Retired LVMPD lieutenant slams Chief Lombardo and Cordell HendrexLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Retired LVMPD lieutenant slams Chief Lombardo and Cordell Hendrex

LAS VEGAS — On October 10 The Hidden Truth Show hosted by Jim Breslo aired its podcast of an interview with author and retired Las Vegas Police Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Randy Sutton.

The following is a transcript of excerpts from that interview:

Breslo: What is the reputation of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department?

Sutton: Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is one of the finest police departments in the country and I just don’t say that because I was a member of it, that was actually one of the reasons why I joined Las Vegas PD. I actually had ten years on the job in Princeton, a small town and I made the decision that it was time for me to move on, I was a little bored quite honestly, I needed some excitement and I had tested with a very large Florida police department and what I witnessed when I went down there, they let me ride along with them on patrol a few nights because they knew they were going to offer me the job and what I saw, let me put it this way, delicately, my ethical standards were quite different than the agency that I was going, that was going to hire me.

What I saw was, I saw more ass kicking going on than should have been going on, let me put it that way. The ethical environment of that department was not conducive to my own standards.

I came out to Vegas, I tested, and I did my own research, never looked back, twenty-four years. It was a fantastic career with Metro, very proud of this department, although like any other police department, it has its politics, it has its nonsense, it has its share of people that slip through the cracks, that shouldn’t be here, but on the big scheme of things, its one of the best trained and one of the most effective PD’s in the country.

New York New York, Las Vegas, NV
(Photo via Wikipedia)

What Happened in Vegas

Breslo: I’m talking about this documentary that came out about police corruption in Las Vegas, you familiar with that?

Sutton: Oh yeah, I saw that it was nonsense. I saw it and turned it off after, the politics of that, I mean it was a hit piece, a propaganda piece, meant nothing. I knew some of the people that were in it who had a serious ax to grind, had their own issues with the police department when they got fired, so I didn’t, I just, I threw it, as far as I’m concerned it was just trash.

Breslo: It’s What Happened in Vegas, Ramsey Denison is the guy who did it.

Sutton: You know what, people have their own viewpoints, as a twenty-four year member of the organization, were there warts to, did I have my own issues with various sheriffs in the past, yes, did I see some stuff that shouldn’t have gone on, yes, am I a fan of certain sheriffs on the department, no. But when it comes down, it’s the ninth largest police department in the country. It’s one of the best trained, one of the most effective, could it be better, yeah, but when it comes down to comparing it to, remember I have contact with thousands of law enforcement officers and agencies from around the country, and I gotta tell you that Metro is still one of the best.

The ongoing federal corruption probe of the LVMPD

Breslo: Now there is some ongoing scandal though, unrelated to October 1st, isn’t the FBI investigating something pertaining to Las Vegas Police?

Sutton: Yeah, there was a scandal involving some vice detectives and its serious stuff. One of the, and quite honestly, I have an involvement in this, that is a little embarrassing, um, this whole investigation centers around a guy named Chris Baughman. Chris Baughman was the detective that worked vice and he wrote a book and because I am an author, written four books, he came to me and asked for help when he was writing this book about his experiences as a vice detective and helping prostitutes get out of the life. And I thought he was very sincere, I helped him get his book published, helped him get an agent, was instrumental in his literary success if you will and then television, he was a darling of the NBC, I think it was, he had a relationship with Catch a Predator and they offered him a television show. So he quit Metro and was going with this television show and suddenly it ended apparently, he lied about many of them, of his heroics if you will, and it turned out, when it was under investigation, it was that he was actually working with some of them, he was having a relationship with prostitutes and working with some of the pimps. So this is an ongoing investigation, is it embarrassing, hell yeah, I didn’t, you know, wasn’t working with him, I was assisting him in his literary career, you know there was somewhat of an embarrassment because you know, I helped the guy.

Breslo: Was he actually arrested for something?

