Police response to Vegas shooting divides experts, survivor
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Police and hotel employees’ actions as gunfire rained from a Las Vegas resort onto an outdoor concert drew mixed reactions Thursday after newly released video showed authorities making their way through a casino and carefully checking rooms before bursting into the shooter’s suite.
Security experts and a survivor of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history said the footage from officers’ body-worn cameras offered only a glimpse of what unfolded as police responded to the rampage and didn’t provide clues about why the gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds last fall.
“There’s no real context that gives any kind of glue to put this puzzle together,” said Brian Claypool, an attorney from Pasadena, California, who survived the Oct. 1 shooting and now represents dozens of victims and families considering suing for damages.
“What the survivors and people across this country want to see are answers,” Claypool said. “How did this happen? Why did it happen? And could this have been prevented?”
The Associated Press and other news organizations sued to obtain videos, 911 recordings, evidence logs and interview reports to shed light on the response by public agencies, emergency workers and hotel officials. Videos spanning 2½ hours were released Wednesday, and more recordings will come in batches in coming weeks.
A preliminary report released in January said Stephen Paddock meticulously planned the attack, researched police SWAT tactics, rented hotel rooms overlooking outdoor concerts and investigated potential targets in at least four U.S. cities. Police said the 64-year-old high-stakes video poker player killed himself as authorities closed in.
An expert in police tactics dismissed questions about whether officers should have evacuated the packed Mandalay Bay casino, where gamblers played slots seemingly unaware of the shooting 32 floors above them.
“There’s no textbook. Every incident is unique,” said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. “The last thing they want to do is create more chaos and put people ... into potential fields of fire.”
Mehmet Erdem, a hotel operations professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said employees are trained to avoid inciting panic in guests.
“Looking at the video objectively, there’s no flags, nothing that shows any indication of negligence from the hotel management perspective,” Erdem said. “You want them to get out, but you want them to do so in an orderly manner.”
Members of the initial police team who got to Mandalay Bay didn’t know if there were multiple assailants or where they might be, Eells said.
Video showed the officers with armored shields methodically checking rooms on the 29th, 30th and 31st floors before igniting an explosive charge at the door of the shooter’s room on the 32nd.
“Every door they pass or come in contact with is a potential adversary,” said Bernard Zapor, a former agent in charge with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Milwaukee and Phoenix.
“For the amount of people who were in there, you are basically having an active-shooter scene in a small city,” Zapor said. “The complexity of this is unimaginable. I think they did everything they were supposed to do.”
Tim Bedwell, a retired North Las Vegas police lieutenant, SWAT officer and Marine, said he believed police acted too slowly. Bedwell is running against Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo to head the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
“They should have gone directly to that room, breached that room and engaged the threat,” Bedwell said. “In this case, it has been said that Metro slowed because the shooting stopped. The problem is they didn’t know it stopped. There was still a need to treat it as an active-shooter and go direct to the threat.”
Unlike previous video released by police, the footage made public Wednesday was not stamped with time and date information.
Lombardo said this week that no one in the department would comment on the videos, and a police spokesman reiterated that Thursday.
Jim Ferrence, Lombardo’s campaign manager, said Bedwell should be ashamed of trying to score political points on a horrific act of violence.
Claypool, who escaped injury at the concert, questioned why police have not released audio of a hotel security guard alerting staff that he had been shot on the 32nd floor and why police who arrived didn’t seem to know which floor they were going to.
“Every second mattered in that shooting,” he said. “That’s where I’m upset in looking at this footage.”
Associated Press journalists Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles, Brian Skoloff in Phoenix and Michelle Price and Regina Garcia Cano in Las Vegas contributed to this report.