Unparalleled upheaval: The LVMPD’s Sheriff Joe Lombardo - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Unparalleled upheaval: The LVMPD’s Sheriff Joe Lombardo

January 1, 2018 besides being the start of a new year, marks three months since the worst mass shooting in American history.

Fifty-eight people were murdered and over 500 others were wounded when a lone gunman — we are told — Stephen Paddock, opened fire from his 32nd floor suite of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on October 1, 2017.

Paddock fired over 1,100 rounds down onto an unsuspecting crowd at the Route 91 Music Festival, police said. Just to note, the collected evidence from Paddock’s suite should include all 1,100 plus expended cartridges. Firing pin indentations on the cartridge cases should match the weapons in the room that allegedly were used.

The Clark County, Nevada Coroner ruled Paddock’s death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The coroner refuses to release any autopsy records even though a Clark County District Court judge ruled on Sept. 28 that autopsy records are public records under Nevada law. The coroner didn’t agree with that decision, so with the Clark County Board of Supervisors approval, they are now using taxpayer dollars to appeal that decision.

To date, the police have told us that Paddock acted alone, that there was no other person in his suite with him and he was not connected to any group, either domestic or foreign.

That very well could be true or not.

At this point I would not believe one word that comes from the LVMPD, the FBI or MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Until all evidence is released and examined by experts in their respective fields, hired by the civil attorneys for the victims, nothing is proven as far as I’m concerned.

What the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) hasn’t done is release one shred of evidence to date, to back up their claims. Even worse, they hired a law firm to fight in court to keep all the records and evidence out of the public view.

I ask myself why something seems amiss to me in all of this. It could be my skeptical nature after decades of conducting investigations both in law enforcement and the private sector. By nature, I do not trust anyone, specifically when someone is pissing down my leg and telling me it is raining. I don’t like when politicians blow smoke up my ass, specifically when one of those politicians happens to be the Sheriff of Clark County, Joe Lombardo, who runs the LVMPD.

I don’t like the fact that the mainstream media has pretty much stopped talking about what happened in Las Vegas on October 1. Fifty-eight people are dead. They are not around to see the new year. Their families must live with the pain of what happened. Those who were wounded will live with the emotional and physical scars for the rest of their lives. So, when somebody says to me, “Doug, you can’t seem to let this go,” as I was told the other day, they are right. I can’t. Tell that to the dead I say.

What makes this so difficult for me as an ex-cop, is that in the almost forty articles I have written on the Las Vegas massacre for the Baltimore Post-Examiner I have been extremely critical of Sheriff Joe Lombardo and his command staff. It’s not an easy thing to do, but necessary. Lombardo has no one else to blame but himself for that. Lies, misleading statements, contradictions and convoluted statements came out of his mouth, not mine.

I have always written in all my stories that the LVMPD police officers on the ground that night acted heroically. Those inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel were just as heroic.

I have also criticized MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. I spent about twenty years in the hotel casino industry in Las Vegas, so attacking the industry that I was a part of wasn’t easy. But I do know that those corporations can do whatever they have to do to protect their image and to save themselves in civil litigation.

I could care less who is offended by anything I write. It’s about asking questions and challenging public officials, no matter who they are when comments are made that just seem to make no sense and or are downright false.

A retired journalist told me a few weeks ago that the country over the years seem to be at a loss for true investigative journalists. There are some out there he said, but there is a distinct difference between a reporter and an investigative journalist. The mainstream media which is controlled by corporations with their own agenda and politics oftentimes dictates how the news is reported and what will be reported. That is an American disgrace.

I don’t profess to be either a reporter or an investigative journalist, although I have been called both. What I do have is an insight based on decades of investigative work. The result of that experience combined with my skeptical nature allows me the opportunity to expose the bulls**t when I see it. And there has been plenty of that shoveled out during the past three months in Las Vegas.

