Las Vegas shooting: Why is a key name left out of report?Los Angeles Post-Examiner

Las Vegas shooting: Why is a key name left out of report?

LAS VEGAS – Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Tuesday that his department will start complying with a court order and release the October 1 Massacre records on a rolling basis over the next few months.

Lombardo said they will start by releasing the footage on Wednesday from two body cameras that were worn from two of the officers who made the initial entry into the 32ndfloor suite of Stephen Paddock on the night of October 1.

A few hours after the press conference, attorneys for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said that SWAT officer Levi Hancock did not activate his body camera that night and the footage to be released on Wednesday will come from two other officers who helped clear the room.

Seven months after the October 1 massacre we now learn that Hancock’s body camera was not activated that night.

At Tuesday’s press conference Lombardo said, “we will not be granting interviews with employees.”

That statement does little for transparency when juxtaposed with the fact that three of the officers who made entry into the room the night of October 1 with SWAT Officer Levi Hancock, K-9 Sgt. Bitsko, K-9 Officer Dave Newton, and Officer Matthew Donaldson were interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes the Sunday following the attack along with Lombardo.

A video was posted to YouTube in which LVMPD Officer Bryan Bunitsky is being interviewed for a podcast by motivational speaker, Rory Vaden of Southwestern Consulting. The date of the interview is not known.

In that interview, Bunitsky details his entry into Paddock’s suite that night with SWAT officer Levi Hancock and other officers. What is peculiar is that Bunitsky’s name is not mentioned anywhere in the 81-page Preliminary Investigative Report as being part of the entry team that night.

The Interview as follows:

Vaden: What makes a hero?  That is part of what we are going to talk about today. I want to warn you up front this is a pretty emotional episode. What you are about to hear from is a street cop. His name is Bryan Bunitsky and he was one of the five police officers who were in the Mandalay Bay who went in the room with the active shooter back in October of 2017 in Las Vegas which was the worst mass shooting in US history.

And he is telling the story about what happened that night and what it was like and it’s not too graphic or anything but it’s an emotional episode, so I want to give you a little bit of a warning there and what we’re going to talk about afterwards if you don’t want to hear the whole story you can skip around and debrief segment here after the interview.

I will share kind of what I learned from him about these three elements of what makes a hero and three things that Bryan seemed to exhibit and three characteristics that you see in heroes.  Heroic high performers, not just life and death situations like it was in Las Vegas that night but in every situation in life and so it’s just emotional so I just want to let you know.  Thanks for being here.  Like always we do our best to convert it into something uplifting and inspiring in your life and this will become one of the most popular episodes we ever published.

I’m sure most of you remember this date in history.  It’s not a date to be proud of necessarily thankful for, it was Sunday October 1, 2017. There was a shooting in Las Vegas and it was the worst mass shooting in history. There was a man who opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers and 58 people were killed, 851 people were injured between 10:05 and 10:15 p.m. and this happened, he was obviously at Mandalay Bay and at that point obviously there was police responders who came to the scene and the man you’re about to hear from was one of the few people that were there that night. Just not there in Las Vegas, not just there in Mandalay Bay, but who was there going into the room and his name is Bryan Bunitsky and he has been a cop, he’s been married for 21 years, he’s been a cop in Las Vegas for 19 years, he’s been in two shootings and this was one of them.  So, he’s here just to kind of tell us the story and I think he’s got a message for all of us out of it so Bryan welcome to the show.

Bunitsky: Thank you, thank you.

Vaden: So, take me to October 1 and tell me what was, what happened, what was going on, where were you, like what happened that night.

Bunitsky: Well I was working standard patrol, you know I’m a street cop, so I do calls for service which means if you call 911 or 311 I show up. So, I was actually on a domestic violence call in Mountains Edge which is the south part of Las Vegas.  We heard somebody say shots fired on South Central, so that’s a different channel so as soon as that happens we always switch over to the channel, so we could listen.