Sutton: He has not been arrested. He was fired. Well no, I’m sorry, he was not fired. He resigned when he took the television show, and then he tried to come back and get rehired after it went south on him, and then the department discovered much of his less than savory, shall we say, past. And so they didn’t rehire him. And know the FBI is actively investigating him, they’ve done search warrants, many of his cases, have been dismissed because of his involvement and it also includes his partner as well.

Breslo: And this thing about helping prostitutes get off the street, that was something he was supposedly doing as part of his nine-to-five job as a police officer?

Sutton: Yeah, well he was a vice detective, so that was…

Breslo: Well that means you arrest people are doing illegal stuff like that, but I didn’t know you also didn’t help them off the street?

Sutton: Well yeah, I mean, you know a law enforcement officer, especially involved in that, if they can assist people getting out of the life, then that’s a good thing. But you can’t be sleeping with them and you can’t have relationships with them… It’s an embarrassment to the department, it is something that I hope the FBI completes its investigation and its been going on for a couple of years now. One thing the FBI does very well is public corruption cases. They take a long time in doing it and I hope that it comes to fruition.

Breslo: And as far as you know it doesn’t go higher than him, you haven’t heard of it going higher than him in any way?

Sutton: Well they’re looking at the uh, his entire chain of command. I would be, I don’t think it went any higher. I knew his lieutenant. In fact, his lieutenant is the one who came and asked me to help him with his literary side. I’ve known her for years, I, there is no way in the world that I could see his lieutenant as being as being bent in any way if she was knowledgeable, I would be, I would be shocked. I don’t believe that it went any higher than he and his own, you know, his own circle.

LVMPD Officer Cordell Hendrex is a black eye for the department

Breslo: So let’s talk about the performance of the Las Vegas Police on the night of the shooting, what is, what kind of evaluation or report card do you give them?

Sutton: I think on the uh, on the global scale, it was tremendous. The patrol response was incredible. I will say that the embarrassment of the one officer and his trainee who were on the 31st floor, got to the 31st floor, heard the gunshots going off and then did nothing, is something that is a black eye for the department. I think that it’s, I was shocked.

Breslo: What should and hopefully most of our followers have seen the body cam of Hendrex, it’s not his body cam, I believe it’s Varsin’s body cam, his trainee, that is showing Hendrex, but showing him freezing as he puts in his own report and acknowledges that he froze, what should he have done?

Sutton: Well if it were ninety-nine percent of the police officers I know, they would have gone up and try to take out the shooter.

Breslo: So even though you are hearing machine guns firing, sounds like machine guns, you’re clearly outgunned, nonetheless even though you got a handgun and a trainee, and you do have a couple of Mandalay Bay security officers who I believe are armed, but you take that force to the fight, you don’t wait for back-up?

Officer Hendrex and Mandalay Security Officers

Sutton: You take, you know right then and there that lives are being lost and you have sworn an oath to protect and serve, you’re trained, you don’t take, I don’t have to sacrifice your life willingly, but you certainly have a responsibility to get up to that floor and see if there is an action you can take that is reasonable in the light of all the circumstances. You know, remember, all he heard was the gunfire. If he had gone up to that floor and he had seen what the circumstances were, maybe, and this is all conjecture at this point, maybe there was an opportunity to get up there and take out that shooter.

Breslo: Yeah, especially knowing what was known because what is very important is, it was known what was going on at that time, that people were being slaughtered across the street, so it wasn’t hard to put two and two together to say the guy doing the slaughtering is one floor above us and we’re hearing his machine gun fire. But when you got machine gun fire on a crowd of thousands of people in that each time a bullet goes off, another person dies or is hit, that’s a totally different scenario.

Sutton: You want a tactical advantage, you want to give yourself the best chance of success because if you die in the approach, you haven’t done anybody any good either. You want to be able to take out the shooter. The only way to do that is to gather the intelligence, go up there, scope it out and see what the possibilities are. He never got up to the 32nd floor. He just hunkered down and waited and so that’s the problem. If he had gone up and made the determination that you know this is a withering fusillade, I will never survive it, I’m not going to take that chance, I get that, but to stay on the floor below and not examine what your options are.

