Lombardo still silent on why SWAT Team failed to make entry in Paddock’s suite

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LAS VEGAS — During the same time that gunman Stephen Paddock was firing down from his 32nd floor Mandalay Bay Hotel suite into the Route 91 Harvest music festival, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s SWAT Team was ordered not to respond to the location of the active shooter.

I first reported on this in the May 24 Baltimore Post-Examiner story, Las Vegas SWAT was ordered not to respond to Mandalay Bay mass shooting.’

Since that story was published the LVMPD has released its final report on the Las Vegas Massacre and more officer’s reports were made public.

Paddock opened fire at 10:05 p.m. on October 1, 2017, and continued firing until several seconds after 10:15 p.m.

While bodies were falling to the ground and hundreds of others were being struck by Paddock’s gunfire, the LVMPD SWAT Team was ordered not to respond to the Mandalay Bay Hotel, but rather one-half mile south of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip to the LVMPD’s South Central Area Command (SCAC).

According to officer’s reports, that order went out through the SWAT Team’s notification system at 10:14 p.m., as the active shooter incident was still ongoing, and people were being killed.

“At 2214 hours the SWAT/CNT [Crisis Negotiation Team] notification system was activated directing all personnel assigned to the teams to report to the South Central Area Command – Command Post.”

During this time, some police officers were running through the gunfire to get into the Mandalay Bay Hotel to get to the shooter, as SWAT officers were ordered not to respond to the immediate threat.

To date, what has top cop Lombardo have to say about all of this?

Absolutely nothing, total silence from the head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The LVMPD has been strongly criticized as to why the entry into Paddock’s suite was not made until 11:20 p.m., one hour and five minutes after the last shots were fired and then by SWAT Officer Levi Hancock and his ad-hoc team of patrol officers, without the back-up of Hancock’s full SWAT Team.

When the LVMPD’s final criminal investigative report was released in August, I was anticipating that we would have some answers, however, nothing was mentioned as to why the full SWAT Team didn’t make entry into Paddock’s suite, despite Lombardo’s previous comments that the full SWAT Team did make entry.

Where is the accountability to the public?

What happened to transparency and the public’s right to know?

Remember 58 people were killed and over 400 were wounded by Paddock’s gunfire.

There is no way that any LVMPD commander could have known that night that the gunfire was going to stop at 10:15 p.m. and or restart any time thereafter, yet the message was sent out to the SWAT Team to not respond directly to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Both Lombardo and the Force Investigation Team detectives who authored the LVMPD’s final criminal investigative report on the October 1 Las Vegas Massacre stated that entry into the room had to be made to stop any further gunfire and not give Paddock the opportunity to reload and open fire again.

That was a lie as entry wasn’t made until over one hour after the last shots were fired.

While police officers were risking their lives to get into the Mandalay Bay to get to the shooter, and others were being pinned down by the gunfire, the SWAT Team was ordered not to respond where they were needed most, the location of the shooter.

Is that not why we have police special weapons and tactics teams, to back up other police officers when they are under fire and to protect the public during an active shooter incident?

Excerpts from LVMPD radio traffic on October 1, 2017

Although at first the gunfire was thought to have been originating inside the concert venue, it quickly became apparent that the gunfire was coming from the Mandalay Bay.

“179 Sam Easy, we got shots fired at the Route 91 sounded like automatic firearm.”

“It’s coming from upstairs in the Mandalay Bay, upstairs Mandalay Bay halfway up.”

“That’s correct, shots fired from Mandalay Bay.”

“790 [Sgt. Andy Bauman] arrived, I’m going to form a strike team, Mandalay Bay and the Boulevard, I need five officers on me.”

159SE, we have a rifle deployed, we are in front of Mandalay Bay. We are trying to see where the shots are coming from.”

“We’re seeing multiple flashes in the middle of the Mandalay Bay on the north side, kind of on the west tower towards the center of the casino, one of the middle floors.”

“Control 3Mary, we have an officer shot Mandalay Bay northbound right outside Route 91 at the south edge [weapon fire heard in the background.”]

“Control 3Mary14 [Cordell Hendrex at 10:12 p.m.], I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor, I can hear the automatic weapon fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

“CP [command post] be advised its automatic fire from an elevated position, take cover.”