So, the dispatcher again said shots fired on South Central.  When we turned over all we heard was just yelling and screaming. There was cops on the radio saying an active shooter, people are dropping like crazy, screaming for help, it was crazy, it was chaotic, and it was one of the worst things you can hear on the radio as a police officer is hearing your friends screaming for help.

You can hear the gunshots in the background as he was keying his mic to yell for help and he was trying to give intel about where the shooter was, what was he shooting. But it was such mass chaos, everybody running basically they could say that it was coming from the east side of the Mandalay Bay and it was up high somewhere, he couldn’t really tell. So, when I heard that, he said the words active shooter that starts a chain of events.  I called my sergeant real quick and said hey, I have a rifle, I’m going.

So, I drove, me and my partner rolled code, you know lights and sirens down to the Boulevard and Russel which is just south of Mandalay Bay. I throw on all my gear and then we ran all the way to Mandalay Bay which is about half a mile. When we got to Mandalay Bay we came in through the bottom of the casino. Everybody was running and screaming, and we were yelling, everybody get out, get out there is a shooter.  So that’s when I ran into Levi [Hancock], a SWAT officer who knows me, I know him, we ran into each other.  He said hey Bryan what do you know. So, the guys on the 32ndfloor, what I heard on the radio. We got to get up and stop him. So, Levi and I and a couple of other guys went up in the elevator, went up to the 32ndfloor.

Vaden: Lets stop just right there for those of you who aren’t familiar with exactly what happened.  This guy was in there that was doing this.  He had rented out the hotel, this suite, I think for seven days and over the course of seven days had been like steadily bringing up ammunition and bringing up weapons in suitcases and it was a very slow sort of methodical plan.  And so, and when you say you have gear, that means you’re carrying, you put a bulletproof vest on I guess and you’re carrying like a rifle, is that what you’re carrying with you?

Bunitsky: Well, I wear a bulletproof vest every day, part of my uniform.  I wear it under my shirt.  Some departments they can put on stuff on the outside.  Their uniform doesn’t contain a bulletproof vest, mine does.  So, when I say put on gear that means I grabbed my electronic ears, I grabbed my knee pads, I grabbed my rifle, I grabbed extra rifle ammunition that clips onto my leg. Some guys throw on a tac vest. So, its thirty pounds of gear is that I wear every day, it’s an additional thirty pounds of gear to put on, roughly want to do it under a minute and then, that’s when, what I put on.

Vaden: So, when you say you’re running half a mile, that’s roughly sixty pounds on top of your body weight and then you guys went up the elevator?

Bunitsky: Yes.

Vaden: And so, you knew he was on the 32ndfloor, you had that, and so when, what happens then, you come out, you just came out of the elevator and you know it’s like this is going down?

Bunitsky: Well we knew, yeah, yeah.  I mean, the whole time, even the drive down while I was rolling code it took me about four minutes, the whole time you’re listening.  My wife at the time, we had a scanner, there’s a scanner an app that you can listen to the police channels.  Well my wife’s been listening to me on the radio for almost my entire career. She heard me going. She actually sent me a text, are you crazy, don’t go and I sent her a text back real quick, I got to go. [Texting while rolling code!] So, when you’re listening to everybody screaming on the radio, I thought honestly that we were all going to die that night. I thought ISIS, or somebody came in taking over all the hotels like it was Mumbai and when I was putting on my gear and running and everybody was running, and you see all the people running all shot up I thought for sure we were all going to die.

So, I had made my peace with God on the way down there just in the car knowing that I made a commitment to the people of Las Vegas that if I was going to die tonight in a blaze of glory then that, for me that was a hill to die on, so I think most of us were prepared or knew that we were going to die that night.

Vaden: Wow, I can’t imagine what that feels like?

Bunitsky: It sucks.

Vaden: So how many people got of on the floor, how many people were in the elevator with you?

Bunitsky: There was only about five of us in the elevator.