Sheriff Joe Lombardo tried to explain why the timeline changed when Mandalay Bay Security Officer, Jesus Campos was shot. But he hasn’t provided anything to back up what he said. In fact, the police changed that timeline three times in several weeks. First, Lombardo told us Campos was a hero because he interrupted Paddock who fired on him. Then he changed that and said Campos was shot at 9:59 p.m., a full six minutes before Lombardo said Paddock opened fire. Then for the third time, Lombardo said Campos was shot at about the time Paddock opened fire on the crowd.

Who knows at this point which timeline or sequence of events is true. Like I said, Lombardo hasn’t released anything to back up what he said. In the ultimate act of non-transparency, the LVMPD are fighting in court to keep everything out of the public’s hands.  Why is that?

MGM Resorts International committed the worst act of disrespect to the dead and wounded on October 1, when they staged their publicity stunt and allowed Jesus Campos and the maintenance engineer to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, in a half-hearted interview with the comedian. Where was the comedy the night of October 1? Of course, they never would allow Campos to be interviewed by an experienced newsman.

Who knows what happened on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on that night with Jesus Campos. We may never know until discovery motions during civil litigation years down the road. One thing that has always bothered me though was when Campos said that he did not tell the security dispatcher that he was shot when he called in the shots fired over his radio. He said he called back on his cellphone and told them then. Doesn’t seem plausible to me. He was almost definitely not shot with a full round of .223 or.308 ammo either.

Why the LVMPD allowed Campos to leave the country days after the massacre has also bothered me. Could be just plain incompetence on their part.

Incompetence on the part of the LVMPD and MGM Resorts International, led to the October 1 massacre in my opinion. Obviously, none of Lombardo’s command staff personnel had the vision to maybe think that an exposed outside concert venue could be vulnerable from a sniper attack from an elevated position, after all there was nothing around but high-rise towers.

As far as MGM Resorts Int’l, all hotel casinos in Las Vegas were put on notice for years by the US Dept. of Homeland Security that their infrastructure are vulnerable to an active shooter incident and or a terrorist attack.

Obviously, no security measures were in place that would have detected Paddock’s arsenal of death from being rolled right into the Mandalay Bay Hotel or his car load of explosive materials from being driven into Valet. MGM, tell the dead that screening luggage was too time-consuming to implement. I’m sure they would appreciate that.

Lombardo also told the media that Jesus Campos called in over his radio when he was being shot at and also used his cellphone. MGM Resorts Int’l released a statement saying that LVMPD officers were inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel with hotel security officers when Campos called over the radio that shots were fired and that they all immediately responded to the floor.

If that is all true, why didn’t anyone know immediately the location of the shooter?

The LVMPD themselves compromised the integrity of the investigation of the worst mass shooting in American history when police personnel leaked photographs of the crime scene to the press. To add insult to injury I was told that the first two photographs of two of the rifles that were released to Boston25 came from one of Sheriff Lombardo’s command staff officers.

How is that internal investigation progressing or is there one?

The hallway crime scene area was also compromised when another photographer was allowed into the crime scene by police who were guarding the hallway. That photographer took photographs of the suite room door and the rifles inside the room near the door.

In a story published on December 10 in the Baltimore Post-Examiner I wrote that a police source with knowledge of the investigation told the BPE that Stephen Paddock’s body was rolled over by police in the room after being ordered to do so by a commander for the purpose of locating any identification on Paddock’s body.

If you can’t trust the police with protecting the crime scene and the integrity of the investigation who can you trust?

Now to get back to the leader of the LVMPD, Clark County Sheriff, Joe Lombardo.

I can’t revisit every false, contradictory and misleading statement that Lombardo has said in this one article. I would suggest that for further inquiry you read all the articles that have published on the BPE website regarding the October 1 Las Vegas massacre.

I want touch on a few of Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s comments. Why, because he said on Oct. 13 that he was offended by the word incompetence being floated around the public space.

During the first statement to the press in the early morning hours of Oct. 2, Lombardo said, “We determined that there was a shooter on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, officers responded to that location and engaged the suspect at that location.” What he didn’t say was that it was an hour and five minutes after the last shot was fired. Just a minor detail, how do you engage a dead body?

