Las Vegas massacre the result of incompetenceLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Las Vegas massacre the result of incompetence

LAS VEGAS: The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI said Stephen Paddock opened fire from an elevated position inside his 32nd floor suite of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and fired down onto a crowd of 22,000 concert goers. Paddock’s reign of terror left 58 people dead and over 500 injured in what is the worst mass shooting in US history.

Paddock continued firing for 10 minutes unhindered by law enforcement. Police would not breach his room until one hour and five minutes after his last shots were fired and then with an ad-hoc SWAT Team.

Apparently the LVMPD SWAT Team was nowhere to be found that night, leaving just one of their team members to breach the room with patrol officers he never worked with before.

Why was that? We still don’t know because Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has been mute on that subject and for that matter pretty much silent for over three weeks on the entire shooting investigation.

Why were no measures taken before and during the concert to mitigate a potential sniper attack from an elevated position? Those attending the concert were for a lack of better words, sitting ducks.

Sniper attacks from elevated positions

It’s not like law enforcement hasn’t been put on notice about sniper attacks from an elevated position.

On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was killed we were told when lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, fired from the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas assassinating the president.

Then there was the Texas Tower incident in August of 1966 when sniper Charles Whitman killed 16 and wounded 32 others when he fired from atop the University of Texas clock tower.

More recently we had the sniper attack in July of 2016 also in Dallas Texas that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded when gunman Micah Johnson fired ambush-style from an elevated position in a parking garage.

So why was it that law enforcement didn’t consider the possibility that a sniper attack from above ground could endanger the crowd at the music festival?

Whenever the president travels it is a concern by the Secret Service advance team. Counter snipers are routinely deployed to protect the President, many times utilizing snipers from local area SWAT Teams.

In Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve during the closure of Las Vegas Boulevard police snipers are deployed along the Strip from elevated positions. However, at the Route 91 Music Festival apparently nobody thought outside of the box that a sniper attack from a hotel high rise could be a threat.

Las Vegas was put on notice for years

In the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks Las Vegas was put on notice by federal authorities including the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security that the city was a target for possible terrorist activity and/or active shooter incidents. The fact that Las Vegas has round the clock casino operations and an international airport heighten the city as a target.

Those warnings apparently fell on deaf ears as 23 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition made it into Stephen Paddock’s suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. To add insult to injury Paddock also drove his vehicle containing explosive materials onto the property of the Mandalay Bay, and that too went undetected until after he was found dead in his room.

Mohamed Atta, the suspected ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks made at least two trips to Las Vegas. Marwan Al-Shehhi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour and Ziad Samir Jarrah, four other attackers also made trips to Las Vegas. To this day law enforcement still does not know the full story of the terrorists Las Vegas connection.

In December 2001 a member of the Nevada Homeland Security Committee told the press that he felt Las Vegas and Reno would be good targets for any type of terrorist attack because of both cities 24/7 lifestyle. “It makes them more vulnerable,” said Richard Brenner of the Clark County Fire Department.

In 2002 the US Treasury Department required casinos to report suspicious cash transactions to thwart money laundering efforts through casinos by terrorists and other criminals. Terrorist online magazines like Inspire and Palestine have been calling for attacks against Las Vegas for years. In 2014 Las Vegas was featured in one edition of the Palestine magazine as a top spot for a terrorist attack.

In May of this year Las Vegas was once again on alert after an ISIS propaganda video surfaced from 2015 calling for lone wolf attacks on the Las Vegas Strip. The video showed footage of Caesar’s Palace, the Bellagio Hotel and other icons from the South end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

Mandalay Bay from the concert area

When I was in the hotel security industry in Las Vegas members of my team and I attended several training seminars from the US Department of Homeland Security pertaining to active shooters and responding to suicide bomb attacks. Those seminars were also attended by other security professionals including top security management personnel from other Las Vegas properties.

The USDHS advised critical infrastructure in the United States that in-house rapid deployment security teams should be in place, at the very least to suppress an active shooter until the arrival of law enforcement.

There isn’t a casino property in Las Vegas that can truthfully say that they were never put on notice that a terrorist attack and or an active shooter incident could occur on their property.

When I was a kid my mother would tell me, “How many times do I have to tell you before you get it in that thick head of yours.” Same principal applies here.

Why was it that Stephen Paddock could fire for well over ten minutes from an elevated position without law enforcement countering his fire, be it from a police helicopter or other means?

MGM Resorts International, the owners of the Mandalay Bay Hotel also bear the responsibility for the attack. Mandalay Bay had no security measures in place that could have detected Paddock’s arsenal of weapons and ammunition. They can say that security measures were never implemented because it would be an inconvenience to guests.

I’m sure the families of those who were killed will take comfort in that as will the survivors of the attack, some who will bear the physical and emotional scars of that night for the rest of their lives.

The explosive materials contained in Paddock’s vehicle that went undetected, could very well have been an improvised explosive device.

Competent planning and thinking outside of the box as to a sniper attack from an elevated position to the outdoor concert venue below, just might have prevented major loss of life, at least minimized the casualties to the 22,000 attendees.

Remember all those who were killed and wounded on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.


About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a United States Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 35 years of real-world investigative experience. He has 19 years experience in a hotel and casino environment, 14 of which were in security management positions. In 1986 he was awarded Criminal Investigator of the Year by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. Contact the author.
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