Vaden: And it was all police force?

Bunitsky: Yep, it was me and the one SWAT officer and four other police officers just like me, uniformed officers, just regular street cops.

Vaden: And so all five of you are like, going, and you’re up there, you come out of the elevator and then what happens. I guess you could hear this guy was firing off eleven hundred rounds right, so you could, you hear it?

Bunitsky: By the time we get up the elevator he stopped shooting, but you could see as you looked down the hallway, he fired probably two-hundred seventy something rounds down the hallway, so you could see the hallway, it was riddled with bullets.  Bullet holes, there was smoke, his door was all shot up he had a, his door, a French door, double door, it was huge.  It had, you could see it was riddled with bullets.  So, we decided to, we couldn’t go down the hallway on the 32ndfloor because obviously he’s going to shoot at us [where was MB Security Officer Campos and Maintenance Engineer Schuck?], went back into the elevator, we came out, looked down the hallway, we just got a quick look at the scene and then went back to the thirty, back to the elevator. We went down to the 31stfloor and we ran down the hallway and we came up next to his room by the firewell, the stairwell, the fire escape stairwell so we came up next to his room.  And he had the doors nailed shut so we had to use a pry bar and pried the door open, and then open the door.  His room was right there on our, literally just two or three feet away.

So again, you can see it’s riddled with bullets, we couldn’t hear anything. Levi at that time called the SWAT commander and said hey I have a couple of guys with me we’re breaching and we’re going in because with an active shooter you don’t wait, you go in as fast as you can and stop the threat.According to the radio traffic, entry was made one-hour and five minutes after Paddock fired his last shots at 11:20 p.m. So, Levi looked at us and said we’re going in, hand me my a, my breaching bag.  He’s a breacher thank God, he blows stuff up and he gets into the door and stuff, he put det cord all around the door.  Back in and he said uh basically in breacher terms, he counted one, two, three, he said breach, breach, breach, boom, hit the switch, the door blew up and we went in and systematically started clearing it. So, some of us held right in the hallway because Stephen Paddock had cameras in every door through the eye hole, through the peep hole and those cameras were linked to a laptop computer that he had next to him, so he had four computers in the room, so he could see everything that was going on in the hallway and out the doors. So, we had to be mindful of that so some of us stayed on the, we held up on the entry way and waited for the signals for the guys inside and then the rest of us went in and systematically cleared the rest of it, um, until we found Paddock. Paddock had already had a what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Vaden: …You had no idea if he had bombs hooked up in there or anything, you just went in?

Bunitsky: We just went in. As he was getting ready to blow the door I was actually looking at guys and seeing which guys I can grab, which guys if they went down, I could, I was sizing guys up.  I was sizing people up saying I could grab this guy and this guy, each with one arm and drag them back.  I assumed as soon as we blew the door that we were just going to be met with fire, from the rifles, which is the most dangerous thing you can do, you know a rifle shooting at you.  So, I was literally, I think we were all looking at each other like who can drag who.  We had a secondary plan where we, a couple of officers stayed back, we’re literally going to provide medical aid to us.  And we had one security guard stay with us who had a key to the elevator and a radio for security so, because we told the security guy don’t leave anywhere because if we get hurt, get injured, you’re our ticket to get back to that elevator and get us down to get medical care.  So, he was a wreck.  He was shaking, he was a mess.

Vaden: You’re saying that’s a hotel security guard and not a guy who signed up for like, bulletproof vests and automatic, no weapons and stuff.  I’ll bet he was a mess.  So, you go in and clear the room and then after that, so you found him, the shooter, committed suicide, is basically what happened?

Bunitsky: That’s what it looked like.  Looks like he put the gun in his mouth, pulled the trigger.  [Bunitsky in the video puts his finger in his mouth and mimics with his hand as if pulling a trigger].

