MGM Resorts International: Did they put profits ahead of safety?Los Angeles Post-Examiner

MGM Resorts International: Did they put profits ahead of safety?

LAS VEGAS — Current and former employees of MGM Resorts International (MGMRI) who spoke to the Los Angeles Post-Examiner say that MGMRI executives dropped the ball, because they failed to implement any screening and preventive measures that could have possibly stopped Stephen Paddock’s luggage from ever reaching his room and his explosive-laden vehicle from remaining undetected on the property until after the October 1 massacre.

Paddock quietly and unimpeded brought 23 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, loaded magazines and accessories including 50 pounds of explosive materials contained in his vehicle onto the property of the MGMRI owned Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas and then committed the worst mass shooting in modern American history.

Remember 58 people were killed and over 400 suffered gunshot wounds at the MGMRI owned Las Vegas Village, the site of the Route 91 Harvest music festival, as Paddock fired down onto the crowd from his 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

Paddock walked right through the front doors of the Mandalay Bay Hotel with his luggage, at times assisted by hotel staff, without detection, despite years of warnings, the terrorist’s attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, the Mumbai terrorist attacks in India in 2008, and multiple mass shootings in this country.

MGMRI failed to heed warnings given after the 9/11 attacks by the US Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies that attacks could occur on Las Vegas properties, former and current employees at MGM and law enforcement sources told the Los Angeles Post-Examiner.

Over the years DHS bulletins, free training courses and seminars conducted by the DHS in Las Vegas emphasized the possibility for terrorist attacks and active shooter incidents occurring at hotel-casinos and that measures to counter such threats should be implemented.

Many of the seminars were also sponsored/advertised at monthly meetings of the Las Vegas Security Chief’s Association. Security professionals including security management personnel from Las Vegas hotels attended many of those seminars, including security personnel from many MGMRI owned properties. All Las Vegas hotel-casinos are members of the LVSCA and the monthly meetings are also attended by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Speakers from various law enforcement agencies including the FBI, DHS and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department many times over the years, have addressed the membership concerning terrorism and active shooter incidents.

Private vendors of security-related equipment routinely are invited to display and talk about their products including luggage screening machines, explosive detection equipment, and other devices that can detect firearms, weapons and explosives entering a building/property.

The Las Vegas hotel-casino industry had years of warnings prior to the October 1 Massacre. MGMRI executives failed to heed those warnings, and seriously take a closer look at their security protocols, equipment, and personnel, which resulted in the biggest catastrophic security failure in Las Vegas history, if not the country.

MGMRI current and former employees speak

The Los Angeles Post-Examiner was told that financial considerations from corporate executives was the factor that affected proper security screening methods from being implanted on MGMRI properties, because the impact on the guest experience, in turn, the executives believed, would negatively impact their bottom line.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Post-Examiner sent this media request to MGMRI:

After the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks, what Las Vegas Strip properties that are currently owned and operated by MGMRI purchased any of the following:

Package/luggage screening devices i.e. x-ray machines, explosive detection devices, firearms/weapons metal detecting devices, K-9 explosive detection teams and were any or all of these operational in any form and in any manner at any MGMRI owned properties prior to the October 1 massacre.

Can you identify which MGMRI properties have any of the above equipment?

If so, what training methods, instructions, standard operating procedures, protocols and certifications for employees for any of the above, were in place prior to October 1, 2017.

The Los Angeles Post-Examiner did not receive a reply from MGMRI.

Both former and current MGM employees spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner under the condition their name would not be used because they feared for their jobs and safety.

X-ray machine installed at the MGM Grand Hotel

One MGMRI employee told the Los Angeles Post-Examiner that after the October 1 Massacre a supervisor was heard saying, “Can you imagine if they had x-ray machines, they would have caught him, or he would never have come in knowing that luggage screening was in progress.” 

As far as X-ray screening equipment you have to go back to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Los Angeles Post-Examiner was told. Rumors circulated through the security department at the MGM Grand Hotel after the attacks that the property would be getting x-ray machines to screen luggage and packages. The Vice President of Security at the MGM Grand at the time wanted to screen everything coming onto the property.  “He asked for a lot but wouldn’t get the budget for it,” said one MGM source.

