Las Vegas officer feared he wouldn’t survive massacreLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Las Vegas officer feared he wouldn’t survive massacre

LAS VEGAS — The hundreds of witness statements and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer’s reports that describe the horrific events as they unfolded during the worst mass-shooting in modern American history gives an insight into the emotional trauma that was experienced by not only civilians but police officers as well.

Many of the LVMPD officers who became part of history that night had never been in a combat military environment. They never witnessed the death and wounding of so many people on the level that occurred on October 1. Even if they had prior military combat experience, no one could have ever thought they would see anything like what happened that night in an American city.

Police officers never forget the tragedies they see.

You may try to block them out of your mind, but they are always there hidden deep in your sub-conscious memory and many times they surface for no apparent reason. Whether it was a homicide, suicide, some horrific accident scene, the death of a child, you live with those memories forever.

What is a cop thinking when they are responding to a massacre?

What should they be thinking about?

How do they react after witnessing a horrifying crime scene?

What emotional scars will remain within the minds of those cops because of what they saw and how will it affect them for the remainder of their police careers?

I came across an LVMPD officer’s report from the night of October 1, 2017, that may answer just those questions.

I felt my heart sink into my chest

On October 1, 2017 at approximately 2155 hours I, Officer A. Mitre along with 10-year Veteran Officer S. Fox acting as marked directed patrol unit 3DP12, were patrolling the SCAC [South Central Area Command]Nora area.  We had initiated the investigation of a suspicious vehicle located at the Emerald Suites. During the investigation, I heard a gang crime unit state he was switching over to the CCAC [Convention Center Area Command]channel in reference to the active shooter at Mandalay Bay.  I felt my heart sink into my chest. I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked Officer Fox if she had heard the same radio traffic.  She stated she had not heard the radio traffic as she was engaged in a conversation with the two subjects related to the suspicious vehicle. I quickly briefed Officer Fox, and stated I was switching over to CCAC channel.   As officers stated shots were being fired at Mandalay Bay hotel into the theater, unsure where the shots were coming from. Another officer yelled there were several people down and mass casualties.  Officer Fox and I told the two subjects we had to leave and jumped into our vehicle, immediately responding code 3.  At first, I thought a subject was hooting inside a theater at the Mandalay Bay, similar to the tragic event at the Bataclan Theater in France, November 2015.

I don’t want to go to a funeral

While driving, I heard officers state there was an officer down followed by more rapid gunfire on the channel.  A few moments later I heard another officer state there was another officer down.  I began to hyperventilate and shake while driving. I desperately thought to myself, “could one of the officers be an officer from my squad?  My area command?” “I don’t want to go to a funeral.”   I began to pray to God the officers would survive. As I attempted to take deep breathes, I pleaded with God to help me and my partner.  As Officer Fox was directing me where to go, we pulled up to E. Reno Ave. and Duke Ellington Way just south of the Wyndham Hotel. I observed several patrol units parked on both sides of the street and further west several other units parked by the Route 91 Festival located at Giles St. and Ali Baba Ln. I could see a cloud of dust in the distance and hundreds of people running east bound toward us.

Why am I going to die today?

Officer Fox stated, “put your gear on”. I immediately stepped out of my vehicle and heard hundreds of people screaming and a long 3 second round of rapid fire traveling in our direction. I crouched down next to the driver door and scurried to the trunk.  I threw on my plate carrier vest and began to put my helmet on.  I heard a loud bang just south of us near large gas tanks located by the aviation center. As I opened the passenger side door to load and ready the patrol vehicle shotgun, I heard another 3 second round of rapid fire coming from the direction moments earlier.  I realized the gunfire was coming from the Route 91 festival. I thought “how many suspects are firing? Where are they?” I looked at Officer Fox desperately waiting for her to tell us what to do.  I was aware I was either going to have to run toward the gunfire to stop the threat or help the injured around me. I was terrified. I questioned God, “Why?”  “Why am I going to die today?  I don’t want to die. This is what I was trained for?  I have to see this?  Why?  I don’t want to do this anymore.”  I thought, “I want to run, look, there’s a field, you can run, find a street, call a cab, leave, go home!”  Then, I said to myself, “how hard have you worked, the academy, the badge, the love you have for people, you have to help, you might die, that’s okay, you can’t go, you have to stop the threat, you have to save them.”