LVMPD Preliminary Investigative Report

Page 29- SWAT Officer Hancock, along with K9 Sergeant Bitsko and K9 Officer Newton went to the 31stfloor and came up the stairs to the 32ndfloor.  At the door, they met with LVMPD Officers Hendrex and Varsin and Mandalay Bay security personnel.  Officer Hancock attempted to open the first of two doors to enter the hallway but could not due to the “L” bracket described earlier.

After the Strike Team arrived in the stairwell, SWAT Officer Hancock and K9 Sergeant Bitsko manually breached the inner door leading to the foyer of the 32ndfloor.

A decision was made to enter 32-135 utilizing an explosive breach.  Officers in the stairwell notified the officers in the hallway that an explosive breach would be utilized.  Over the radio they became aware of the extent of the injuries inside the Las Vegas Village.  No gunfire had been heard from the suspect’s room for approximately 40 minutes.  It was decided entry was necessary to the room to determine if the suspect was still inside and to stop any further shooting from the room.  [Once again, entry was made at 11:20p.m., one-hour and five minutes after Paddock fired his last shots.  Yet they state entry was made to stop any further shooting and to see if the suspect was still inside the room.  The full SWAT Team was a no show.  For over an hour they weren’t even sure the “suspect” was still inside.]

SWAT Lieutenant Huddler was advised by SWAT Officer Hancock that the door to 32-125 was going to be breached using explosives.  K9 Officer Newton stepped into the hallway and utilized a ballistic shield to provide cover for SWAT Officer Hancock as he set the breach on the door while K9 Sergeant Bitsko covered the door to 32-134.  K9 sergeant Bitsko observed a camera on the food cart in the hallway.  Once the charge was hung on the door, the officers returned to the stairwell.

Page 30- The officers were notified over the radio, the door to room 32-135 was going to be breached and to take cover.  K9 Sergeant Bitsko utilized the ballistic shield to keep the door from the foyer to the hallway open in case the explosion damaged it.  SWAT Officer Hancock observed approximately 12 officers now in the stairwell behind him.  He designated those that would be making entry into the suspect’s room and others would be the downed officer rescue unit if needed.

The entry team consisted of K9 Sergeant Bitsko, K9 Officer Newton, SWAT Officer Hancock, Officers Donaldson, Trzpis and Walford.  Officers Burns and Thiel were assigned to post at the door upon the team’s entry to guard the hallway.  The explosive breach was made into room 32-135 and broadcasted over the radio.  The officers waited for approximately 30 seconds before leaving the stairwell to see if there was any reaction from Paddock.

Moving slowly and methodically, K9 Officer Newton entered first into the hallway with the shield followed by officers from the stairwell.  SWAT Officer O’Donnell and Officer Magsaysay joined the Strike Team as they entered Paddock’s room.

…. SWAT Officer Hancock and Officer Walford attempted to kick the door open [connecting door] but determined it was solid wood door inside a metal frame.  It was decided a second explosive breach was needed to gain entry into the adjoining room.  SWAT Officer Hancock breached the door.  Immediately following the explosive breach, SWAT Officer O’Donnell, had one negligent discharge of a three-round burst from his rifle. Officers in the hallway heard the shots fired and broadcasted shots had been fired inside the room.

Response from the LVMPD

On Friday, theBaltimore Post-Examiner sent an inquiry to the LVMPD Press Information Office asking if Officer Bunitsky was on the entry team into Paddock’s suite with SWAT Officer Levi Hancock and the others on the night of October 1, 2017 and if so why was he not mentioned in the Preliminary Investigative Report and was Bunitsky’s interview authorized by the LVMPD.

On Monday LVMPD Press Information Officer Larry Hadfield told the Baltimore Post-Examiner that he couldn’t comment on it.  We couldn’t get what should have been a simple yes or no answer.  Why the police won’t tell the press if an officer did or did not enter a crime scene is puzzling.

Hadfield stated go with what he said in the interview and go with what is in the report.

So, we did.


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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