Stephen Paddock’s body was moved prior to arrival of crime scene investigators - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Stephen Paddock’s body was moved prior to arrival of crime scene investigators

Crime scene photographs of Stephen Paddock’s body, the weapons in his suite and the suite itself, were leaked to the media by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department personnel shortly after the Oct. 1 Las Vegas massacre.

Why any police officer would jeopardize the integrity of a major criminal investigation, specifically an investigation of the worst mass shooting in American history is not only a disgrace, but remains unanswered?

Financial gains could be at the top of the list as each one of those photographs were worth thousands of dollars to reporters from what I have been told.

To add insult to injury, as I reported in my previous story, I was told that the first two photographs showing two of the rifles in Paddock’s room were leaked by a command staff officer.

When confronted with the leaked crime scene photographs, Clark County Sheriff, Joe Lombardo who heads the LVMPD told the media that he was not all happy about the leaks.

Those comments were echoed when Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, second in command told the press, “There was a question about the validity of the crime scene photos that somebody had leaked. I can confirm those are, in fact, photos from inside of the room; they are in fact photos of our suspect, and as the sheriff mentioned previously, we have all opened up an internal investigation to determine the source of the leaks of those photos to the public.”

What neither Lombardo or McMahill said was that if those leaked photographs were the actual photographs taken by crime scene investigators or were they taken by personnel who had access to the room prior to the arrival of the investigators, and if that is so, then they were most likely taken with the use of a cellphone camera.

A police source with knowledge of the investigation told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that Paddock’s body was rolled over by police in the room after being ordered to do so by a commander for locating any identification on Paddock’s body.

That source told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that the Command Post and the Counterterrorism Center wanted the identification and a photograph of Stephen Paddock’s face.

What we don’t know at this point is whether photographs and or video were taken of Paddock’s body in an unaltered position as he was found in the room upon entry and were there any photographs and video taken during the process of rolling over his body.

Were the photographs that were leaked to the press showing Paddock’s body stretched out on the floor lying on his back, photographs taken before his body was moved or after it was rolled back over, is undetermined at this time.

Once again, transparency was non-existent as neither Lombardo or McMahill made any mention during those press conferences that Paddock’s body was moved prior to crime scene investigators arriving and the reason for disturbing Paddock’s body, a crucial part of the crime scene.

Remember at that point in the room that night, no determination could have possibly been made that Paddock had died by his own hand or that of another. It was a homicide crime scene until the investigation determines otherwise, something that is impossible to do minutes after the room was breached.

To further complicate matters, the investigation of the room was turned over to the Force Investigation Team that investigates officer involved shootings and use of force. Did that team also conduct the investigation into Paddock’s death, we do not know.

60 Minutes

CBS News’ 60 Minutes show aired the following Sunday after the massacre.

Interviewed on the show were the three LVMPD patrol officers who breached Paddock’s room with lone SWAT Team officer, Levi Hancock, who was not present for the interview.

Detective Matthew Donaldson said, “My initial scan, coming in the room with my rifle is just seein’ I’m seeing one male down, bleeding from the face. He was not a threat. Kept going, kept going, kept going.”

K-9 Officer Dave Newton said, “I didn’t see any apparent wounds to his head. But I did see lotta blood that come outta his mouth.”

K-9 Sgt. Joshua Bitsko said, “There was – a bloody revolver I think – nearby. Nearby him that was on the ground consistent with him shootin’ himself.”

Respectfully, I would not agree with that assertion.

A weapon nearby a dead body would indicate nothing other than you have a dead body with a weapon nearby. It could be consistent with a homicide or a suicide.

Until a thorough criminal investigation is conducted there is no way to determine if the person shot himself, was shot by another and or made to appear as though he shot himself or even if the weapon nearby was used to inflict the wound(s).

Those officers who entered Paddock’s room that night were all heroes. They had no idea who was in that room and what they would be facing upon entry. It could have been one person or several. That is why it is crucial for the public to get answers as to why Levi Hancock, after over one hour had to enter that room without the support of his SWAT Team members. That we need answers to.

Why the Clark County Board of Supervisors, who control the budget of the LVMPD are not screaming for answers to that question is beyond me. Millions of public dollars have been given to the LVMPD SWAT Team over the years for training, staffing and equipment.

If there was ever a night that the citizens and tourists of this city needed a rapid deployment of the LVMPD SWAT Team, was the night of October 1. Instead, only one SWAT officer went into Paddock’s room.

Why hasn’t Lombardo or McMahill addressed this issue openly is mystifying, but it is consistent with them giving the public unverified, false, deceptive, misleading and all out lies during these past two months.

Another comment on 60 Minutes was made by Detective Matthew Donaldson who said, “It was still very much in my brain there’s 50 other dudes in here somewhere. You know, we were still clearing that room, the curtains, moving the curtains. I wanted to make sure somebody wasn’t hiding between the windows and the curtains.”

That statement from Donaldson supports my reasoning as to why that room should have been a full SWAT Team entry.

