Las Vegas police learned from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history to secure high-rise buildings overseeing open-air crowds and train more officers with rifles to stop a shooter in an elevated position, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Wednesday (July 10).
Among 93 recommendations in a newly released department “after-action review” are requirements to plan ahead with neighboring police, fire, hospital and coroner officials; to let responding officers remove reflective vests so they’re less of a target to a shooter; and to ensure more paramedics and trauma kits are available at large-scale events.
“We hope we never have to use these procedures that we are putting in place,” said Lombardo, who characterized the report as “our textbook on our response” to the October 2017 massacre that killed 58 people at the country music-focused, open-air Route 91 Harvest Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. He said it’s now required reading for every Las Vegas police officer above the rank of sergeant.
Lombardo noted that report authors Capt. Kelly McMahill and Detective Stephanie Ward studied other mass casualty incidents around the country, and said he hoped the Las Vegas report would help others prepare. The 158-page document acknowledged communications snags similar to those described in a separate August 2018 “after-action report” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Clark County Fire Department and Las Vegas police.
That 61-page document said communications were overwhelmed by 911 calls, the number of victims, and by false reports of active shooters at other Las Vegas Strip hotel-casinos and nearby McCarran International Airport. Lombardo, the elected head of some 5,000 officers, said the new report focuses on internal department “preparedness, response and recovery.”
It comes almost a year after Las Vegas police closed the criminal investigation with a 187-page criminal investigation report and nearly six months after the FBI issued a three-page summaryof its behavioral analysis of gunman Stephen Paddock.
Paddock, 64, a former accountant and high-stakes video poker player with homes in Reno and the southern Nevada resort community of Mesquite, killed himself before officers reached his hotel room. The FBI said Paddock sought notoriety but that investigators found no “single or clear motivating factor” for the shooting.
Investigators said Paddock planned meticulously and acted alone amassing an arsenal of assault-style weapons before opening fire from a 32nd-floor suite at the Mandalay Bay resort into a crowd of 22,000 country music fans below. Authorities said more than 850 people were wounded or injured fleeing the gunfire. Lombardo noted the NFL’s Oakland Raiders plan to move to Las Vegas and begin play in 2020 at a 65,000-seat Las Vegas Stadium being built just off the Las Vegas Strip.
He said policing changes will apply to scheduled events drawing at least 15,000 people, and the report listed more than 17 such events: New Year’s Eve fireworks on the Strip; conventions including the Consumer Electronics gadget show at the Las Vegas Convention Center; NASCAR races at Las Vegas Speedway; the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon; uncounted hotel “day club” pool parties; and 41 NHL Vegas Golden Knights hockey home games per year at T-Mobile Arena.
Lombardo noted that Las Vegas police already make presentations about what the department experienced in October 2017 to law enforcement officials in the U.S. and abroad. He said the department has already implemented 40% of the new report’s recommendations. The release comes a week after Las Vegas police confirmed the firing in March of a veteran officer who froze in a hotel hallway one floor below while Paddock rained rapid gunfire into the concert crowd below.
Lombardo said an unspecified number of other officers received lesser discipline for turning off or failing to activate body-worn video cameras, and one for accidentally firing a three-round burst of gunfire inside Paddock’s suite. Police union executive director Steve Grammas said the dismissed officer, Cordell Hendrex, was one of two officers disciplined following departmental reviews of their actions during the shooting. The union is fighting to get Hendrex reinstated.
Grammas said the only other officer he knew of who had been disciplined for actions during the shooting got his job back after an arbitrator reviewed his firing. Grammas declined to identify that officer, but said he had at least seven years on the job.
The Las Vegas Police Protective Association official said the officer had been accused of making comments the department deemed unbecoming and of telling a woman to keep moving away from the scene of the shooting instead of investigating her complaint that she had been a victim of a crime.