“He was shot down by executives because of the expense.”  “It comes down to the dollar,” one MGM employee said.

MGM Grand did end up with one x-ray machine, but it was not used for screening luggage. It was placed in the mail room located near the loading dock. “It was state-of-the-art just like the ones at the airport,” another MGM employee said.

It was operated by the mailroom personnel. If a suspicious package was observed in the mail room, the protocol at the time was that a security supervisor would respond and observe the monitor screen on the x-ray machine to see the contents of the suspicious package.

The Los Angeles Post-Examiner was told that the security supervision personnel were not trained in identifying items through the X-ray. If something was suspicious looking they would call the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. That X-ray machine may still be in operation or as one employee said, “It could be buried under a bunch of boxes.”

Walk thru metal detectors

MGM Grand Garden Arena
(Claudia Gestro)

Metal detectors were used by the MGM Grand Hotel shortly after they opened in 1993 and were used only to detect firearms and weapons at events at the Grand Garden Arena. They were used at all the Tyson fights that were held during the 1990s. After the attacks of 9/11, the policy changed, and metal detectors were then used at all events that occurred at the arena, MGM employees said. No metal detecting equipment was used to screen guests entering the hotel property.

LAPX was told that to save money, other MGMRI properties would borrow the metal detectors from the MGM Grand Hotel for certain events on their property. The walkthrough metal detectors would have to be taken from the property of the MGM Grand Hotel and then delivered to whatever MGMRI property requested them.

The metal detectors were not calibrated because the security department did not have the proper equipment to do the calibration on the machines and the lack of training by security personnel on the proper operation of the detectors was also cited, according to MGM employees.

The Mandalay Bay Hotel did purchase their own metal detectors, however, they were only used for events in their arena, not for screening guests entering the property.

K-9 explosive detection dogs

The MGM Grand Hotel did have one explosive detection dog and handler a year after the property opened in 1993. It was phased out sometime later because the executives didn’t like the idea and said that if security needed the use of an explosive detection dog, that security could call the LVMPD, employees said. Employees said MGMRI corporate does have explosive detection K-9 teams and those teams were active prior to the October 1 massacre but were mostly used for arena events at various MGMRI properties.

Explosive detection equipment

After the 9/11 terrorists attack the MGM Grand Hotel did purchase a portable explosive detection device. If the bell department had a suspicious piece of luggage, security would respond and conduct a test, employees said. After a period of time, the explosive detection device was not used and remained in the security supervisor’s office collecting dust.

I have written in numerous articles for the LAPX that incompetence and ignorance on behalf of MGMRI executives was the reason why Paddock was allowed to bring explosives, firearms, and ammunition onto the property of the Mandalay Bay. In many of my articles that had the Mandalay Bay Hotel been screening all luggage and packages entering their property, Paddock would not have been able to bring his arsenal of death into the Mandalay Bay. I was heavily criticized for saying that because many were saying that screening luggage in a hotel environment is just not feasible.

That is so far from the truth.

Paddock knew that his luggage and vehicle would not be screened. He exploited the security weaknesses to his advantage at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and we all saw the result on October 1, 2017.

The 18th annual G2E Global Gaming Expo was held in Las Vegas earlier this month. David Logue, the current president of the Las Vegas Security Chief’s Association, a speaker at the Expo, predicted that luggage screening in Las Vegas hotels would be coming in the near future.

That remains to be seen. I do hope it does come to fruition. It will not bring back the 58 people who were killed, but it could very well prevent another similar or worse attack in Las Vegas.

The following is a recap of a few of the articles that I have written for the LAPX concerning the Las Vegas Massacre.

MGM Resorts International executive knew that a sniper attack from a hotel high-rise posed a threat prior to October 1 Massacre

An FBI Hostage Rescue Team training exercise

In a previous article that MGMRI Executive Director of Corporate Security and Surveillance, Tom Lozich, a retired LVMPD deputy chief, was present during a training exercise on the property of the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas after it closed in May 2011. During that training exercise, a mannequin was placed inside one of the high-rise tower rooms near a window, to simulate an attacker. An FBI sniper who was inside an FBI helicopter hovering over the Las Vegas Strip successfully made the shot and hit the mannequin.