K-9 Sgt. Joshua Bitsko said, “Because I know that SWAT had deployed snipers also. So, I didn’t wanna put my silhouette in front of a window – because communications were still horrendous at that point.”

I agree with Sgt. Bitsko on the communications that night.

I wrote several weeks ago that incompetence led to the massacre. I stand by that. So now we know that SWAT snipers were deployed, over an hour later though, when the officers went into the room.

LVMPD command level officers should have considered and planned for a sniper attack from an elevated position onto the crowd at the music festival early in the planning stages, but failed to do so.

Having SWAT snipers in the area and ready to go, could have countered the gunman’s ten-minute firing spree from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, at the very least in part and saved lives that night.

One interesting point to make is that none of the officers who were interviewed on 60 Minutes made any mention of any officer firing a weapon. That too hasn’t been addressed by Sheriff Lombardo. After two months, we still do not know the circumstances as to why a weapon was fired.

Stephen Paddock’s body

When I saw the police-leaked photographs of Paddock’s body, I had some concerns. I’m skeptical by nature because of my investigative background. I wasn’t alone. Other current and former police officers who I have conferred with raised similar issues with what we saw in the photographs.

Some of the issues are:

  • One of the spent cartridge cases above Paddock’s head that is laying in the blood does not appear to be covered in blood.
  • An entrance wound, or an exit wound is not visible in those photographs, however a barrel of gun if placed in his mouth would only have an exit wound.
  • The rifle on top of his left ankle appears questionable for a suicide.
  • Dark blood spot on his chest, possibly from a gunshot wound, questionable.
  • Appear to be blood smears on the front of his shirt.
  • Blood coming out of his mouth could indicate a chest wound and or caused by barrel placed in his mouth.
  • He is laying on top of another rifle which his partially visible near his left hand that has his gloved hand on the buttstock of the rifle. Position of his hand appears questionable.
  • Handgun is above his head. Looks strange as his left hand is down alongside his body.

I am not implying anything here. Just noting some peculiarities.

I have seen crime scenes that looked like a homicide and were a suicide when the investigation was completed. Firearms do have a way because of recoil to sometimes end up in locations that originally seemed suspicious, but that handgun above his head bothers me.

What we don’t know

To what extent did the rolling over of Stephen Paddock’s body by the police contaminate the crime scene of his body, i.e. blood stains on front of his shirt, blood smears, actual location, etc.

What was the estimated time of Paddock’s death. I want to see the coroners’ reports, X-rays, everything on Paddock.

The Clark County Coroner has refused to release any of the reports concerning their investigation, even after a Clark County District Court Judge ruled they were public records. The coroner with the Clark County Board of Supervisors approval is appealing that decision and Clark County is using tax payer dollars to do that.

What has the forensic evidence indicated from the crime scene of the room including blood spatter, bullet trajectory, angles, etc. that led the police to the conclusion that Paddock committed suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Too many other unanswered questions concerning this investigation from the start.

Why was Mary Lou Danley registered to the room if she was never present? From my time in the hotel industry to check into a hotel you must present identification. So, if Danley was indeed registered and she was not present, how did that happen?

Why was Paddock’s house in Reno, Nevada burglarized after the FBI and the ATF conducted searches? Was something removed that was missed by federal authorities?

Why was one of Paddock’s laptop computers missing its hard drive, which was never found?

K-9 Officer Dave Newton said on 60 Minutes, “I saw a few phones – laptops, a couple of laptops he had in there.” Why did Paddock need so many cell phones? That could be an indication of criminal/suspicious activity. What was recovered off those laptops that had the hard drives intact? What was up with the reported cell phone charger that did not fit any of the cell phones in the room?

No conspiracy theories here folks. I just want answers to a litany of questions. We are quickly approaching three months since the October 1 massacre and still no pretty much nothing.

On Thursday,McMahill told Nevada Public Radio that we can expect a report on the incident sometime in January. For the sake of the victims, the survivors and their families I would hope all our questions are answered, but I have my doubts.

The only conspiracy I see here at this point is a possible conspiracy to cover-up incompetence.

Prove me wrong Lombardo. You have an open invitation for a one-on-one interview at any time.

In some interviews I gave recently, I commented on the LVMPD’s radio system, the P25 Phase 2 protocol. I received quite a few hateful remarks via email telling me I should keep my mouth shut about things I do not know about. I feel I must retort on this.

I hold an FCC Amateur Radio Extra Class License and an FCC General Radio Telephone Operators License with Ship Radar Endorsement. The GROL w/SRE is required to adjust, maintain, and internally repair FCC licensed radiotelephone transmitters in the aviation, maritime and international fixed public radio services, and to repair, maintain and adjust ship radar equipment.

I guess I don’t really know anything about radio communications systems, so I will keep quiet on that subject in the future.

It’s all about getting to the truth for those who were killed, wounded and injured on Oct. 1, 2017 in the worst mass shooting in American history that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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.