I looked at Officer Fox in fear for what we would have to do

I looked to my right and could see several people on the sidewalk lying down, sitting and crying, with blood all over them, other people surrounding them, tending to their wounds. I looked to my left and saw people running down the street, a woman lying on her back while a suspect was administering CPR with an ambulance next to them, and other officers arriving behind the ambulance.  A male sergeant arrived to my right and stated he needed an assault team. I heard an officer over the radio state the gunfire was coming from the 32ndfloor of the Mandalay Bay.  I looked at Officer Fox in fear for what we would have to do.  I knew we had to go to the threat, to stop it, but thought, “How, if the suspect or suspects were on the 32ndfloor?”  While asking Officer Fox if we needed to go, several subjects to the right of me began to yell at us, stating “why aren’t you doing anything?  People are dying!”  A male pulled my right arm and stated, “please help me, a woman was shot on her back, she’s lying on the ground at the east side entrance doors.”  I looked back to my left and saw an approximately 10-man team in MACTAC [Multi-Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities]gear walking with patrol SUV traveling west to stop the threat.  I looked back to my right and told the male subject, “I’ll help.”  Other officers had arrived at this time and I asked them how many tourniquets they had on their person.  Many officers stated they only had one or two.  I remembered I had one on my person for myself and one in the car for a victim.  I ran to the female victim on the ground and observed a bullet wound on her back.  I turned her over to her side.  The male subject who asked me to help them asked if I knew how to apply all types of medical equipment and was using terminology I did not understand.  He handed me a few packages of medical supplies and I stated I had very little training on medical lifesaving techniques, except how to apply a tourniquet and CPR.   I quickly opened the kits and opened the gauze.  I quickly used the gauze to push into the bullet hole with my finger to stop some of the bleeding.  The male subject stated he would take over from there.  I listened to the radio and heard there were officers on the 32ndfloor breaching the doors to stop the suspect who was shooting. [Gunfire ended at 10:15 pm, suite breached at 11:20pm. No attempt was made to stop Stephen Paddock while he was firing.  LVMPD Officer Cordell Hendrex was one floor below on the 31stfloor with an armed contingent of four during the time Paddock was firing.  Hendrex retreated, made no attempt to get to the 32ndfloor to stop, disrupt or distract Paddock].     

I might not make it out alive tonight

I jumped up and ran back to Officer Fox who was standing with a sergeant and a few officers and the ambulance was now gone.  I asked other officers if they had more tourniquets.  The officers stated they only had one for themselves.  I opened my trunk and took out the extra tourniquet I had.  As I opened my trunk, officers stated shots were reported being fired at the Tropicana, moments later, reported shots fired at the MGM, Bellagio, Cosmopolitan, and Aria.  [11:05pm shots fired reported at New York New York. 11:16pm shots fired at Tropicana. 11:20pm shots fired at the Aria. 11:29pm shots fired at Caesars Palace and Bellagio.  11:31pm shots fired at the Paris Hotel.]  I thought, “The entire Strip is under attack, I might not make it out alive tonight, I have to save as many lives as I can.” I looked toward the festival and saw a van driving, traveling east on Reno at a high rate.  The van stopped by us with the driver side sliding door open. I observed approximately 10 injured people in the van, one young adult white female in particular had a bullet wound on her right upper arm.  She had two pieces of fabric wrapped around her arm, however her arm was bleeding profusely. I yelled at a young male adult holding onto her to bring her up to me so I could apply a tourniquet.  As soon as I was able to grab her arm the male and several other subjects pulled her back into the vehicle. I began to yell at them to help me put on the tourniquet and bring her back up to me, so I could hold her arm.  Everyone in the van panicked.  I slid the tourniquet on her arm and the subjects yelled that they had to go. I told the male to apply the tourniquet correctly and to wind it tight.

