Las Vegas Sun

December 13, 2018

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What went right: Breaking down key points of Las Vegas’ crisis response

Mass Shooting at Las Vegas Music Festical

Steve Marcus

Metro Police officers pass by the front of the Tropicana hotel-casino after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017.

During and after the shooting Oct. 1, the crisis was managed quickly and effectively, minimizing the loss of life. Here are snapshots of what went right.

METRO POLICE

Police officers are shown at the scene of a shooting near Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Hundreds of victims were transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival  on the Strip.

Police officers are shown at the scene of a shooting near Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Hundreds of victims were transported to hospitals after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Strip.

Stephen Paddock’s attack lasted roughly 10 agonizing minutes, killing 58 people and leaving almost 500 injured, some critically. But officials said it could have gone on longer if not for a quick response by Metro Police. The complexities involved in stopping Paddock were dizzying.

In a chaotic situation, responding officers had to determine where the bullets were coming from. Mandalay Bay security played a crucial role in helping locate Paddock, passing along information gleaned from calls from guests in nearby rooms. Security officers joined a team of Metro officers working at an event inside the property to respond.

As far as the response on the event field, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said: “I want to say kudos to those officers who got together and said, ‘This is what we trained for — active shooter. Let’s go engage this individual.’ ”

Unlike police departments in some other mass shootings, Metro opted not to surround Paddock and wait for tactical teams. “I will not disparage another police department’s response, but I will tell you we quite often learn from what other people do,” Lombardo said. “As a result, what occurred in Columbine, what occurred in Sacramento, what occurred in Boston, what occurred at the Pulse nightclub, police responses changed. So we’ve found it’s better, instead of securing the perimeter and hoping the person doesn’t continue to do acts of carnage … that even a small police response will stop the suspect’s actions.”

Paddock was still alive when Mandalay Bay security officer Jesus Campos came upon his room, following up on a report of a door ajar. Paddock fired through the door, wounding Campos, but the firing on the crowd ended. When Metro officers entered the room, Paddock was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “People have the assumption that things went wrong in this type of carnage,” Lombardo said. “But what went right is we saved hundreds of lives.” –Ric Anderson

FIRST RESPONDERS

First responders hold 58 white balloons, representing the 58 victims of the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting, before a UNLV football game against San Diego State at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

First responders hold 58 white balloons, representing the 58 victims of the Route 91 Harvest festival mass shooting, before a UNLV football game against San Diego State at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017.

When bullets rained on the festival, first responders went to work (including two off-duty firefighters shot while giving CPR). A Clark County Fire Department crew on an unrelated call in the area was on the scene almost immediately. Some 180 local firefighters would respond, among others.

Robert Hayes of the Los Angeles Fire Department described to CBS News how first responders and the crowd worked together to provide aid. “There were people sitting there that wouldn’t leave people who were shot," he said, "and they didn’t even know them.” Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said the first crews on the scene followed active-shooter plans developed over the past decade. Forming small teams with Metro officers and wearing protective helmets and vests, they entered the grounds to help the wounded.

Cassell said the plans worked out exactly as hoped, and no active firefighters were injured.-RA

STRIP PROPERTIES

Marquees along the Las Vegas Strip pay respect to the victims and first responders of the previous Sunday's mass shooting Tuesday, October 3, 2017. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau) .

Marquees along the Las Vegas Strip pay respect to the victims and first responders of the previous Sunday's mass shooting Tuesday, October 3, 2017. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas News Bureau) .

From the earliest moments of the tragedy, crisis management by nearby casino-resorts helped keep people safe. And it started with Mandalay Bay’s security team.

“We would not have engaged this individual in the time-lapse that we did without their assistance,” Lombardo said.

Las Vegas casinos maintain emergency plans and conduct training exercises to deal with mass-casualty situations. They don’t discuss details, so as not to give potential attackers a strategic advantage, but these plans are a crucial part of operations in which companies invest significantly. It’s a cost of doing business: If guests don’t feel safe, they go elsewhere.

But it’s also a balancing act. Intrusive security measures like those at airports can put guests ill at ease. (That’s why Steve Wynn, whose security systems at Wynn and Encore are recognized as among the most extensive on the Strip, installed hidden metal detectors and uses plain-clothed, specially trained guards.) So security isn’t always visible until a serious event, which was the case Sunday.

As security at the MGM Resorts International property hustled to move guests to safe areas and lock down the casino, staffs at other casinos followed suit.