“That is correct it’s automatic fire I’m one floor below it.” [Hendrex again, who failed to take any action with his armed contingent of four others to get to the 32nd floor while Paddock was firing].

“We’re taking gunfire, it’s going right over our heads, there’s debris coming over our heads, so we’re pinned down with civilians.”

One minute into the gunfire, LVMPD Detective Stephen Balonek observed the shooter firing from the window of the Mandalay Bay as reported in our October 15, 2018 story, ‘One minute into Las Vegas massacre police detective observed Paddock with rifle firing from window.’

What does the final police report say about the entry into Paddock’s suite

According to the police report SWAT Officer Hancock was working his normal duties as a SWAT officer when he received notification of an active shooter and responded to the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Hancock and a Strike Team composed of patrol and K9 officers reached the stairwell of the 31st floor at 10:57 p.m., and then encountered LVMPD Officers Hendrex, Varsin and the three armed Mandalay Bay security supervisors.

The fire exit door was pried open, and Hancock then used an explosive breach at 11:20 p.m. to make entry into Room 32-135.

Once in the room, Paddock was found deceased on the floor with an apparent head wound. Hancock encountered a second closed door to the connecting room and decided to use a charge to breach that door.

After the charge was activated, he heard SWAT Officer O’Donnell fire a burst of three shots, an unintentional discharge.

SWAT Officer O’Donnell was on his regular day off when he received a text from a friend in K9. The text advised of an active shooter at the Mandalay Bay, and due to the source of the information, O’Donnell immediately went to his SWAT vehicle which was at his residence, turned on his radio, and began to put on his work uniform and gear. O’Donnell realized quickly the information on the shooting was accurate and began to head toward the incident.

O’Donnell responded to the Mandalay Bay.

He learned of Hancock’s plan to breach the door to the suite and make entry. He decided when Hancock moved into the room, he would quickly move up the hallway and join him.

As the breach occurred to the adjoining room door to 32-134, O’Donnell felt he should change the rate of fire on his rifle to “select fire” which puts the gun into a three round burst mode. As he made the switch, which takes hand manipulation, O’Donnell’s hand slipped which caused the weapon to fire a three-round burst into the wall.

The LVMPD’s final report does not address why the LVMPD SWAT Team was ordered not to respond to the Mandalay Bay but rather to the South Central Area Command.

The police report also fails to address why Hancock and O’Donnell responded directly to the Mandalay Bay and not the SCAC.

Apparently, that would open the door to further inquiry as to why the full SWAT Team didn’t make entry into Paddock’s suite, something the LVMPD command structure obviously did not want to address in the final report.

Hancock and O’Donnell were absolutely correct in their decision to respond directly to the Mandalay Bay. That was where the threat was, even though the gunfire had stopped prior to their arrival.

A few excerpts from LVMPD Officer’s Reports

Officer J. Smith: “At the time of the incident I was working the intersection of Mandalay Bay and Las Vegas Blvd. specifically on the southwest corner. I heard the shots and based on how loud, I believed it was coming from the walkway which lead up to Mandalay Bay. I began walking up the sidewalk when there was a pause in the shooting and then I heard glass break. The glass breaking drew my attention towards the windows of the Mandalay Bay when I observed smoke coming from the side of Mandalay in spurts as if it was coming out every time the trigger was pulled.”

Officer R. Rotta: “Officer Sims and I had become split up for a brief period. I located him and moved to his position. It was then that he advised me the shooting was coming from up in a window on the Mandalay Bay.”

Officer D. Rose: “As we were approaching the grounds, we learned there was a shooter in the Mandalay Bay with a position of advantage.”

Detective Glenn Brook: “Officer Balonek stated he saw a figure near the top floors of the Mandalay Bay hotel who appeared to be standing on a shooting platform and approximately 4 to 6 feet back from the window.”

Detective J. Golimer: “At 2214 hours, the SWAT/CNT notification system directing all personnel assigned to the teams to report to SCAC, Command Post.”

Officer J. Van Nest: “The gunfire continued for several long bursts and appeared to be going over our heads. Radio traffic was given that the shots were coming from the Mandalay Bay out of a window.”

Officer M. Johnson: “We knew that in order to protect and save lives we had to get to the shooter.”