I began to cry and told myself to stop

I looked down and saw blood on my hands.  I began to cry and told myself to stop.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to help anyone if I did not keep my emotions in check.  I turned toward Officer Fox acting as security with her AR rifle slung and also saw tears in her eyes.  I knew she was feeling what I was feeling, but we had to be strong.  Again, I asked if other officers had an extra tourniquet because I only had one for myself.  I saw a white male adult who was sitting on the sidewalk bleeding from a gunshot wound on the upper part of his arm.  I crouched to my knees and applied the last tourniquet I had to his arm and gave him the time.  The male smiled at me, laughed and gave me the incorrect time back to me and stated he was going to be okay.  I smiled at him and looked around at the other victims.  I stood up and observed a white male wearing a plate carrier with approximately 10 Israeli bandages and gauze.  I asked the man where he had gotten so many tourniquets and how he had gotten ahold of a vest.  The male stated he was an off-duty fireman and had the supplies in his car.  I thought, “this dude is an angel, thank you God.”  He gave me a few bandages and gauze and I shoved several in my pockets.  He stated he would stay with me as a team to help victims.  I looked around and remembered learning in the academy, in situations like this, the best thing to do is decipher by obvious circumstances who is dead, whose injuries I cannot treat with my capabilities, and who I can help. I knew how to apply a tourniquet and knew to pack gauze to stop bleeding, so I decided this would be my job until enough ambulances arrived or we could get victims to hospitals by other means.  I saw dozens of subjects who had been shot in the stomach and right arm.  A woman helping him told me she was a CHP officer and stated she could assist from there.

No one else is going to die, including me

I continued to look for victims to help and I saw a male and female adult putting a white sheet over a woman’s body and it was apparent she was deceased.  I looked into a small parking lot on the south side of the hotel as saw two other bodies with sheets covering them, one body several subjects stood by protecting the body. I was alerted over the radio that there was suspicious vehicle covered with wires in the parking garage.  I continued to help victims walk and slowly evacuate the area.  Officers over the radio stated there were several trucks and cars driving eastbound on Reno at a high rate of speed.  My fear was one of the vehicles would be the vehicle that had explosives on it.  I looked up toward the Mandalay Bay and thought, “this suspect is watching us, they and whoever else is involved is listening to our radio traffic, they aren’t going to stop, the gunfire is going to start again and one of the vehicles speeding in our direction might be blown up as soon as it arrives.  This suspect has calculated everything and sees victims receiving help in various places and they will kill us by whatever means necessary.”  I thought, “No one else is going to die, including me.”  When the trucks drove past I saw dozens of victims lying in the back seats of the cabin and truck bed who had been shot, several in the face.  Two of the several trucks had stopped and I ran to assist the victims and at least apply a tourniquet to a limb wound. I would start to unpackage a tourniquet and would see an individual with a gunshot wound to their face or head and have to give a different subject a tourniquet, so they would hopefully apply it correctly on their way to the hospital.

I looked behind me and saw several ambulances arriving and a bus.  My sergeant who had the same idea as myself ordered me to ask the bus driver to help us transport victims without life threatening injuries to the hospital.  I ran to the bus and asked the driver to help us.  The bus driver was a little reluctant and had no idea about the shooting.  I pleaded with the bus driver to help us.  He agreed and followed me as I ran toward the victims on the street and yelled at him to follow me.  I told several subjects to keep everyone calm and briefed them on the plan.  Calmly people boarded the bus.  After the bus left I told anyone who was still at the scene they would need to evacuate into the inside of the Wyndham hotel and the Hooters hotel because my fear is that the vehicle with the wires was till coming for us.  Anyone who was not critical was still on scene and quickly evacuated.  I was notified by a subject there was a woman inside the Wyndham hotel who had an injury that needed medical attention.  Myself and Officer Fox walked to the hotel room and observed about 30 subjects in a room taking cover and a woman who had a broken leg.  With the help of a few subjects, we were able to clear the hotel hallway for individuals to carry her with an orange stretcher left at the scene out to the street for an ambulance to arrive and transport her.

Felt like I was losing grip on reality 

The sergeant on scene ordered me to provide security for our area.  I stood as west as I could stand to protect victims still on scene and loved ones next to the deceased bodies who refused to leave.  After a few minutes the sergeant on scene stated there was a woman behind the office buildings just south of our location who stated she was on the phone with the shooter.  We quickly developed an approximate 10-man assault team to investigate the alleged statements.  While clearing the perimeter of the office buildings a van backed out of a parking spot.  At that point I thought it could be the vehicle that I had been fearing and began to fall behind the line thinking it was going to blow up or someone had an assault rifle and was going to shoot us all.  Thankfully the vehicle was not related and drove away.  After clearing the area, it was apparent this was an allegation and the person who made the statement was nowhere to be found.  The only subjects in the area were hiding in the buildings for cover.  Several people who had hidden in the area began to walk toward us for assistance.  We were able to evacuate the area.  One subject stated there was a deceased woman in the parking lot south of the office building.  The sergeant I was with ordered three of us to go with a citizen with a truck to recover her body.  I decided to go, rode passenger, propped the door open, rested my barrel on the door panel and drove to the parking lot.  When we arrived, the woman was lying on her back wearing shorts and cowboy boots with a gunshot wound to her head.  I kept repeating, “Oh honey.” I saw her body and felt like I was losing grip on reality.  Two of the officers and the male citizen driving, picked up her body and placed her on the truck bed of the vehicle.  I looked back and could see the blood dripping from her hair.  In the distance I could see several subjects mouthing statements to us.  I allowed them to walk over after placing the woman’s body in the truck bed.  The subjects pleaded for us to bring them to safety.  We agreed to allow them to drive with us back to the hotel where we still had several officers standing by as security.

