Written by: Greg Ellifritz
I spent some time today listening to the audio feed of the police radio traffic for about 90 minutes following the start of the active killer event on Sunday night. If you are interested in active killer response, either from the police or armed citizen perspective, this audio is pure gold. In general, the police had a stellar response. Being able to hear how it played out is an incredible resource for anyone studying the topic.
This article is primarily written for my police readers, but has some very important insights for my armed citizen readers as well. The full audio of the radio scanner is available below:
Here are the highlights from my perspective as well as some additional resources folks can use to plan a better response:
911 Calls: The first 911 call here reporting a shooting happened two minutes and 27 seconds after it was reported by officers on the scene.
There is very often a delay before victims call 911 during an active killer event. One study stated that the average delay was as long as SIX MINUTES. If you are caught up in one of these events and are temporarily in a safe place, make a quick call to 911. The faster the cops arrive, the faster the killer will be neutralized.
Flanking Tactics: Officers identify source of the gunfire 4-5 minutes after the attack began. Soon thereafter one officer says: “We need to get someone to flank this guy.” Flanking tactics are critical, especially for outdoor active killers. Sadly, most officers are not trained to do this. Individual officers should keep this tactic in mind. If you decide to flank a suspect, make sure the other officers on the scene to avoid a “blue on blue” shooting.
Medical supplies are critical: “Multiple casualties in the medical tent. We are making tourniquets from blankets, but we are running out of blankets.” Carrying medical gear on your person is important both for cops and citizens who are attending large venues vulnerable to an attack like this. I’d much rather be inconvenienced by carrying a couple tourniquets on my person than be forced to rely on a diminishing supply of torn blankets to stop my traumatic bleeding.
As a cop, I carry medical gear on my person for myself. I carry five other tourniquets (as well as other supplies) in my cruiser for a mass casualty event. I don’t want to have to waste time cutting up blankets and making improvised tourniquets.
At around the 10 minute mark, lots of officers start making excellent decisions.
-“We can’t let him get mobile.” “Call Mandalay Bay and have them shut down the elevators. We’ll cover the stairway exits.” At 18:30 that proves problematic as they have a security officer shot on the 32nd floor of the hotel waiting for an elevator that had been shut down.
-Command post and rally location identified.
-Officers begin sending casualties to a nearby church as a casualty collection point outside of the range of the shooter.
At 11:30 initial responding officers make it to the suspect’s location. Note that it is an unidentified number of patrol officers acting on their own who find the shooter. There were two calls for four or five-person teams to be set up. They arrived several minutes after the lone patrol officers got to the shooter. The team or “posse” response to an active killer is too slow. Kudos for these individual officers who hunted the killer down and forced him to kill himself.
A side note on this…
It appears that the shooter had stopped firing by the time the officers isolated him to his room. Most likely, patrol officers would have forced entry into the room if the killer had been firing on their arrival. Recent news reports state that the killer had a video camera set up in a food cart outside his room. It appears he used it to identify a security guard from the hotel who initially responded. He may have also used it to observe the responding officers, thus precipitating his suicide.
Police Transporting Wounded Victims: At 11:40 the first officer marks enroute to the hospital by cruiser transporting a gunshot wound to the head. At 12:00 another officer marks enroute transporting a second victim (a police officer) to the hospital. Another officer marks enroute to hospital at 22:05. At 23:41 a supervisor calls for a marked car to transport another critically wounded officer. An officer at 48:30 reported transporting three injured people to the hospital in his vehicle. Another officer transported five victims in his police vehicle.
Does your department have a policy for doing this? How do you decide when a ride in a cop car trumps waiting for an ambulance? This needs to be sorted out before a mass casualty event occurs in your jurisdiction.
We need a way to verbally direct the crowd. At 12:46 an officer comments that the panicked crowd is fleeing in the direction of the shooter and people are endangering themselves. The victims need direction. Large events need a audio alert system to provide direction to fleeing victims. Officers on scene need to know how to operate it and be empowered to give direction to the crowd. This tactic could potentially save more lives than almost any other in a spree killing or terrorist attack.