SWAT Officer K. Hoskins: “On 10/1/2017 at approximately 2210 hours, I was notified via text from Sgt. Mueller that an active shooter incident was taking place at the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino. We caravanned from the range towards the Mandalay Bay, and were advised over SWAT 1 to stage at SCAC due to the intelligence given that there were multiple shooters and the possibility of multiple locations. Once arrived at SCAC, I dressed into my entry kit and began moving towards the Mandalay Bay. As the team was running up the stairs, we were made aware that Officers Hancock and O’Donnell, along with patrol and K9 were breaching the suspects’ room with an explosive breach.”

SWAT Sgt. Wiggins: “Received a text message from Lt. Huddler that there was an active shooter at the Mandalay Bay and to be en route. I sent a text message out to the snipers and to be en route. As I pulled up to the Mandalay Bay on the south side, I heard that there were possibly two or three shooters in the Mandalay Bay. I quickly got dressed and ran into the Mandalay Bay looking for officers to form an active shooter team with. Once I reached the main elevator banks SWAT operators Billy Marx and Sean O’Donnell showed up. My team then descended to the 32nd floor. Once there Hancock and his team had already made entry and located the suspect deceased.”

SWAT Officer W. Germosen: “At 2208 hours, operating as Zebra 15 got notified by Sgt. Mueller to respond to an active shooter at the Mandalay Bay. While en route I got notified on SWAT 1 to respond to the SCAC. At SCAC we deployed in several five-man active shooter teams to Mandalay Bay. As I was ascending the stairs, we got information over the radio the suspect was down up on the 32nd floor in room 135.”

Officer T. Muis: “We advanced south, running, using the trees in the center median as concealment, as we had no cover, and the information had been broadcast that the shots were coming from the Mandalay Bay.”

Officer K. Delzer: “At 2240 hours, I proceeded to the incident and established a landing zone for helicopter operations at the Harley-Davidson dealership. This served as a base of operations for EOB [Emergency Operations Bureau] Air Support. SWAT Lt. Huddler was advised of the location and our capabilities. Air 5 was already on scene providing support to the patrol units. I outfitted, loaded and secured two SWAT snipers in the back of Air 5 for deployment. This was to find a position of advantage to stop the threat and to address additional threats if needed.”

SWAT Officer A. Gonzales: “At approximately 2210 I was notified by my team leader Sgt. Mueller, there was an active shooter at the Mandalay Bay. Due to being close to the SWAT hangar and the possible need for an armored vehicle to be able to approach the Mandalay Bay under gunfire, along with a possible need for down officer rescues, I went to the SWAT hangar and retrieved a Bear Cat. I then responded to the scene. I was told to respond to SCAC where I was assigned to an active shooter response team. My team responded to the Mandalay Bay in search of the suspect or possible suspects. While in the stairwell we learned the 32nd floor had been cleared and the suspect was found dead.”

SWAT Officer J. Ferrante: “Was on duty/logged on and operating as Z27, when I received a text message from Sgt. Mueller, that there was an active shooter at Mandalay Bay. While en route to the scene I was advised over SWAT 1 to respond to the command post, set up at SCAC, due to there being multiple assailants. Upon arrival, I immediately dressed out, formed an active shooter element and responded to Mandalay Bay. Upon arrival into Mandalay Bay our team located the elevators and a security guard. The security guard was unable to assist us on which elevator we needed to take, so we could get to the 32nd floor. [What a freaking disgrace.] We then received information that the suspect was coming down the elevators. We each took up a position holding on all elevators on the casino level. After a short time holding on the elevators, we located the correct elevator to take us to the 32nd floor, however the elevators were shut down. We located the stairs and began to ascend. Once I reached floor 20, we learned that entry had been made into the suspect’s room and he was 419 [dead].”

SWAT Officer H. Singh: “At approximately 2205 hours, while being assigned TDY [training] to the Blue SWAT Team, was training at the LVMPD Range, along with other members of the Blue SWAT Team. We received a notification of a possible active shooter at the Mandalay Bay with multiple victims. I proceeded to the hangar to pick up mobile armor. Once I arrived, I met with Officer C. Thompson, and we both loaded into the Bear armored vehicle and headed to the Mandalay Bay. While en route to the call, we received intel of possible multiple shooters, so the decision was made by the SWAT Commander to stage at South Central Area Command and formulate a plan. Once arrived at the area command, Officer Thompson and I, along with other SWAT and SAR members, made a strike team and headed down range towards the Mandalay Bay. Our team made it to the 23rd floor when other SWAT and K9 members breached the suspect’s room.”

