Security Issues at the Mandalay Hotel
One week after the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, current information about what happened in the moments before the shooting began has raised questions about Mandalay Bays’ security and the possibility that the shooter’s rampage may have been curtailed if not thwarted entirely. Before we start exploring whether lax security played a part in the October tragedy, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the families who lost someone they loved and my hope for full recovery to the injured who are fighting to get well.
From news reports, we know that shortly after 10:00 p.m. on October 1, Stephen Paddock, 64, a resident of Mesquite, Nevada, broke windows on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and started shooting at the crowd below. The crowd, 22,000 strong, was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival. The shots rang out in bursts for 10 to 11 minutes, and after they stopped, 58 people were dead, and over 500 were injured. An investigation by the Las Vegas Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is still underway to determine the motive behind the shooting.
Updates to the original police-issued timeline, which had the security guard, Jesus Campos, shot after Paddock began firing at the crowd, have indicated that Campos was shot approximately six minutes before. A Las Vegas police spokesman said that a maintenance worker arrived in the hallway outside Paddock’s room before Campos was shot at about 9:59 p.m. After Campos was hit, building engineer Stephen Schuck said he radioed security that there was an active shooter on the 32nd floor, telling security to inform the police. Paddock began firing at the crowd at 10:05 p.m., ending at 10:15 p.m.
Why Was the Security Guard on the 32nd Floor?
Campos was called to check on an alarm on the 32nd floor and noticed that a security door had been jammed. One of the police officers who was first on the scene told CBS Sixty Minutes that they found that a stairwell door had been bolted shut, allegedly by the shooter. The officers were able to pry the makeshift jam open and entered the hallway, where they saw that 200 rounds of ammo had been fired out of room 135, Paddock’s suite. A food cart in the hallway had a black box with wires running under the door of room 135. It was later determined that the box was a camera, making it possible for Paddock to monitor what was happening in the hallway.
A Response Team Is Formed
Three police officers, two K-9 officers, and a detective arrived on the scene from different areas around the city after hearing police radio calls saying an active shooter was firing at the crowd and forming a makeshift first responder team. A SWAT officer, who joined the three men, had explosives designed to “pop” the door of the room. The police officers first entered the room at 11:20 p.m., one they described as an armory filled with magazines, guns, and spent shells.
According to reports, Paddock was a gambler and retired accountant without a criminal record. He was reported to be a millionaire who considered himself a professional gambler. Real estate agents in Mesquite said he paid roughly $396,000 in cash for a home he purchased, chosen for its secluded location. He was described by people who knew him as quiet and someone who preferred privacy.
Twenty-three guns were found in the shooter’s hotel room, along with rifle scopes and ammunition. Nineteen other weapons were found in his Mesquite home and seven in his Reno home. One former Las Vegas police officer surmised that Paddock most likely brought the guns up to his room in either luggage or a golf bag. Reports indicate that Paddock hung a Do Not Disturb sign on his room for several days, keeping hotel workers from entering and possibly discovering the weapons.
An explosive substance used by marksmen to visualize targets, commonly called tannerite after a brand manufactured in Oregon, was found in the trunk of Paddock’s car parked at the Mandalay and at his Mesquite home. Ammonium nitrate was also found in the car. Both substances can be used to build incendiary devices such as bombs. If a stray bullet hit the 50 pounds of tannerite found in his vehicle, experts say it could have detonated, causing an explosion. However, police said an explosive device using the materials was not found.
Other Events Were Targeted
Paddock showed interest in other concerts, one in Las Vegas and another in Chicago. He arranged for a hotel room overlooking the site of the Lollapalooza music fest, a festival that usually draws over 100,000 attendees. An anonymous official said that it is not thought the gambler was in Chicago when the festival was held. CBS News has reported that Paddock attempted to stay at the Ogden during the Life is Beautiful Festival, but the specific rooms he requested were not available. Some reports say that he did stay at the Ogden.