Breslo: So you said ninety-nine point nine percent, would have gone in. Now, there’s no way to truly test that but are you really sure it’s really that high that ninety-nine point nine of officers would have gone in or do you think actually maybe there would be a decent percentage that would essentially freeze like he did?

Sutton: Let me put it this way. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the officers who contacted me said they would go in.

Sutton: I’ve seen as a training officer, I’ve seen officers who were fully trained doing very well in field training and then when they were actually confronted with a life and death situation, I’ve seen them drop their gun and go cry. It’s called facing the dragon. You don’t know until you actually face the dragon how you are going to react, that’s why training is so important, realistic training and putting people into shoot and don’t shoot situations, giving them the best training you can and unfortunately what’s going on around the country is, they’re stepping away from realistic survival training, because of political correctness.

Breslo: So we don’t have any doubt that what he should have done without question, based on training, he should have gone to the 32nd floor. As far as what others would have done, what percentage what have in fact done that, that’s very hard to say, but it strikes me, well you tell me, what percentage…

Sutton: The vast majority.

Breslo: So what should happen to him in light as far as his position and discipline etc. in light of those events?

Sutton: Well that’s a great question, I can only assume that well you know believe it or not and this is case law, there’s been case law that is through the years arisen that says a police officer does not have to, does not have to jeopardize their own life in trying to save someone else. So, it’s not that the law says you have to, it is that your own moral code and conduct and why you became a cop to begin with, should direct that.

There are internal policies that require certain conduct and one of those policies is about action. It’s about acting in the good of the community.

Breslo: Okay, if you’re sheriff, what do you do about Hendrex?

Sutton: I think I would have internal affairs conduct an investigation, make a determination if there were any policy violations that were evident and then if there were, I would take action from there.

Breslo: Well, you said yourself it’s clear-cut what he should have done based on training, he did not follow his training and as result lives were lost, so does that…

Sutton: Not necessarily. There’s nothing to say that had he acted, if he acted at the time when he was there that anything would have changed, it may not have changed.

Well, let me put it this way. If I were one of his partners I would have, I would have serious thoughts about if this guy could be trusted to act in you know to protect my life.

Sutton: I could tell you this, in my experience as a law enforcement officer, there were people that I worked with that I didn’t think that should be wearing a badge. There were people that I worked with that didn’t come to my aid when they should have and didn’t act courageously when they should have. Every police officer knows one of those people and we try to rid ourselves of those who will not act courageously, were selflessly, but it’s not that easy.

LVMPD cops wouldn’t go into a combat situation with Lombardo

Breslo: Lombardo defended him saying you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight likening his single revolver, comparing that to the machine gun, that being a gunfight. What do you think about that?

Sutton: I would take issue with that. Well, you know what maybe it’s unfair of me to say because I’m a veteran of police combat and I know how I would have acted in those set of circumstances because I have been tested. Until you’ve been tested you really don’t know.

Breslo: We all agree that he should have gone, now whether someone else would have done it you know under the same circumstances.

Sutton: Even if he did not, listen, if he did not choose to assault the room, I get it, but by not going up to the 32nd floor and at least getting some intel information and doing a reconnaissance, making an informed determination, can I make it, would the odds are if I get to that door, can I assault it with a chance of, what are my chances of surviving or being effective. That’s what you have to look at. So, I’m not saying that if I had gone up to that floor after I saw what was going on, if I thought the chances are, listen, all I’m going to do is sacrifice my life for nothing, then no, you don’t do it. If you look at the set of circumstances, you look at the tactical situation and you say I may be able to do this, I’m going to take my chances, that’s a very personal determination…

If you can’t see it, you can’t determine it.

Breslo: What message does that send to a police force when the sheriff defends Hendrex freezing and standing in place?

