Las Vegas police share lessons learned after mass shooting
Nearly two years after the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history left 58 people dead in Las Vegas, the city’s police department has released a report detailing the lessons learned.
The gunman fired on the crowd of about 22,000 people from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in October 2017, leaving hundreds injured.
Here are the key highlights:
Chaos after false calls of active shooters
When reports of gunfire emerged, officers rushed to the scene. Others rushed away from the actual scene — to clubs and other locations where panicked callers reported active shooters and suspicious people. Other officers self-deployed to scenes all over when they heard calls of active shooters.
“During interviews, some officers explained they had deployed on foot, more than three miles away from the staging area. Many strike teams heard requests for resources … and self-deployed to those requests, leaving the staging manager unaware and duplicating efforts because resources had already been sent,” the report says.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the response was chaotic and the police department could not account for its personnel.
A more controlled response of resources is needed to avoid overwhelming officers and dispatchers with 911 calls of false shooters, the report says. The police department recommended several measures, including managing self-deployment during such cases and developing a software to account for resources.
Improvising with belts after trauma kits ran out
In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, Las Vegas police handed out 2,291 tourniquets to officers in the field, which were put in all cars and motorcycles owned by the department.
But they were far from enough during the shooting. As more gunfire victims piled up, first responders and local hospitals ran out of tourniquets. Officers used belts, t-shirts and whatever they could find nearby.
In addition to providing officers with the trauma kits and adequate training, it’s important to stock up supplies within proximity to major events, according to the report.
Preserving evidence and reducing contamination
Ensuring the sprawling crime scene was not contaminated was a major challenge. Fences that people had broken to escape were now gaping holes used to access the site. The police teamed up with the FBI and the coroner’s office to remove the remains from the scene and mail autopsies to the families within three days.
The coroner’s office completed the autopsies on all the deceased before they autopsied the shooter. His postmortem exam was done five days later
“Typically, this process of identification and next-of-kin notification happens much sooner,” the report says. “The coroner lacked the necessary resources to make timely death notifications.”
In such incidents, a timely notification within 12 hours is difficult. The coroner’s office should develop a protocol that includes teaming up with local hospitals in notifying the next of kin, the report says.
Helping families in the aftermath of a shooting
During a mass shooting, the report says, connecting families and providing information on resources are the responsibility of the coroner, the report says. A family assistance center provides assistance and information to families of those killed, injured or otherwise affected by the mass shooting. In this case, FBI agents from the Orlando field office who were involved in the response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting flew to Las Vegas to help. The family center was crucial to facilitating support and exchange critical information, the report says.
Lesson learned: To increase the expertise in establishing a family assistance center, training and exercises should include setting up one, and training on wellness and healing. Such training should go beyond just police departments and include relevant partnering agencies.
Timeline and conspiracy theories
The rush to provide information on the timeline of events later became problematic and sparked conspiracy theories, the report says.
When the shooting first happened, police were under pressure to follow protocol and provide a timeline of how it unfolded. But the sheer amount of data and various devices that had different times later made people question the police version, sparking conspiracy theories on the shooting that live on to this day.
Investigators first used a number of devices to determine the timeline, including radio traffic and air support video. The sheriff shared that information with a public hungry for updates on every little development of the tragedy.
“However, this timeline became problematic in the days following when many additional evidentiary data sets were discovered including Uber dashcam videos, hotel surveillance videos, door lock interrogations, private security dispatch logs, citizen cell phone videos, and traffic safety cameras,” the report says.
As a result of the time discrepancies from the different time stamps from devices, people came up with conspiracy theories on the shooting, some of which are still popular.
There may never be an exact timeline due to the sheer number of internal and external data that different people used, the report says. As a result, the department will focus less on times and describe it as a sequence of events as opposed to a timeline.
CNN’s Dave Alsup and Chris Boyette contributed to this report