In November 2014, a housekeeping attendant entered a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and according to court documents noticed a rifle with a scope laying on the floor pointing towards the Las Vegas Strip. A convicted felon and his wife were occupying the room. The police confiscated two .223 caliber semi-automatic rifles, a .308/7.62 NATO caliber bolt-action rifle, three handguns and a homemade suppressor.

Oddly enough, less than three years later, Stephen Paddock would also bring .223 semi-automatic rifles and a bolt action .308 rifle into another Mandalay Bay Hotel tower as part of his arsenal.

Does the word “foreseeable” have any meaning here?

Las Vegas Police told businesses prior to October 1 Massacre that they would have to fend for themselves during first 12 minutes of an attack

In that July 18, 2018 article I recounted that during a November 1, 2016 Peace Officers Standards and Training public meeting, LVMPD Officer Dean Hennesy of the MACTAC (Multiple Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capability) section said, “We do presentations to large companies, pretty much anybody who wants them and the reason behind is, there is that 12-minute gap between when these calls come in and law enforcement can respond to them, that they have to fend for themselves and prepare for us to come and we want to give these presentations.”

Mandalay Bay Security officers in the House of Blues restaurant

Five Mandalay Bay security officers hid in restaurant during October 1 mass shooting

In a previous article: Five uniformed Mandalay Bay security officers were found inside the House of Blues restaurant by police as documented on police body-worn camera footage. One of the officers appeared to be an armed security bike patrol officer. Why these five security officers were hiding inside the restaurant during an emergency situation as other security personnel are clearly seen in the video on the casino floor is not known.

Compromised evidence raises questions about Mandalay Bay security training, policies and equipment

Bullet points from our July 8, 2018 article. They are taken from transcripts of recorded statements that were made by Mandalay Bay security dispatch officers to the FBI and LVMPD detectives:

  • Timestamp was 20-30 minutes ahead of actual time [On audio recording device used to record security and maintenance dispatch radios.]
  • Unfamiliar with some of the equipment. Faulty equipment and appears to be insure about policies and procedures.
  • “My main concern was usually we have the roof cameras that are usually always to lose video.”
  • “So I took the initiative to see, just to see if there was any out, and there was,and it happened to be one of the ones, on the roof that I consider vital for our security to see.”
  • “So, then I didn’t know how to download it exactly onto a disk.”
  • “I’ve never actually printed onto a disk to give like the investigators or so before.”
  • “And so, I was doing – obviously doing something wrong…”
  • “So, then I kind of just had to – for me if I get frustrated as far as like technical, I just kind of like walk away.”
  • “So, I didn’t realize it, you know how much it was off and then too – when I looked on the Pelco that’s where it was about 20 or 30 minutes roughly.”
  • “Did anyone give you any instruction to do that? “No.”
  • “Is it something you just decided on your own to do?” “Yeah.”
  • “Do you guys have a protocol for that type of thing. Is there a policy or anything that you guys abide by on like when you guys are starting to download things, it would be considered evidence as far as the company’s concerned?”  “No, we don’t.”
  • “Is this something that you notified your supervisor about?” “So, then I didn’t really say anything to my boss.”
  • “Then I don’t recall, any radio traffic and you know, our radios are horrible, it could have been static.”
  • A lot of times the [room door] latch doesn’t click, you can’t push on it.”
  • “I’m not really sure, because I’ve been told various things.”
  • “I don’t know actually the time when the doors ajar to when it actually pops up on our system.”
  • “I’ve heard ranging from five minutes to up to an hour, you know, but I mean that’s what “I’ve been told.”
  • I don’t know the system that well, so it’s difficult to go back to try to actually find that room to update it with whatever the officer said when he called back.”

From an LVMPD Officer’s Report, “Upon contact with Security, we attempted to find the hotel service elevator, of which the security officer on hand could not advise on.”

Where was Mandalay Bay’s elite emergency response team when Paddock started killing people?

From a July 2018 article.

On October 3, 2017, two days after Paddock’s attack, Wendy Price, Director of Safety, Security Training and Firearms for Mandalay Bay told security consultant James Cameron, “MGM, as well as Mandalay Bay, has an elite emergency response and training team. Our entire company trains extensively on these types of events. And have for several years.”

