Six months after the Las Vegas massacre, what do we really know? - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Six months after the Las Vegas massacre, what do we really know?

LAS VEGAS: This Easter Sunday marks six months since the worst mass shooting in modern American history occurred on the Las Vegas Strip.

On that horrific night,  October 1, 2017, gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32ndfloor of his Mandalay Bay Hotel rooms leaving 58 concert-goers dead and over 850 wounded and or injured at the Route 91 Music Festival.

MGM Resorts International (MGMRI), the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel recently decided to change floor numbers 31 thru 34 to 56 thru 59, in a lame attempt to erase the horror that originated from rooms 32-134 and 32-135.

The only problem with that is that the Mandalay Bay Hotel will forever be known as the gold-windowed tower of death on the Las Vegas Strip.

It will remain as a symbol of corporate negligence, incompetence and ignorance because no matter how many public relations stunts MGMRI pulls off, they alone are responsible for having no security measures in place that could have prevented Paddock from bringing 22 semi-automatic assault rifles, a bolt action sniper rifle, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a host of ancillary equipment into the Mandalay Bay Hotel that was used in his attack on innocent people.

The October 1 tragedy occurred sixteen years after the September 11, 2001, attacks on this country.

Because of those attacks, warnings and recommendations from the US Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to critical infrastructure in the US, including soft targets such as the hotel lodging industry fell on deaf corporate ears, at least when MGMRI is concerned.

Those warnings and recommendations were not heeded. Security measures to prevent acts of terrorism and or active shooter incidents from occurring on their properties were not implemented.

That fact cannot be denied.

We all saw the result of corporate inaction when a billion dollar plus corporation places their bottom line over the security of human life.  In short, they failed to take proper security measures which led to Paddock’s attack.

Further, because of a lack of proper security measures, Paddock was allowed to drive his vehicle onto the property of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with explosive materials and precursors that were later recovered in Paddock’s vehicle by the police; 10 one-pound containers of Tannerite, 2 20-pound containers of Tannerite, ammonium nitrate, the explosive precursor that was used in the Oklahoma City bombing, and 1, 600 rounds of ammunition.

Not only did Paddock fire outside the windows of his rooms, but he fired through the door of his suite, 32-135, down the hall at Mandalay Bay Security Officer, Jesus Campos.  Those rounds strafed down the hallway of the 32ndfloor leaving two-hundred impacts and wounding the unarmedCampos in the leg.  It was a matter of luck that guests who were on the 32ndfloor that night were not injured or killed.

Why was it that after years of warnings, not all Mandalay Bay security officers were armed and properly trained as a first responder to an active shooter incident.  You can’t react to an active shooter if you are not equipped to do so.

Most active shooter incidents are over in a matter of minutes.

Could Jesus Campos, if properly trained and equipped, have intervened and stopped Paddock and or distracted him, preventing Paddock from firing out the windows.  After all, MGMRI in their own statement said that they believe Campos was shot at, at about the same time Paddock started to open fire on the crowd.

MGMRI also stated that armed security, most likely supervisors, were with LVMPD officers when Campos called over the security radio saying that gunshots were originating from 32-135.

What was the delay in those armed officers and LVMPD officers to reaching the 32ndfloor during the ten minutes that Paddock was firing?  If MGMRI is to be believed, those officers were aware almost immediately when Paddock was firing.

Why couldn’t they couldn’t get to the 32ndfloor in that ten-minute period while Paddock was firing, after all, every minute, every second, that Paddock was firing meant more loss of life and injuries.

They knew that there was an unarmed security officer, in peril on the floor.  Too many questions that remain to be answered.

In a self-serving public relations stunt, MGMRI released about an hour of highly edited Mandalay Bay Hotel surveillance video footage of Paddock to The New York Times.  They ignored the attorneys for the victims, who have been requesting the 700 hours of video surveillance footage in the possession of MGMRI for months, to no avail.

MGMRI then had the gall to release a statement saying that their focus continues to be on supporting the victims and their families.  They really proved that remark, they gave the proverbial finger to the victims and their families.

MGMRI, to add further insult to injury, snubbed the local Las Vegas media, they provided them nothing.  They patted themselves on the back when they said in that statement that Paddock gave no indication of what he planned to do and that his interactions with staff and overall behavior where normal.

Even that remark is BS as far as I’m concerned.

First off, MGMRI released only a fraction of the 700 hours of video they possess.  The released video was highly edited, most likely to show us only what they wanted us to see.  Without the entire unedited footage, MGMRI cannot be believed.  We need to review all the footage they possess to sufficiently determine what interactions Paddock had with hotel staff.

Paddock did give indications of suspicious behavior, regardless of what MGMRI says.

One of the first things I noticed when I watched the footage of Paddock with the bellman as they waited for the service elevator, was that he was extremely nervous.  His body language was an indicator that something was amiss with him.  So much so, that if I had still been working for the US Department of Homeland Security at the airport and Paddock was on line waiting to get into the secure area with all the luggage, he and his luggage would have been scrutinized for further screening.

Obviously, the bellman had no training in observing the indicators of suspicious behavior with a guest, but then again, the question arises why is that a decade and a half since 9/11 and years of warnings and recommendations.

