to escort them to that location.”[The active shooter on the 32ndfloor was called in by Security Officer, Jesus Campos, who had called that in over the security radio.]  “The officers and security personnel entered the Center Core guest elevators and were again advised the shooter was on the 32ndfloor.”

The FIT report states in a footnote that that communication was confirmed by, “Information obtained from LVMPD BWC.” Hendrex in his Officer’s Report stated that Varsin turned her body worn camera (BWC) on when they were in the security office and that he forgot to turn his on until much later, so the BWC referred to in the FIT report must be from Varsin’s body worn camera.

Again, why is there no mention in either Hendrex’s report or Varsin’s report of anything to do with the active shooter on the 32nd floor? If Campos had put out over the security radio that the active shooter was on the 32nd floor wouldn’t be prudent to assume that they would all respond to that location, Campos was unarmed and taking fire.

Further, the FIT report states, “The officers made a tactical decision to respond to the 31stfloor and take the stairwell to the 32ndfloor.” This is another contradiction with Hendrex’s and Varsin’s report.  They do not state that in their report, they state they went to the 31stfloor because that’s where they believed the shots were coming from.  So, if they believed the shots were coming from the 31stfloor, then why didn’t they get off on the 30thfloor as a “tactical advantage.”

On October 15, 2017 MGMRI released the 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.  Those Metro officers and armed Mandalay Bay security officers immediately responded to the 32ndfloor.” 

Further corroboration that they knew the shots were coming from the 32ndfloor.

If that statement is true, then why didn’t the police dispatcher know immediately where the shots were originating from since Security was with Metro [Hendrex and Varsin].  Also, then if they all responded immediately to the 32ndfloor that would mean armed personnel were on that floor for a much longer time while Paddock was firing from inside his suite.  No action was taken to stop him?

Mandalay Bay Engineering Supervisor, Shannon Alsbury statement to LVMPD Detective Colon

Alsbury said in that recorded interview that he was on the way up to the 32ndfloor because Campos had called in to Engineering that the 32ndfloor stairwell door was bracketed. Alsbury states he got on the elevator at the beach level that takes you to the 32ndfloor.  He said he hit the 32ndfloor button and on the way up the elevator stopped on casino. “The next thing you know three security managers and two Metro cops come running inand they’re like, you know, and I’d already had 30 seconds and they’re like, you know there’s a shooter up on the 32ndfloor and I said, “A shooter? I’m on my way up there for somebody bracketing a door.”

Doors open up on 32.  Well doors open up on 31 first and the Metro Officers got out kinda turned back in because we were gonna try to get into the stairwell.  Doors open, you know, door shut.  Go back up to 32… Doors open up… We come out of the elevator… and you could hear what sounded like full auto, full auto rifle. The two Metro officers and the three security managers started working their way down the hallway.”

Later in the interview Det. Colon asks Alsbury, “The officers that went up in the elevator with you were they – what were they wearing?  Alsbury replies the tan, the tan.  Colon says, “like patrol uniform,” to which Alsbury replies, “yeah, I guess.”  Alsbury then says,“from what they had said was that they were here because of a couple hookers.”  No doubt he is describing Hendrex and Varsin.

Det. Colon asks, “Hey when the elevators, I think you said opened on 31, did any of the cops leave or they all, they stayed? Alsbury replies, “They walked out and then turned back around and came back in.”

So now Alsbury puts Hendrex and Varsin on the 32ndfloor as the gunfire is ongoing.

There are strong indications here that a possible cover-up may be in play between the LVMPD and MGMRI.

Where Hendrex and Varsin were can be solved in a matter of hours.

Sheriff Lombardo should release immediately the entire unedited time-stamped video footage from Varsin’s body-worn camera. The public doesn’t want any more body camera footage from the LVMPD that does not have the time/date stamp on the footage.

The video body-worn camera footage that was released three weeks ago that showed the entry into Paddock’s suite had no time stamp. It gave a false impression to the public about the time entry was made into Paddock’s suite.  That entry was not made until one hour and five minutes after the last shots were fired.

MGMRI release the entire unedited time-stamped surveillance video footage from the guest elevators that would show what floor Mandalay Bay security personnel and Varsin and Hendrex exited on.

LVMPD and MGMRI immediately release the lock interrogation reports for rooms 32-134 and 32-135 so we can determine that nobody exited those rooms from the time the deadbolts were engaged prior to Paddock opening fire as stated in the FIT Report to when the room was breached by the LVMPD at 11:20 hours.

Remember 58 people are dead, hundreds of others were wounded.  The families and victims want answers now.  This charade of lies, contradictions and convoluted statements from the LVMPD has gone on long enough.

Authors Note:  There are many more contradictions that will be addressed in another article.  Security Manager Umstott told the FBI agent and the LVMPD detective that Hendrex, Varsin, another unnamed person and himself all got off on the 31stfloor while the gunfire was still going on.  Security Manager Oelke said Hendrex, Varsin, another unnamed person and himself got off on the 31stfloor.  They both contradict Security Manager Sottile’s statement to the FBI and detective.

Two Mandalay Bay armed Security Bike Patrol Officers also responded to the 31stfloor after hearing that Jesus Campos had been shot.

One thing is certain.  There was plenty of firepower from both armed security and the police in the vicinity of 32-135 while Paddock was firing from inside his room onto the Route 91 Music Festival and no action was taken by anyone to stop his firing.

On Friday the Baltimore Post-Examiner sent a media request to the LVMPD press information office asking if Hendrex was still employed with the LVMPD and on active duty and if he is, is he still currently a field training officer.  We also asked if Varsin is still employed.

The LVMPD has yet to provide an answer.


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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