SWAT Officer D. Ferrin: “Was at the LVMPD Range when a text came out from Sgt. Mueller, stating that there was an active shooter at Mandalay Bay and several people were down. Myself and the officers that were training at the range headed towards the Mandalay Bay. While in route to the active shooter we were on radio channel SWAT 1 so that we could communicate with each other as we were clearing intersections. While southbound on I-15 we were notified that there were possibly several shooters and that individuals were seen on the tarmac of McCarran Airport. We were also informed that this could possibly be a coordinated attack and to report to SCAC. I arrived at SCAC along with the majority of the SWAT section. From there we formed into strike teams and moved towards the Mandalay Bay. Me and several other SWAT officers reached approximately the 27th floor when officers made entry into the room on the 32nd floor.”

SWAT Officer B. Brosnahan: “Operating as a uniformed SWAT officer, call sign Z22, did respond to the Mandalay Bay active shooter event at 2215 hours. I was off duty when I received a text message from my supervisor, Sgt. Wiggins, stating that there was an active shooter at the Mandalay Bay and that I, along with the entire SWAT team was to respond. While listening to the radio, details were scattered and unclear as to the number of shooters, their locations, and how many locations they had attacked. Rather than pulling up to Mandalay Bay directly, and in to an ambush, a supervisor got on the SWAT 1 radio channel, and instructed all SWAT personnel to meet at SCAC to stage and deploy from there.

Once arrived, the assistant team leader, SWAT Officer K. Stephens, told me he needed me to deploy as a sniper, so I grabbed my sniper gear, to include my LaRue .308 semi-automatic sniper rifle. I then linked up with SWAT Officer C. Mikkelson and drove in his truck to Mandalay Bay. Mikkelson and I then entered the Four Seasons entrance to Mandalay Bay. Mikkelson and I then made our way to the center rotunda of the 32nd floor and contacted several officers, and Mandalay Bay employees. Looking down the wing of the suspect’s suite, we could see at the end of the hallway, the double doors to the suite. The left door as you look at it had dozens of bullet holes in it. We also observed that several patrol and plainclothes officers, and 1 SWAT officer, O’Donnell, were halfway down the suspect hall, and taking cover in the hotel room alcoves. Mikkelson and I ran down the hallway to those officers, and set up as a sniper team, covering the suspect’s doors.

SWAT Officer Hancock then broadcast on the CCAC channel that he was entering the suspect hallway from the stairwell, next to the suspect’s suite, to hang an explosive breach. Mikkelson and I covered their movements. The breach was detonated, [11:20 p.m.]and the left door did come free from the hinges, only hanging up on the interior door return. The breach team then tore the door all the way down, and slowly entered the suite. After the team entered, and Mikkelson and I were out of play, we were set to be a downed officer rescue team. Once a second charge went off inside the suite, and we heard a discharge of a firearm, Mikkelson and I made the decision to enter the suite in case the team ran short of bodies. By the time we entered, the suite, and the adjoining room were cleared, and the suspect was found dead inside.”

SWAT Officer T. Carrasco: “After receiving a text message from my supervisor and the communicator, I started en route to the Mandalay Bay casino. I responded code-3 in my department vehicle to the designated stage location of South central Area Command. Upon arrival, I dressed out into my LVMPD SWAT uniform. I met up with several other arriving SWAT and Search and Rescue officers and formed an active shooter strike team. Our team was given direction from the SWAT commander to go to the Mandalay Bay. WE did not have any suspect contact.”

SWAT Officer J. Collingwood: “After receiving a text message from my supervisor and the communicator I started en route to the Mandalay Bay casino. Once I arrived at the area, I heard reports of another active shooter at New York New York casino. [11:05 p.m.] I advised CP over the air on SWAT 1 that I was making entry into New York New York casino. I made contact with a few patrol officers and made entry. It was quickly realized that we didn’t have another active shooter here.”

SWAT Sgt. Todd Mueller: “Acting as the team leader for the LVMPD SWAT Blue Team, received information of a possible active shooter at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. I also received information from Lt. W. Huddler that the shooter was possibly in an elevated position and that we were to meet at the South Central Area Command. I passed this information over the radio on SWAT 1 to the responding SWAT officers.