Amid what turned out to be false reports of active shooters operating at multiple casinos and explosives going off on the Strip, casino companies up and down the boulevard locked down. At the Tropicana, for example, people were moved into ballrooms and provided sheets, towels and water. Metro kept them updated until it was safe to leave. –RA

HOSPITAL STAFF

HealthCare Partners mans a free food and drink relief station for UMC team personnel and victim's families outside UMC following a mass shooting on Sunday night across from the Mandalay Bay on Tuesday, October 3, 2017.   .

HealthCare Partners mans a free food and drink relief station for UMC team personnel and victim's families outside UMC following a mass shooting on Sunday night across from the Mandalay Bay on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. .

As gunfire erupted, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center was about to undergo an extreme test: 214 victims in three hours, 130 with gunshot wounds.

The situation wasn’t entirely unfamiliar. Sunrise had participated in live mass-casualty trainings with sister hospitals MountainView and Southern Hills, which also would take in victims. Sunrise was operating under a comprehensive plan with protocols for calling in off-duty staff from every area of operations — physicians, nurses, pharmacy professionals, environmental services staff, etc. And in tabletop exercises, the staff had simulated its response to an emergency involving more than 250 people. “This is Las Vegas. We have to do that,” said Dr. Jeffrey Murawsky, Sunrise’s chief medical officer.

As Sunrise turned into a swirl of human motion — paramedics transporting victims, Metro officers keeping paths clear, hospital staff rolling out wheelchairs for victims brought by private vehicles — staff members fell back on their training. “I can’t be happy that people lost their lives, but I couldn’t be prouder of the people at Sunrise and our sisters at MountainView and Southern Hills,” Murawsky said.

Sunrise was one of at least nine hospitals that treated Sunday’s victims, saving dozens of lives. Among them was UMC, which also maintains mass-casualty plans and conducts disaster drills. CNBC reported that the hospital conducted a training session in July that included a speech by a Florida physician who had dealt with victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the community response,” said Dr. John Fildes, director of UMC’s Level 1 trauma center. “Every hospital took serious patients. Everybody took care of them well. And we’ve exercised our disaster plan in Las Vegas, and it was rolled out flawlessly.” –RA

THE CROWD

People walk near the Las Vegas Strip shortly after sunrise Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. A deadly shooting occurred Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

People walk near the Las Vegas Strip shortly after sunrise Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. A deadly shooting occurred Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

Krisdie Snedeger chose to run.

Having just pulled herself and a friend over a fence near the main stage after the initial round of gunshots rang out at the Route 91 Harvest festival, the 25-year-old Las Vegan surveyed the options. Nearby, people were cramming themselves underneath the stage and jumping into dumpsters. The east gates of the venue were wide open, but there was no protection in the space between.

The pop pop pop pop pop pop of an automatic weapon still echoed around them. The gunfire seemed to come from everywhere. Bodies were everywhere.

“We grabbed hands and ran into open fire,” Snedeger says. “I was prepping myself for that bullet. We just kept running.”

As she rounded a corner around a fence, she instinctively pulled out her phone and called her mom. She left a voicemail telling her goodbye.

“Maybe that was dumb. It probably slowed me down. But I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Snedeger isn’t sure whether running saved her life or if she simply got lucky. She ran through the roughly 10-minute barrage and kept going toward McCarran International Airport, urging others to move. She ran until her body collapsed. For reasons she can’t explain, there was blood in her vomit.

She and dozens of others hid in an airplane hangar someone had broken into for shelter. A stranger offered her a bottle of water to wash out the taste in her mouth. Nearby, a group of women tended to a man with a tourniquet around his leg and screamed for someone to call an ambulance. Eventually, one came. A pickup truck came by, its driver looking for injured people to transport to the hospital.

Because they were physically fine, she and her friend waited.

Forty-eight hours after the shooting, the reality of the situation — and the guilt of surviving — was beginning to set in for Snedeger. She has tried to watch videos from the night, including one a friend took at the very beginning when many in the crowd thought some jerk was just throwing fireworks. But the sound of the gunfire sickens her, and she has to look away. She wonders if she could have done more. She wonders if the bodies she ran past or over were truly lifeless. She wonders if the event cops she saw shielding groups of huddling women made it out OK. They told her to run.

“I’ve realized we were good people versus one bad person,” Snedeger says. “Even though I didn’t stop and I didn’t hold anyone’s blood in, I was watching. I could see. Nobody left a loved one. Everybody stopped. Nobody died alone.” –April Corbin