So, where was this Mandalay Bay elite security emergency response team on the night of the mass shooting while Stephen Paddock was firing from his 32nd floor suite into the Route 91 Harvest music festival and why didn’t we see this “elite” security team in action. What we did see on police body-worn camera footage, was three armed Mandalay Bay security management personnel retreating on the 31st floor along with LVMPD Officers Cordell Hendrex and Elif Varsin as they listened to Paddock’s gunfire from the 32ndfloor for several minutes. None of them took any action to try to get to the active shooter.

And let us not forget that during Paddock’s firing spree there was at least three armed Mandalay Bay security personnel on the 32ndfloor for several minutes and they also took no action to disrupt or stop Paddock.

Mandalay Bay security manager’s statement to the FBI and police not true

In a July 2018 article, I reported that Mandalay Bay Security Operations Manager, Anthony Sottile’s tape-recorded interview conducted by an LVMPD detective and an FBI special agent contained false statements. Sottile mentioned LVMPD Officer Cordell Hendrex ten times by name, as the officer he was with on the 32nd  floor as Paddock was firing from his suite. Further, Sottile stated both Hendrex and he had maintained visual coverage on Room 32-135 even after the gunfire stopped.

Sottile’s comments to the police and FBI were not true.

When police body-worn camera footage was finally released, it showed that Hendrex was cowering on the 31st floor with his armed contingent and never was on the 32nd floor. There was no LVMPD police officer on the 32ndfloor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel while Paddock was firing down into the concert venue.

Was Mandalay Bay Security Officer Campos negligent by not investigating drilling sounds in Paddock’s suite?

In a June 2018 article I wrote that Campos failed to investigate and call into security dispatch that he heard suspicious drilling sounds emanating from Room 32-135 and just walked away. From a security standpoint, Campos was negligent in his duty.

From the transcript of Campos’ recorded interview with the police:
Police: So, you hear loud drilling coming from 32-135. Could you tell if it was deep in the room or right by the doors?
Campos: It was deep in the room … and it was pretty rapidly.
Police: So, you hear this – you obviously know that it’s not a normal sound – so you start walking away down the hallway, toward the center core?
Campos: Yes.

MGM Resorts International rebukes massacre victims’ lawyers

In a March 2018 article I criticized MGMRI for releasing only a portion of what was highly edited hotel surveillance video of Paddock inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel prior to the Massacre. The video footage was released to The New York Times and not to the victim’s attorneys who have been requesting video surveillance and other evidence in the possession of MGMRI for months with no luck.

The attorneys for the victims were not advised prior to the release of the video.

When MGMRI sued the victims of the Las Vegas Massacre in an attempt to block any compensation claims against it, the corporation showed its true colors and its utter disregard for the families of the 58 people who were killed and the over 400 who were struck by Paddock’s gunfire.

It was another public relations nightmare for MGMRI. It was disgraceful and shame on you MGMRI.

I have said this before and I will say it again. It is my belief that none of the victim’s lawsuits will ever see the light of day in a courtroom.

Historically, Las Vegas hotel-casinos settle out of court before any civil action hits the bench. They may wait up until the last possible minute, but they usually agree to an out of court settlement. They do not want to take the gamble to use a Las Vegas term and have to face a civil jury, specifically if they know they are going to be fighting an uphill and possibly losing battle.

I cannot believe that once the discovery process starts and subpoenas start being issued for MGMRI executives to appear for depositions, that the company will never allow their executives and security personnel to be deposed. MGMRI security training, procedures, protocols, staffing, and equipment will all be scrutinized that were in effect prior to the Massacre.

Remember, in a civil case all you need is a preponderance of the evidence in your favor to meet your burden of proof and win your case. Because of corporate incompetence and ignorance, the victims I believe, will prevail.

And so they should.

One employee I spoke to said that with all the multi-millions of dollars that flows through each Las Vegas Strip property, they all could have had state of the art equipment installed after the 9/11 attacks that would have prevented the Massacre. I agree, the October 1 Las Vegas Massacre should never have happened.

It was by all accounts, foreseeable and preventable.


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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