After returning, I continued to stand as security.  While standing facing westbound, I saw a white male adult wearing a full camo uniform holding a green backpack walking from the south side of Reno to the north side of the street.  I immediately alerted mt sergeant.  We got into an assault team and followed the male into the Tropicana parking lot.  We immediately gave the male verbal commands and investigated the suspicious male. After placing him in handcuffs, I grabbed the back pack and opened it up fearing there could be an explosive or firearm inside.  After searching the bag, it was apparent there was nothing suspicious in it.  It was discovered the male had been in Las Vegas for a different event and had gotten separated from his platoon during the incident.  A few of our officers escorted him to the Tropicana. After returning to the scene the Las Vegas Fire Department Pro Team arrived.  Myself, Officer Fox, the sergeant on scene, and a few other male officers assisted Fire by developing a diamond formation and entered the hotel to find victims in hotel rooms.  We were able to recover three victims inside who needed medical attention alongside observing several rooms with 20 to 30 people who entered somehow for cover.

This incident was the most tragic experience I’ve ever witnessed

After clearing the hotel, the sergeant on scene notified the team that there was a phone pinged relating to the shooter at a nearby hotel.  He stated we would have to investigate. After waiting for the orders to walk to the hotel, we were notified the phone ping was unfounded and unrelated. We continued to evacuate the area and stood by as security for a total of four bodies and family members who refused to evacuate until medical arrived.  At this time, it was approximately 0600 hours.  I told my sergeant we would need to notify the family members that medical was not coming for their loved ones.  My sergeant stated victims and victims’ families were being transported to Headquarters.  After he notified the family members on scene, myself and Officer Fox transported a father and daughter of one of the victims. Before we left, I watched the father and daughter kiss his wife and the female’s mother goodbye on top of the victim’s forehead over the white sheet she laid under.  After transporting the victim’s daughter and husband to Headquarters, we returned to SCAC [South Central Area Command] to stand as security to the south side of the boulevard until receiving relief around 0700 hours.  This incident was the most tragic experience I’ve ever witnessed.  I questioned God, my capabilities, my sense of reality, and my dedication to this profession.  After experiencing this catastrophic event, I feel that God placed me in the right place at the right time.  I am more confident in my abilities and plan to constantly develop myself, my sense of reality had diminished that night as away for my body to have perseverance which I appreciate, and because I stayed in the face of death to help the victims and potentially stop the threat, I am more dedicated to this profession than I ever have been.  Before this day, I had questioned humanity.  I thought most people were selfish and would do anything to get ahead or survive, thought there were very few people like myself who would actually help one another.  I witnessed people helping each other, staying at the scene while shots were being fired to save one another.  I was notified that many people had shielded each other from the gunshots by lying on top of each other, had stolen a few patrol vehicles, stolen other citizens vehicles, and had used their own vehicles to transport victims and coming back to the scene over and over with the same fear of getting shot and dying. 

This incident restored my faith in humanity.  I am completely dedicated to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and this strong city of Las Vegas, NV.

I can tell by LVMPD Officer A. Mitre’s “P” number, 15863, that he hasn’t been on the department that long.  In one tragic night though, he gained years’ worth of experience.

What is more important, he overcame his fears that night.  He did not retreat, nor did he cower.   That experience, as bad as it was, is going to make him a better police officer.

As traumatic as it was for Officer Mitre, he remained strong and continued to do his job and didn’t fold in the face of danger.

That is exactly what we the public demand of our law enforcement officers.

Anything less is just not acceptable.

 

 


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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