Las Vegas Police SWAT sniper deployed from helicopter night of mass shooting

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LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released more documents to the media Wednesday that confirmed an early report the Baltimore Post-Examiner reported in May.

In that previous story, law enforcement sources said that LVMPD deployed a SWAT team sniper from a helicopter on the night of the October 1 massacre.

According to statements the LVMPD had two Air Support units operating on the night of October 1, 2017.

Metro Air 5

Officer Woolard stated that he and Officer Oberding were operating as Air 5.

While at the air support hangar they received a call stating that there was an active shooter event at the Route 91 festival. They immediately took off in Air 5 and headed to the event.  Oberding was the tactical flight officer and Woolard was the pilot. Woolard states that they received limited details about the call but while en route they were able to determine that there appeared to be shots coming from an elevated position on the east side of Mandalay Bay.

While en route to the call, Woolard stated he coordinated with McCarran tower on the Air Traffic Control channel to ensure they were aware of the situation and so they could divert helicopter tours due to the fact their flight path crosses directly in the line of fire.  Upon arriving in the area, they flew directly to the Mandalay Bay and attempted to get further info on the Convention Center channel but were unable to broadcast due to other traffic.  After the first orbit around the building, it appeared the only open areas to fire from would have been the upper roof, the Foundation Room balcony or the lower casino roof.  Woolard states that it was not initially obvious that any of the windows were broken out due to the reflections off the side of the building. They did see a strobe light coming from one of the rooms but upon closer inspection, they did not see any sign of a broken window in the area.  They then worked to clear the upper roof first along with the Foundation Room balcony.  Next, they moved to the lower roof of the casino floor.  While checking this area they noticed large groups of people in the southeast and south parking areas that still may have been in the line of fire. They then used the PA system in the helicopter to start directing everyone to move south toward the line of police vehicles in the area of Las Vegas Blvd. and Russell and away from the fire.

After clearing the lower roof of Mandalay Bay, they heard traffic from a county ground maintenance unit on the ATC channel at McCarran Airport that someone was running across the 19-runway heading toward the terminal.  Thinking they might have had suspects moving towards the terminal or aircraft they immediately diverted to that and upon their arrival they observed more than 20 people that had made their way onto the airfield as they fled the area of the concert.  Woolard states that it was immediately obvious that they were victims of the event and there was no obvious sign of a suspect.  They communicated that to the tower and the county units that were on the channel.  McCarran Tower then began diverting aircraft that were inbound for that runway.  They also attempted to notify units on the Metro airport channel but were unable to hear any response from them.

They then returned to the Mandalay Bay and began checking the windows from a closer vantage point.  It was at this time that they noticed 2 of the windows on the east side of the north tower had broken sections.  The holes appeared to be about ¼ to 1/3 the size of the entire window.  Woolard states he tried to communicate this to units on the Convention Center channel but once again they were unable to get on the radio.  He states that they were also working on the SWAT simplex channel and he advised over that channel the location of the windows. They then made a high-speed pass by the window to see if they could gain any intel on the location of the suspect inside the room.  They were unable to see inside the room due to the glare from the windows and it did not appear that any of the lights in the room were on.  On their second approach to the window area, they chose to come in much slower and from a more direct angle, focusing their attention on the two holes in the glass.  They were still not able to see anything inside the room due to it being dark and the curtains were blocking a good amount of the opening.

Air 5 then received a request to land and pick up a sniper team.  They diverted to the Harley Davidson parking lot on Las Vegas Blvd. to pick up the sniper team. Upon landing, Woolard states he asked Oberding to exit the helicopter due to weight limitations with picking up 2 additional officers with gear.  While on the ground he called back to the air support hangar and requested Air 3 be en route to give them additional coverage.  He then took off with the two-man sniper team in the back of the aircraft.  Woolard then flew them to the area of the windows and confirmed that the snipers were aware of the location.  They made a couple of slow passes by the window but just like before they were not able to see anything past the opening in the window and the lights in the room still appeared to be off.