Sutton: You know I, well, I don’t think that the sheriff has been, let’s put it this way, I don’t think that the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are going to follow a guy like that into battle, let me put it that way.

Breslo: I guy like Lombardo?

Sutton: Yeah. I mean let’s face it, I understand why he wouldn’t come out and actively say that this officer acted cowardly or anything like that, I understand that. But you also have to temper this with what do you expect from your people. I’d expect, if I was the sheriff, I would expect my officers to act courageously, to act within the guidelines of their training, to make a decision based on logic and experience. The only way to do that would be to at least do a recon on the 32nd floor. So, that’s my opinion.

I’m not the elected sheriff so I can say anything. He’s the one on the hot seat.

He should have gone to the 32nd floor, he should have looked at the situation and then made a determination of what his actions should have been. By not going to the 32nd floor he didn’t know what the situation was.

The over one hour delay in entering Paddock’s suite

Breslo: And it’s stunning that Lombardo thinks he did the right thing. Let me ask you another big outstanding mystery regarding the police response to this, in my opinion, and I think a lot of people, and that is it took over an hour before they finally blow the door to the room.

Sutton: Well because the threat was no longer there.

Breslo: What do you mean the threats no longer there. We don’t know what’s in there. We know a guy was shooting hold on a second, we know he was shooting…

Sutton: No, no, no. The threat, when I say the threat, it was no longer any active gunfire.

Breslo: Okay, but he could have picked up the rifle at any time and started again and soon as he did somebody be dead. He could have started shooting at any moment again.

Sutton: That would have been a different set of circumstances. If there is no more gunfire that you act accordingly and that is you act, make a plan…

Breslo: Okay in the time it would have taken, let’s say he opened fire again. In the time it would have taken to go storm the door, breach the door, come in, how many people do you think Paddock could have killed?

Sutton: If they would have heard gunfire in there again and they were positioned there, it would have taken seconds for them to get in there.

Breslo: And how many people would Paddock have killed by the time they killed Paddock?

Sutton: Your argument doesn’t make any sense at all. I’ll tell you why. Because there is no, once that gunfire stopped then there is no rush to jump into that door.

Breslo: But Randy the gunfire has stopped multiple times and then it resumed, so it can resume at any time, why don’t you go in there and kick the guys ass?

Sutton: No, no. You’re not be accurate. Gunfire stopped for seconds and then continued. Once it stopped after he killed himself, what we found out that he did, then there was no more gunfire. Then if they were actively making a plan…

Breslo: No, all there is a guy in a room with machine guns who could start firing at any moment again. That’s what was behind the door. So, let me ask it a different way.

Sutton: It wasn’t, he didn’t fire.

Breslo: But he could have started it at any time.

Sutton: Okay, and he could have armed with bombs to and had the placed wired and I have to tell you that the officers that did breach the door thought that it was wired, and it was going to explode. That was what they thought.

Breslo: Let me ask it a different way. What was so important that had to be done over a one-hour time period prior to knocking down that door and taking the guy out?

Sutton: The proper equipment and the developing a plan. Once that gunfire had stopped…

Breslo: Which could have started at any time but go ahead.

Sutton: You can say that but that doesn’t, that argument doesn’t make any sense to me.

Breslo: But wait, what, hold on, let’s just stop right there and make sure we’re on the same page with this. You got a guy in the room, we don’t know if he’s alive or dead, we’re going to assume that he is alive, we know he’s got machine guns in the room and we know that he’s already hit a thousand people. And you’re just going to assume that there is zero chance that this guy is going to start up again?

Sutton: Of course not. You don’t assume that there’s zero chance.

Breslo: Okay, but if he starts up again people are dying. Why not go in and take him out?

Sutton: They did go in and take him out.

Breslo: After an hour.

Sutton: Willy nilly run up there and kick in the door, is stupid. Okay.