At the Oct. 3 about 4 p.m. press conference Lombardo said, “When the security officer was engaged by the suspect, we backed off from immediate apprehension and the SWAT Team formed and made entry.” The police were not on the floor when Campos was being fired upon. The SWAT Team never formed or made entry because they were not there. One SWAT Team member with an ad-hoc team of patrol officers entered the room one hour and five minutes after the last shots were fired. One SWAT Team member is not a SWAT Team even if the head of the LVMPD thinks so.

Where was the forty-member LVMPD SWAT Team that night and why were they not there to back up their lone team member when he made entry into the room.

What’s the big freaking secret Lombardo?

Were they involved in some other operation that night they could not break away from?

Were they on a protection detail?

Why haven’t you come clean on this Lombardo?

Or is it that they could not respond in time, which raises questions as to the purpose of having a rapid deployment tactical force. After all, Levi Hancock did make it there and the room was entered one hour and five minutes after the last shot was fired. Even that contradicts Sheriff Lombardo’s comments.

Which brings up another question. Before making entry, Hancock stated over the radio, “We need to pop this and see if we can get any type of response from this guy, to see if he’s in here or he’s actually moved somewhere else.” How did they know at that point that only one person was in the room and not more than one?

After waiting over an hour, the police weren’t even sure anybody was still in the suite. Not good.

In one of my articles I raised the issue of whether any technological devices were used to see into the room before entry, i.e. fiber optic cameras. Were there body-worn cameras on the entry team?

Why aren’t the Clark County Board of Supervisors who control the budget of the LVMPD asking Lombardo the question of why the SWAT Team did not make entry. From what I have been told millions of dollars of taxpayer money has been given to the LVMPD SWAT Team over the years for manpower, training and equipment. The one night in Las Vegas when they needed to be there to back up one of their team members they were a no show.

It’s bad enough that the national media has pretty much given up on this except for Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, but why hasn’t the local Las Vegas media been pounding Lombardo on were the hell the SWAT Team was that night.

Why did the LVMPD need additional armored vehicles that night that they had to borrow them from a private company?

Was it to protect the police, the public or was it to protect someone else?

At the Oct. 4 press conference, Lombardo still perpetrates the lie about the SWAT Team. “So, they pulled back and they waited for the approach of a full SWAT Team.” They waited for the SWAT Team that never was.

On Sunday Oct. 8 three of the patrol officers who were on the entry team with lone SWAT Team Officer, Levi Hancock appeared on CBS News’ 60 Minutes. Hancock did not appear on the show, but they did show a photograph of him. K-9 Officer Dave Newton said, “I saw a few phones, a couple of laptops he had in there.”

At the Monday Oct. 9 press conference, a reporter asks Lombardo how many cell phones were found and was there any indication he was communicating with anyone. Before answering, Lombardo turns to FBI ASAC Rouse who is standing next to him and asks Rouse if he has that information. Rouse says to Lombardo not to give that out.

Multiple cellphones could be an indication of criminal/terrorist activity.

I will add that to my long list of documents I would want to review, the cellphone records for all the cellphones that were in Paddock’s suite. But again, they are keeping them from the public.

The last public press conference was on Oct. 13. Lombardo enlightened the press on Paddock’s autopsy by saying that there were no abnormalities initially seen on Paddock’s brain. I know he is not a forensic pathologist, but wouldn’t a bullet wound in the brain be abnormal?

On Nov. 2, Lombardo sat down for a one on one interview with KLAS-TV reporter, George Knapp. Again, during this interview Lombardo made some comments that defied logic and contradicted statements made to the press previously and even contradicted himself during that same interview. What I found particularly amazing was that Lombardo was never challenged by Knapp on his comments.

