On Thursday I appeared on TV Station i24 to talk about the Las Vegas Shooting of 58 people and the injury of hundreds of others. Specifically, they were interested in the question of why it took over an hour to breech the door to the suspect to stop the attack. Reasonable question on the surface. But the facts, as usual, always bears out the truth and what is “actually” reasonable.
Per the timeline put out by Las Vegas Sheriff Joe Lombardo, we know that the first shots were fired at 10:05 p.m. and continued in full auto method until 10:15 p.m. when no more firing was heard. That is an approximate 10-minute period.
That 10-minute period of continuous shooting time would be defined as “Active Shooter” time. This is to say; the shooter was clearly engaged in shooting that would cause death or injury. And we know that in fact there were the enormous numbers of deaths and injuries. But from a Law Enforcement standpoint, the key here is that for those 10 minutes the shooter was an “Active Shooter.”
Based on experience learned from events going back to the terrible Columbine School shooting and several other ongoing shooting events, Law Enforcement came up with the designation of Active Shooter, and methods for addressing this kind of threat. Those methods, in a nutshell, direct that responding officers would, with an appropriate complement of properly equipped numbers, immediately form an action plan and immediately initiate that plan. In shorter words, go find the bad guy and stop their threat to people by whatever necessary means to accomplish it fast. What this also typically means is, officers might be seen to bypass, or walk over, active victims or potential victims, while moving swiftly towards the threat to be eliminated.
The sound of that is concerning to some, that officers would walk pass a wounded person and continue forward. The sound and the reality are a bit exaggerated in that image. Officers would direct persons to move to safety, and would notify following officers to attend to the wounded. But the “tactical team” that is responding to the threat must move forward with haste to ensure that no more victims are created by the shooters continued actions.
Now, back to the timeline. For the period after the shooting sounds stopped, at 10:15 until the breech at 11:20, officers were no longer looking at an “Active Shooter” situation, but instead, a “Barricaded Suspect.” The shooter was still outstanding, the threat continued, but the shooter was believed to be inside some location, still armed and still needing to be found and the threat ended.
So now with a Barricaded Suspect we have different parameters and a different urgency to the scenario. From that point it became key that officers established the following information;
- The shooter/suspects specific location
- The existence of potential new victims in respect to the shooter
- Extraction of those persons from the threat
- A search of the approach path to the suspect
- And finally, the actions to stop the threat at the specific suspect location.
What we know from the time line is that at 10:12 p.m. there were two officers on the 31st. floor who reported the sounds of shooting. This is before the shooting ended at 10:15 p.m. However, those officers were on the 31st floor, not the 32nd. floor where the suspect was later located. Why were they on 31 rather than 32, we do not know, but it is likely that it was based on their best guess in locating the sound and possibly information from persons they encountered.
When viewed from the exterior looking up, it might not be precise for an observer to guess what the floor number was for the observed broken out windows. We also do not know if those two officers had been at the ground level to see the windows, as opposed to responding to the hotel entrance and heading up the elevators or stairways. Let it suffice to say, they made a brave attempt to locate and address the suspect, who was found to be armed well beyond what the two officers were.
Again, with the timeline, at 10:17 those two officers now arrive on the 32nd floor. And at 10:18 a hotel security guard tells officers (not specified which officers, but we could presume it to be the two on the 32nd floor) the correct, BELIEVED, location of the suspect. I put it in caps because there was not a visual observation of the suspect, the information was based on the security guard being shoot at, estimated to be 200 time, by the suspect, and being hit once. The shooting was through the door and wall of the room the suspect was in at the time. We now know that the suspect had positioned cameras at strategic locations to see the hallway and door area of his room.
So, the security guard was shoot from a specific room, so he logically reported to officers that the suspect was in a certain room. And he was correct. Officers now know the likely location of the suspect, the 32nd floor, and the likely room (I do not have the room number information as I write this blog). Officers can report that to the other responding officers.
From 10:26 to 10:30 p.m. hours additional officers arrive at the scene.
At 10:55 p.m. officers arrive in the stairwell at the opposite end of the hallway nearest to the suspect’s room.
That is an approximate 25-minute period. Knowing the confusion and need for strategic planning on who would respond, from where they would respond, and what would be needed to effectively respond and eliminate the threat, I suggest to you that those 25 minutes represent a reasonable time. The team responding should be the designated Special Weapons Team from the jurisdiction and should be suitably equipped for any and all circumstances and requirements, when they are set to initiate the take down. There also is the element of getting personnel and equipment from point of origin to the point of attack. That is a big hotel and property, I have stayed there…got lost moving from one place to another during my stay!
Once at the correct location there is the matter of multiple rooms on the floor. No one has seen the suspect so no one knows where he is. He could be in the presumed room from which the shooting occurred. But he also could have migrated to other rooms on that floor. Further, there could be other tenants still in those rooms on the floor. Officers would be required to “clear” those rooms. This means, safely removing other people, and searching those rooms which might also have the hiding suspect.
When this process is complete, and they have narrowed down the possible location for the suspect, eliminated to the point that the room he was believed to be in is the last place he could be in, then you are ready to set the breech.
At 11:20 the first of two breeches is set and the room is entered. Officers find the eventual suspect, down from a self-inflicted gunshot.
At 11:27 officers complete a second breech of the suspects adjoining room, to ensure there are no other suspects present, and find no one is there.
Suspect down, no further threats.
In my eyes and opinion, based on my own experience of over 30 plus years in tactical operations, this is a clean and efficient timeline. In fact, I suggest that it could only have happened faster, if officers were already at his door when the killing began. And we know that this is not likely in the realm of reality.
My prayers to those killed and to their families. My prayers to those injured and also their families.
My prayers to a country that is experiencing a rash of hate, violence and death…and this is such a beautiful and wonderful country. Like a famous philosopher(jest) once said “why can’t we just get along?!”