Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2019

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Metro releases report on lessons from 2017 mass shooting

Mandalay

John Locher / AP

In this Oct. 1, 2017, file photo, police run toward the scene of a shooting near Mandalay Bay.

Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2019 | 8 p.m.

1 Oct. After-Action Review Report

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo holds up a copy of the 1 October After-Action Review report during a press conference at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Headquarters on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. Launch slideshow »

In a 158-page report made public Wednesday, Metro Police hopes to answer how prepared the agency was for the Oct. 1, 2017, massacre on the Las Vegas Strip, and how its officers responded — outlining the response’s “strengths, weaknesses” and the lessons learned.

It also provided 93 policy-change suggestions, with about half of them implemented as of this week — many before the report pointed them out, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. Some were as simple as providing a watch from snipers from above open-air events, he added.

The agency is working on addressing the rest, which include administrative changes, updates to training manuals, and technology that still needs to be financed, said Capt. Kelly McMahill, one of the report’s authors.

The “1 October After-Action Review” was presented by Lombardo in a mid-afternoon briefing with reporters.

Fifty-eight people died and more than 800 others were injured when a high-stakes gambler, perched on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay suite, smashed two windows and indiscriminately rained more than 1,000 rifle rounds in about 10 minutes. Stephen Paddock, 64, subsequently killed himself before authorities breached his hotel room.

Some of the areas of “critical concern” outlined by Lombardo included insufficient rifles available during the barrage of gunfire and too few medical kits immediately available to treat victims. SWAT radio communications were stymied inside some Strip resorts, including Mandalay Bay.

Additionally, multi-agency, mass-casualty training hadn’t addressed the post-shooting response, “leaving many first responder agencies unprepared for the many responsibilities,” according to a Metro-provided fact-sheet. Lombardo said there needed to be better coordination with medics and the Clark County Coroner’s Office to provide accurate numbers and make timely next-of-kin notifications.

The Motorola police radios worked “as they were designed,” as did the response from about 1,500 officers, many of whom have trained together in multi-agency exercises aimed to prepare them for a mass casualty incident, according to the report. However, transmission inside several resorts became a problem due to building designs. “Due to the massive scale of this incident, the number of officers on scene working the festival, and their proximity to gunfire and victims, officers made numerous attempts to relay information over the radio,” but 400 radio denials were reported within the first 15 minutes of the massacre, according to the report.

“There’s not a radio system in world that could handle that many push-to-talk transmissions,” Lombardo said.

Click to enlarge photo

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo introduces the authors of the 1 October After-Action Review report Detective Stephanie Ward, left, and Capt. Kelly McMahill during a news conference at Metro Police headquarters on Wednesday, July 10, 2019.

Metro and the Clark County Fire Department are evaluating the emergency radio frequency coverage at resorts, which wasn’t required with properties built before 2011. Mandalay Bay has since installed a device to boost coverage. The report recommended the deficiencies in Strip buildings and parking garages be corrected by July 2020. Enforcement would come from the Fire Department.

The mass shooting led Metro to create a Major Case Squad comprising “expert” personnel from across the department, Lombardo said. The unit is designed to work 24/7 should a critical incident occur. It’s been deployed at least three times, Lombardo said, such as the rape of a woman at a northwest valley park on June 20. A nine-time convicted felon was in custody about 48 hours later.

Lombardo’s comments come a week after it was reported that a Metro officer, who’d responded to the shooting, had lost his job in March because of his alleged inaction during the night of the massacre.

Cordell Hendrex responded to the 31st floor of the Mandalay Bay but froze, the Associated Press reported. In his statement after the attack, Hendrex wrote that he was “terrified with fear … I froze right there in the middle of the hall, for how long I can’t say.”

Lombardo noted that multiple officers had been disciplined for actions they took that night, such as the officer who accidentally discharged his rifle in Paddock’s room, and officers who didn’t turn on their body-worn cameras. He said the process was internal and did not expound on the disciplinary action.

After the attack, investigators found about a couple dozen rifles — with high-capacity magazines attached to them — and hundreds of unused bullets strewn about Paddock’s room, but could not unearth a motive.

The criminal investigations into Paddock have since concluded, and the motivation for the shooting remains a mystery.

In previously released reports, Metro and the FBI couldn’t precisely conclude what motivated Paddock, described as being apathetic and as one who saw relationships as transactional. “Paddock’s decision to murder people while they were being entertained was consistent with his personality” and a desire of infamy, the FBI wrote on a summary of a behavioral analysis.

He was not driven by ideology, and his attack likely wasn’t due to a grievance toward “any specific casino, hotel or institution in Las Vegas; the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino; the Route 91 Harvest Festival; or against anyone killed or injured during the attack,” the three-page FBI document reads.

Metro’s latest report comes almost a year since the Federal Emergency Management Agency released its after-action report, which was a collaborative effort between the federal agency, the police department, and the Clark County Fire Department.

Those findings included snarled communications, a lack of a unified command post, and first responders who were challenged by multiple false reports of multiple shooters and hostages, the report said.

"Congested radio traffic made coordination difficult for response agencies," the report said. "The calls caused a heightened sense of alert, and in some cases the fear of a multi-pronged, coordinated attack near the initial shooting."

But it also praised the collaborative effort between agencies, noting that incident commanders received constant updates, and were effective in diverting their resources.

Asked to evaluate the agency’s actions that fateful night, Lombardo repeated a sentiment he’s expressed since the immediate days after the shooting.

“I think our response was heroic. I think we did a fantastic job in what we did for an event that nobody could have (anticipated), yet you get the naysayers and self-proclaimed experts out there in the cyber world who say, ‘You should have prepared for this,’” Lombardo said. “Come on folks, this was never in anybody’s thought process or paradigm.

“And I won’t sway from that — you can ask me another year from now and I’ll give you the same answer,” he added.

The recent report, written by Metro Detective Stephanie Ward and Capt. McMahill in an 18-month period, will now exist as a historical document that can be explored by other police agencies across the country. It’s also become required reading and testing material for officers who reach the rank of sergeant and above.

In an 18-month period, the authors reviewed about 500 officer reports, 4,900 dispatch calls, watched over 3,000 body-camera videos, and conducted about 650 interviews.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.