Indulge me for a minute here.  Let’s just say that the bell staff was trained to detect suspicious behavior and they had notified Security that something may be wrong.  Security arrives, questions Paddock and inquires what inside all that luggage.  Security doesn’t feel comfortable and they notify the Homeland Security detectives at the LVMPD.  They respond and question Paddock.  Maybe the massacre wouldn’t have happened.

When I was running the security and surveillance operations at the Riviera, I can’t count how many times my team alerted to suspicious behavior.  Often, we notified the LVMPD Homeland Security detectives who never hesitated once to respond immediately.

Security and surveillance staff attended the training seminars that were offered by the USDHS free of charge.  Any time training was offered by the USDHS I took advantage and sent my team to attend.  Many of those seminars were train-the-trainer programs. My supervisors would attend and then in turn train the security officers.  The thing was, it didn’t cost a dime, the training was free.

MGMRI’s only motive is to protect their bottom line and image.  When it comes to security, getting funding in a non-revenue department like Security in the casino industry is a struggle that has plagued many security directors for years.

MGMRI also said that they could not reasonably foresee that Paddock would carry out such a violent and deadly act.  Again, properly prepared words to make them look innocent of negligence and incompetence by referring to Paddock.

They disregard years of warnings like I said that is ignorance.

MGMRI may have forgotten the incidents that have occurred in Las Vegas over the years, those minor little annoyances that they try to conceal under their corporate conference tables and don’t speak about because they need to make believe they never happened.

There have been numerous shootings and murders inside Vegas casinos for years and MGMRI was not immune from incidents either.

In 2006, a man shot and killed a woman then killed himself at the front entrance of the MGMRI owned Excalibur Hotel.

In 2007, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol from a balcony overlooking the casino floor inside the MGMRI owned New York New York Hotel.  Four people were wounded before four touriststackled the gunman.

Also, in 2007, a pipe bomb was left atop a vehicle inside the parking structure at the MGMRI owned Luxor Hotel.  The bomb tore off the hand of a restaurant employee sending a piece of metal into his head, killing him.

Other than a fraction of the overall surveillance video, MGMRI has not released any other evidence to support anything they have said.  A few seconds of audio without any timestamp of Campos saying that shots are coming from 32-135 at this point cannot be verified.

Mandalay Bay Hotel security standard operating procedures, policy manuals, training records, emergency preparedness policies and other records that were in place at the time of the shootings, all should be subpoenaed during civil discovery.  Every document will be scrutinized, everyone will be deposed from the top management on down.

The result will be that MGMRI will most likely end up making out of court settlements, so those cases will never see the light of day in front of a civil jury.  That’s my prediction.  The public may never see full disclosure of all the evidence.

Yes, the October 1 massacre was foreseeable, and it was preventable.  There were many security measures that could have prevented Stephen Paddock from carrying out his attack, but none were in place.  Regardless of what excuse they use, what happened that night cannot be changed, it will always be a reminder of what should never have happened in Las Vegas.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo who runs the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is also not without blame.

There were no counter snipers deployed the night of October 1, even though the music festival was surrounded by high rise towers.  LVMPD snipers have been deployed on the Strip during New Year’s Eve over the years and have been deployed for dignitary protection.  Paddock fired for ten minutes without anyone countering his firing. There were no strike teams deployed inside the surrounding casinos prior to the attack. Poor planning on his part.

I still believe that Stephen Paddock was the lone shooter who fired from his rooms on the 32ndfloor of the Mandalay Bay.  I am still waiting for the release of the lock interrogation reports for rooms 32-134 and 32-135 so I can solidify by belief.  I may be waiting for some time though on that.

I do not believe that there is a conspiracy involving the LVMPD and the FBI.  There would have to be far too many people involved and that is just not within the realm of probability.  There is credible evidence for me to believe that Paddock was the lone shooter inside that room.

I still have many questions, among them all the active shooter calls that were occurring throughout the night of October 1 and the early morning hours of October 2.

LVMPD misconduct and incompetence during the criminal investigation is inexcusable and so far, the sheriff has been mute on that.  Lombardo seems to forget that the LVMPD is not a private club, but a publicly funded police organization accountable to the citizenry.

Lombardo has not released yet any documentation to support the findings of the Preliminary Investigative Report that he released in January.

Lombardo appears to be stonewalling the public, specifically with his unrealistic request when he wanted $460,000 from the media before he released anything to them.  A district court judge told him that amount was excessive.

We all heard Lombardo’s false, misleading, convoluted and contradictory remarks throughout the past six months.  I won’t repeat them here, you can find every single one of them in my prior stories I authored for the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

Why the police didn’t storm Paddock’s suite immediately, waited over an hour to do so, and then without the support of the full SWAT team is troubling.  Why they needed to borrow armored vehicles from a private company the night of the massacre and why all patrol officers are not equipped with AR-15 platform type rifles, also troubling.

Amid corruption allegations against his department, police misconduct in the criminal investigation of the worst mass shooting in modern American history, and incompetence, Lombardo is seeking re-election for a second term as Sheriff of Clark County.  The primaries are in June.  He is challenged by four other candidates.

Never forget the 58 people who died and the over 850 who were wounded and or injured on the Las Vegas Strip, October 1, 2017.

It should never have happened.

 

 

 


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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