Once I arrived at SCAC I met up with Lt. Huddler to receive any additional information he may have. Lt. Huddler advised me that he had nothing more and that he was heading to the command post. I then got my Assistant Team Leader, SWAT Officer Kevin Stephens, and quickly divided the SWAT operators into several active shooter teams. Once the teams were established, I contacted the command post and advised them that we were heading to Mandalay Bay. Lt. Huddler copied me and advised that he did not have any hard intelligence yet as to where the shooting was coming from or where the shooter was located.

The teams then started northbound on Las Vegas Boulevard toward the Mandalay Bay. When we reached the front entrance of the Four Seasons, we made our way through the interior to the Mandalay Bay to avoid being seen by the suspect. At that time we still didn’t know for sure where the suspect was or if there was more than one suspect. We started to receive information from the command post that patrol officers were on the 32nd floor and that we had SWAT personnel on the 32nd floor as well. My team made our way to the elevators in the main lobby of Mandalay Bay in an attempt to get up to the 32nd floor.

The communications with the command post and the area command were very broken up due to the interior of the hotel. We heard broken traffic on the area command channel that possible suspects were coming down the elevators. We set up in the main lobe near the elevators and waited for the suspects. During this time we received information from the command post that another active shooter was occurring at the New York New York Hotel [11:05 p.m.]. One of the other SWAT teams then came over the air and said that they were heading to the NYNY to assist. My team stayed at the Mandalay Bay to address the possible suspects coming down the elevator. After several minutes the command post informed us that the information about the suspects coming down the elevators was unfounded and that the elevators were all now shut down.

The team that responded to the NYNY returned to the Mandalay Bay after finding out the information about the active shooter was also unfounded. As we were making our way up the stairs, we received information that the teams on the 32nd floor had already made entry into the suspect’s room and that the suspect was down.”    

SWAT Officer M. Burris: “While working as SWAT personnel Z31, was assigned to an active shooter event at the Mandalay Bay. I responded to the staging area of the parking lot of the SCAC, as per Lt. Huddler’s orders. Upon arrival, myself and numerous other SWAT personnel donned our entry gear, armed with handguns, rifles, and shock locks. Teams were quickly assembled amongst SWAT personnel and began to move forward to the Mandalay Bay.”

SWAT Commander Lt. William Huddler

LVMPD SWAT Lt. William Huddler, the team’s commander on the night of the October 1, 2017 massacre who gave the order for the SWAT team not to respond to the Mandalay Bay, but rather the SCAC, had only been the SWAT commander for a few months.

Huddler had no prior SWAT team experience, although that is not a prerequisite at the LVMPD for commanding the team.

Huddler was previously assigned as the lieutenant in charge of the LVMPD’s Force Investigation Team, the unit that was given primary responsibility overseeing the department’s criminal investigation into the October 1 mass shooting and who authored the preliminary and final reports.

The prior SWAT commander, Lt. Tom Melton, had been placed on paid administrative leave on July 28, 2017 following an internal criminal investigation involving the financial exploitation of the elderly.

In February of this year Melton was indicted on multiple felony counts.

What was going on at the South Central Area Command

Recently released officer’s body-worn camera footage, batch 27 #568, shows the staging area at the LVMPD’s South Central Area Command on the night of October 1, 2017.

As I said earlier, the SCAC is located one-half mile south of the Mandalay Bay Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard.

This was the staging area where the SWAT Team was ordered to respond.

As officers are staging at the SCAC awaiting orders, other police officers had already entered the Mandalay Bay as the gunfire was ongoing in an effort to reach the shooter.

Audio excerpts captured from the body worn camera video of the officer who was at the SCAC:

10:39:46 p.m. “Where we staging at.” “SWAT’s going to stage on the Boulevard, and everyone who’s coming, they’re all going to take the Boulevard, that’s it.”

10:39:56 p.m. – “We have a MACTAC squad here ready for deployment.”

10:41:18 p.m. – “They don’t want us going to the scene.”

10:44:43 p.m. – “What the hell is going on?” “They have us just fuckin standing here, let us go fuckin do something.”

Hopefully this article has shed some light on the question as to why the LVMPD full SWAT Team did not make entry into gunman Stephen Paddock’s suite, why there was an hour and five minute delay after the last shots were fired before entry was even made and why SWAT Officer Hancock had to use an ad-hoc team of patrol and K9 officers in lieu of his team members to make that entry.