Breslo: So what did they do that was so methodical in that hour that made it so much smarter. Help me understand that. Seriously, I’m not the only one making it, I, everybody I talked to said I don’t understand why it took them an hour. So this isn’t just me, help everybody understand what did they need to do in that hour to take the risk that he could have opened fire again, but they chose to take the risk that he’s not, that he’s done, and now we’re going to take our time for an hour because we want to get this just right before we knock down the door. What was so important about that hour that they were doing?

Sutton: They were developing a plan, they were getting the equipment. What they were doing was gauging their odds of survival in making an entry into an unknown situation where they believed the was a very strong possibility that the place was wired and that he was still alive and sitting behind the door with a machine gun waiting to kill them. So you develop a plan that is going to give you the best chance of success and survival.

Breslo: What do you know about that plan, describe for us what the plan was?

Sutton: I wasn’t part of the plan in any process. I know what they did was they breached the door, it wasn’t a, they didn’t wait for the entire SWAT Team, there was the SWAT officer, put an ad-hoc team together to and they got whatever…

Breslo: What did SWAT do?

Sutton: They staged elsewhere, in an area that was in close proximity because SWAT generally speaking moves as a unit. They put a plan together, they gather intel, they move as a military unit. In this set of circumstances, SWAT was called out but they went to stage and develop a plan. There was one of the officers, SWAT officer, went directly to the scene. He’s the one that developed the plan and then moved in with the K9 officer and some of the other officers to make that breaching.

Breslo: So the taking of one hour, actually a little bit more than an hour before they breached the door that actually strikes you as a relatively normal amount of time given the circumstances?

Sutton: It’s irrelevant because the fact of the matter was there was no active, there was no active shooting taking place, so…

Breslo: Well I’m going to let that issue go, I’m just saying as far as the amount of time it would take to get properly prepared to go breach the door and engage, about an hour, makes sense to you?

Sutton: I don’t yeah, to get people up there to get a plan of action together, to get the equipment and as long as I said, if the shooting is still going on, you don’t wait. If there is no shooting going on, you have the luxury of slowing down the action, the responses.

Breslo: Well you’re, well we will agree to disagree that you are the expert, but I will say that people such as Doug Poppa and other officers have said no, you don’t wait, even though the gunfire has stopped because it could resume at any time, you don’t take that risk. So, you’re on Lombardo’s side on this one and the way the police handled it, but there are other people who disagree.

Security at the Route 91 Harvest music festival

Breslo: What about the security that was in place for the festival itself and I want to start talking about the police, as far as Las Vegas police. Should Las Vegas police have approached this festival, to begin with differently than they did?

Sutton: I can’t, I wouldn’t begin to answer that question. The events, remember that this city has seen thousands and thousands of events where there are just tons of people concentrated in a small area. It happens…

Breslo: Life is Beautiful the week before.

Sutton: I mean this is not an, this is business as usual for Metro. So they plan it, they look at the event, they say this is probably going to need, we’re going to have twenty thousand people here, we’re probably going to need this many officers. You have private security doing this and so you’re not creating an environment where you’re posting snipers and things like that because remember this is one of thousands of events taking place here with nothing untoward happening so did they have adequate personnel there, quite honestly, I don’t know the number of cops that were there. I know that the special events section was, is a full time unit that of the police department, has years and years of experience in training in providing the police response to these events and I think actually the police response was excellent.

Breslo: Do you think that it had occurred to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that this type of terrorism or massacre was possible and when I’m talking about this type, I’m talking about somebody firing down from a position high atop a hotel down onto a crowd?

Sutton: Yeah, I do. I think these scenarios have been examined. Metro has been training for a terrorist event for years they train in a lot of different ways. Is every scenario that’s out there, can you train for that, no.

Breslo: But it’s my understanding that, correct me if I’m wrong, do you happen to know during New Years when they close down the Strip, am I right that they typically in years past do put snipers on top of hotel buildings.

Sutton: Yes. Yeah and there’s an all hands on deck. All vacations are cancelled, days off are cancelled and there’s an all hands on deck because there’s no bigger event where people are concentrated in a small area.