Multiple False Alarms: At 14:45 an officer airs that there are three shooters and that there are additional shooters inside the concert venue. Later, other officers incorrectly report numerous shooting scenes outside the venue. Those sites were where the injured people from inside the concert facility ended up after evacuation. Additional reports of shots fired at the front desk of a different casino came at the 59 minute mark. At 1:06 dispatch reported multiple active shooters at the Tropicana Hotel. Later, there were erroneous reports of shots fired at two different locations inside the New Your New York casino.
Additional erroneous reports of shots fired at two more casinos came in more than an hour after the lone gunman ceased firing.
Chaos reigns supreme at these events. In every active killer incident I’ve studied, there have been multiple erroneous reports of secondary (or more) shooting scenes as well as multiple suspects. Cops need to realize that the vast majority of active killer attacks in the USA have been committed by a single murderer. Early in the event, command staff needs to focus sparse resources on the KNOWN suspects and areas where victims are located. Wasting resources trying to immediately run down every spurious call will lead to more casualties at the primary site(s).
-At 17:00 officers form teams to provide cover fire and security for medical responders. How good is your plan to work with responding medics?
-At 19:00 officers ask for stage lights to be shut down. Do you have an officer on scene who knows how to kill the lights to reduce target visibility during a night time attack on a venue with a stage?
-A supervisor also asks for access to the camera room in the hotel to provide surveillance video of the hallway where the shooter(s) were located. At 19:58 an officer had access and was looking for the suspect(s) on camera. Do you know what large venues have video surveillance in your city? Do you know how to access it in an emergency?
-At 23:30 medical triage location established.
-At 30:02 rifle overwatch of the medical tent established
-At 32:00 the incident commander called for an officer to work surveillance with a video camera.
Would you have considered any of these tactics?
Are you prepared for the victims to attack you? At 20:10, an officer advises all responding officers to lock their cruisers as citizens were entering the unlocked parked vehicles and trying to take the cruiser shotguns. At 36:00 an officer called for more units because he was “being over run” by a large group of citizens trying to steal his and other officers’ patrol cars.
This is the first time I’ve heard of this happening. We should be prepared for it.
Can you drive a fire truck? Listen to the medical request at the 53 minute mark. Medics were requesting police escorts to reach a large number of injured people in an area that was still within the “hot” zone. They requested that officers drive the ambulances into the area. Is this action allowable in your policy? Have you ever trained to drive a fire truck or ambulance?
In general, I think it’s probably best to let the medics drive their own vehicles. Cops can escort in cruisers or even ride inside the ambulances if needed. The cops should have their hands on guns rather than steering wheels.
As a bystander, don’t do anything stupid that will make the cops think you are a suspect. This both endangers you and reduces the number of cops who can actually catch the real suspect.
Citizens turned themselves into suspects by acting suspiciously during the event. Vehicles driving suddenly away from the scene drew police attention. So did a male wearing camouflage fatigues and carrying a black bag. A man ignoring police evacuation orders and walking away from cops when ordered to stop inside the casino was detained at gunpoint.
Another suspicious person was reported after he was noticed “squatting in the driveway” of a residential home nearby. A jeep was stopped after driving through police roadblocks.
Officers also swooped down on a man at the casino valet. He reportedly was armed with a gun and had “wires sticking out” of his vehicle. Officers believed it was a vehicle-carried IED.
Think about how your actions might be interpreted by officers at the scene or other panicking citizens. Don’t wave guns around. Don’t try to steal police cars or police shotguns. Get yourself to safety in an expeditious and calm manner. Don’t act suspiciously and draw police attention.
Again, I urge you to listen to this audio recording. The only way we can improve our response to future incidents is to better analyze the actions of killers and police responders in previous events.