Lombardo: “In normal practice if we were to execute a search warrant say on a barricaded individual, we could take all the time we need and all the resources to bare to insure everybody’s safety, in this case because of what the suspect did, the officers made the decision to breach this doorway of the hotel room in case this guy was reloading because we didn’t want to give him the opportunity to keep firing and when they made entry they had found out he had committed suicide.”

I don’t know why you would need a search warrant for a barricaded suspect. They didn’t want him reloading or keep firing, so they waited over an hour to make entry into the room. Makes no sense and contradicts Lombardo’s previous comments about waiting for a full SWAT Team, which by the way never showed up. How do you make entry and immediately determine it was a suicide and not a homicide?

Lombardo: “We had an accidental discharge in the suspect’s room, so we did an explosive breach on the first door, made entry, located the suspect who had committed suicide there, but we encountered a locked door adjacent to the main living area, or living room area. You have a bedroom off one side and a bedroom off on the other side, well the bedroom off one side where the window was broken facing the fuel tanks, the door had been secured, so we did another explosive breach and during that explosive breach one of the officers had an accidental discharge.”

The room that faced McCarran International Airport with the broken window that we were told Paddock had fired out from, that door was locked and had to be explosively breached. I’m just wondering how he was firing out both windows if that room door was locked. Who locked that door, when and why.

Lombardo: “Outside of that if he had continued to shoot we would have made entry on that door and engaged the suspect.”

We would hope so, but he said previously they didn’t want to give him the chance to reload so they made entry. But that didn’t happen for an hour and five minutes after the last shots were fired. So where was the concern for the public safety. Based on what Lombardo said the officers should have made entry immediately, but they didn’t because he said too many times before that they had to wait for a full SWAT Team. We know a full SWAT Team never should up to back up Levi Hancock who had to make entry with three patrol officers.

Why Sheriff Lombardo’s story kept changing is anyone’s guess.

Speaking during that Nov. 2 interview, Lombardo talks about a possible motive for Paddock: He became a prolific gambler and over time he’s gone up and down in his wealth associated with gambling and real estate and everything else he chose to do, but since 2015, September 2015 he’s lost a significant amount of wealth and I think that might have a determining factor on his, what he determined to do.”

Less than ten minutes later in the same interview Lombardo says: “…pretty prolific but he was going in the wrong direction, so I don’t know if that had any affect on what he decided to do.”

What’s sad about this whole mess, is that fifty-eight people are dead and all we heard from the head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were lies, misleading, contradictory and convoluted statements. Going to court to keep records from public view is a disgrace when juxtaposed with the fact they the police have pretty much said Paddock was a lone gunman and not acting with any group. So, if all that is to be believed why all the secrecy. Sheriff Joe Lombardo is a one-man wrecking crew for the LVMPD. I know that his outrageous comments are not reflective of the many police officers and detectives on the force.

I have to say that I do feel for the man. One thing I have noticed at all the press conferences is that the sheriff’s body language indicates he was not telling the truth many times. Why that is I have no idea. But they are hiding something.

What I found odd was why FBI ASAC Rouse was breathing down Lombardo’s neck at every press conference when pretty much he never had anything to say.   That would have lasted one time with me and I would have told him to move back. It was bizarre.

We were told a few weeks ago that sometime this month the LVMPD is going to release a report on the massacre. What it will contain is anybody’s guess, however I wouldn’t expect anything earth shattering.

FBI ASAC Rouse also said that the FBI report on the massacre would be released somewhere around the one-year anniversary of the worst mass shooting in American history, Oct. 1, 2018. What bothers me with that is how do you know to almost the exact day when an investigative report will be completed. But then again plenty of what I heard in the past three months makes no sense to me.

Las Vegas celebrated in the streets on New Years Eve. My feelings on that were they should have canceled the celebration this year out of respect for the victims and their families. But that would have cost millions of dollars in revenue for the casinos and the city. Like someone told me the other day, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority would never let that happen.

They don’t call this town Sin City for nothing.

Never forget the 58 people who were murdered and the over 500 others who were wounded and or injured on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada during the worst mass shooting in American history.

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.