Breslo: So they knew this was a possibility even though of course nobody could imagine it actually happening but of course it was discussed and known as a possibility, so what should have been put in place to try to guard against this possibility?

Sutton: I don’t know that you can, that’s a hindsight question.

Breslo: Well let’s ask it going forward then if we’re going to continue to have these events what should we put in place?

Sutton: Now with what we saw at this tragedy, law enforcement around the country is going to look at this and say okay, what are we going to do differently and what are we going to put in place and I’m sure there would be a different response at the next event.

Breslo: And what do you imagine that would be, that they would be putting in place?

Sutton: My guess is that there will be deployments of specialized units that have other avenues of addressing threats.

Breslo: And that includes snipers?

Sutton: Probably.

I’m no fan of the MGM

Breslo: What about Mandalay Bay. I know this case in ongoing and hopefully this is going to come out in the case, Mandalay Bay, MGM’s been very aggressive in how they have handled that case, suing the victims etc., they want it litigated and it probably will be litigated but in people that I’ve interviewed and so on, I don’t think that Mandalay Bay had any additional security at their hotel in light of the fact that this concert was going on, twenty thousand people across the street. Let’s start with this premise, would you agree that Mandalay Bay should have additional security in place at the hotel considering twenty thousand people were hanging out across the street and it was their event?

Sutton: I would think so.

Breslo: It seems like a no-brainer.

Sutton: It seems like a no-brainer to me to as well, yeah.

Breslo: And what about, do you find fault in them permitting the twenty-two rifles and all the ammunition in to the room, considering that this event was going on across the street?

Sutton: I don’t. I really don’t. I think that this guy planned this out very well, that he brought up a few bags at a time. The hotel people are so used to conventioneers and people bringing up all kinds of signage and things that are packed in all kind of different sized bags and boxes, I don’t find, I don’t think that you can find any culpability there.

Breslo: Yeah, but had they had the heightened security maybe he would have been caught. If everybody was kind of on extra alert, hey everyone keep it in mind this weekend is the Route 91 Harvest festival we’re going to have twenty thousand people across the street as we all know the Strip is a huge terror target for ISIS and let’s all be a you know, have our antennas up. Lest report what we see, you know heightened alertness.

Sutton: You know I’m hesitant to even go there because that’s another one of those what-ifs that.

Breslo: Well I’ll tell you I go to a lot of concerts and I would assume especially in Vegas those types of things would be being said so I’m maybe I’m naïve and what have you, but I go to these concerts assuming good security is in place, so its kind of sad that you say you don’t think that Mandalay Bay should be alerting its employees to be on heightened alert. I mean this terrorism thing is real. You know if you see something, say something.

Sutton: You’re misrepresenting what I said. I agreed with you when I said that when you said that there should be heightened security, yes. I agree with that. But I still do not find culpability on the part of the hotel for allowing a guy to bring a bunch of different bags up there, all spread out over several days. I think that is, you’re asking, I think you’re asking too much.

I’m no fan of the MGM. I think the fact that they are, that they handled this, I think with very clumsily, very inhumanely when it comes down to them filing lawsuits against the victims, I do not like the way, I do not like the way their high-handed approach but when I’m trying to be reasonable and not let my personal feelings about some of their high-handed tactics, I don’t want to say you know, they’re at fault. I don’t see it. I just don’t see it.

Breslo: And what about the relationship between MGM and Lombardo do you see anything to be concerned about there?

Sutton: Well I mean, the Las Vegas casinos, the Strip properties are the largest contributors to the political campaigns of the sheriff and of the political parties that run this city. So, can you find that there is a nexus between the law enforcement political environment and the Strip association, I think you can probably say that they have a huge amount of influence over this community because that is like one of the community so, is it untoward, is it, do I see anything that smells of corruption, I don’t think so, but certainly there is going to be deference shown to Strip properties because of the political environment and the fact of the matter that they are a major player in this community.

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of Randy Sutton

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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