Woolard states that they then heard that there were now calls of an active shooter at the New York, New York [2305 hours] and Tropicana Hotels.  They diverted to the New York, New York Hotel and began looking for any signs of a shooter.  During the first couple of orbits, Woolard identified a couple of landing areas that if needed could be used to deploy the two SWAT snipers.  They did not see any obvious signs outside the casino and they made orbits around the hotel and he once again used the PA system to direct citizens away from the property.  Once it was determined that the call was unfounded they orbited around the Tropicana Hotel and also saw no sign of a disturbance.

At this point, they made one more pass by the windows at Mandalay Bay and saw that there was no change from earlier.  After speaking with the sniper, the decision was made to deploy them to high ground where they would have a good vantage point of the windows.  They chose a large man-made berm on the east side of Las Vegas Blvd.  The helicopter landed, and the sniper team exited the aircraft.  Woolard then returned to the Harley Davidson parking lot and picked up Oberding.

They then responded to the concert site, assisted strike teams as they cleared the area and it appeared that most of the crowd had already evacuated, they helped strike teams coordinate their search and entry into the site, so they knew the locations of the other teams.

They left the area to refuel and let Air 3 know since they had already arrived in the area and were searching for victims outside of the venue. 

Metro Air 3

Sgt. Callen, the pilot for Air 3 stated he was at his residence when he received a call from his lieutenant who notified him that there was a possible active shooter at the Mandalay Bay.  They both decided that he would need to respond with a helicopter to potentially deploy SWAT officers at the scene.

Callen states that while driving to the Air Support hangar he called and advised Officer Lourenco that he needed him to load the fast rope gear into the Huey, Air 7, and to pull the aircraft outside. He also requested Lourenco to pull the light rescue helicopter, Air 3, outside and prepare both for flight. He briefed Lourenco of the situation and told him that his intention was for him to operate as his co-pilot in Air 7, to fly to the scene where they would begin deploying SWAT officers onto the roof of the Mandalay Bay, via a fast rope insertion. 

Callen called the McCarran Airport control tower and told them of the situation and requested that they stop all aircraft from arriving or departing the airport due to the proximity of the shooter. He also requested that they have all news or media aircraft remain clear of the scene until further notice from the LVMPD.

Upon arriving at the hangar Callen states, they did not have an officer from Search and Rescue to act as a crew chief in Air 7, which would be necessary to perform a fast rope insertion.  Due to the time, it would have taken to locate a crew chief, he decided to depart to the scene in Air 3 with Lourenco as his co-pilot.

As they arrived on scene he contacted Officer Woolard who was the pilot in command of Air 5.  Woolard had landed to pick up a SWAT sniper and was airborne with the SWAT officer in the rear of his aircraft.  Radio traffic on the Convention Center channel had stated the suspect had fired from a window approximately halfway up on the east side of the Mandalay Bay.  Woolard in Air 5 had located the window along with a second broken window close by on the same floor. Callen states that once he and Lourenco identified where the broken windows where they made several passes at various speeds near the windows in an attempt to locate the suspect. 

During this time Callen states, they were monitoring the SWAT channel along with CCAC as officers were making their way to the 32ndfloor of the Mandalay Bay. They continued to make passes near the windows on the 32ndfloor of the hotel as SWAT breached the door of the room the suspect had been firing from.  Once the officers made entry and advised the male suspect was down and deceased they began checking reports of other shootings at other casinos in the area.  They made several low passes near the Bellagio, New York New York, Monte Carlo, MGM and the Paris.  They saw no evidence of another active shooter at any of those properties and updated dispatch each time.

Callen states that once the scene became static they spent approximately one hour flying very low and slow over the scene to assist in locating victims and evidence.  During the event, they made several landings on the property of the Harley Davidson dealership located on Las Vegas Blvd., which they used as a landing zone and staging area. 

At approximately 0300 hours they flew back to the Air Support hangar and secured from duty.