Hours after the attack, ISIS issued a statement saying it had been responsible for the attack and, on October 2, called Paddock a “soldier of the caliphate.” This is not the first time ISIS has turned its attention to Las Vegas. After the attack on a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, ISIS released a video saying that other cities should be targeted, according to a news report in Las Vegas in June 2016. Images show what is believed to be a Bellagio pedestrian walkway in Las Vegas among landmarks in other cities, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Route 91 Harvest Festival
The festival began in 2014 as a component of Live Nation, and the promoter joined forces with MGM to make Route 91 Harvest Festival a goto concert for country music in Las Vegas. The 15 acres on which the festival is held is owned by MGM Resorts. The festival had a lengthy list of banned items, and security personnel checked for them as festivalgoers entered the concert grounds. Attendees wore wristband IDs, allowing them to move freely into and out of the grounds.
The safety of concertgoers is an obligation of those promoting the concert and the owner of the location where the concert is held. The promoter is charged with hiring security that, to the best of his or her knowledge, can guard against harm to the concert’s patrons. If those attending the concert are injured due to negligent security on any level, a claim can be filed against the venue owner, the artist, depending on the situation, and/or the company that owns the concert grounds. If a third party causes harm not foreseeable by the owners or the artist, the third party becomes liable for the damages.
Hotel Security Questions
Las Vegas welcomes 42.9 million visitors annually, with 6.3 million attending conventions, averaging about 820,000 weekly visitors. Despite this traffic, hotels are obligated to keep guests safe. Generally, that involves slip and fall accidents or dangerous staircases on the premises due to negligence, as well as food poisoning and assaults inside the hotel or in areas under the control of the hotel. The shooting in Vegas, as well as 2008’s Mumbai terrorist attack at a hotel there, raises security issues to another level. In India as well as Israel, vehicle and baggage checks are common.
Benefits of Being a High-Roller
High-rollers are professional gamblers or those who spend large sums of money and are granted privileges by the casinos. Paddock was considered a high-roller and was known to spend large amounts of money gambling. The perks of a high-roller are much more than free drinks while at the tables. They frequently get free show tickets, meals, and even comped or free rooms. Could security be less stringent for high-rollers? After all, high-rollers are familiar with the casino, and perhaps suspicions are not raised as they might be with unfamiliar guests. According to CBS, Paddock had requested that particular suite at Mandalay Bay, and the suite was provided free of charge.
Open Carry Gun Laws
In states that have open carry gun laws, it is often up to the individual restaurant or casino to decide if they allow patrons to enter with a gun. In California, the gun laws are more stringent, and there is a complete ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines that are large. So, the dynamic changes depending on where the hotel is located. The hotel could ask the guest to leave or not take the weapon into the hotel if it was the hotel’s policy to ban guns on the premises.
Increased Camera Surveillance
With the question of preventing injuries such as wrongful death or head injury, particularly in today’s world, hotels might look to increase security and cameras that would help identify suspicious activity. Reportedly, the Mandalay does not have security cameras in the hallways of its hotel nor does it have metal detectors.
Steve Wynn’s Warning
In an interview with casino owner Steve Wynn in 2016 by KTNV, a television station in Las Vegas, the casino mogul expressed his concerns for security in Las Vegas. In his opinion, he said that Las Vegas was a target city and a soft target, meaning it was vulnerable to an attack. Because of that, Wynn revealed that he had 40 plain clothes security personnel at all entrances to his facility, along with metal detectors.
What Can Hotels Do?
The question of hotel security has long been an issue. The size of the facility and the number of entrances demand that adaptive surveillance and extensive security be applied. Possible ways to do this include:
- Extensive surveillance cameras, including in hallways
- Enhanced security guard presence throughout the facility, with particular attention to entrances and elevators
- Metal detectors at entrances and elevators
- Airport security screening of guests before entering the facility
- Luggage screening
- Training for non-security personnel to recognize elements that might point to suspicious activity
Hotels are expected to have trained security personnel. The facilitation of this expectation means that the hotel hires only those previously active in security protection or has someone authorized by the hotel to train them. Using low-cost third-party contractors to maintain security might leave the hotel open to a legal claim.
Communication With Law Enforcement
When guests are confronted by a gunman at a hotel, the facility must arrange for immediate and effective communication with law enforcement. If a guest arouses the suspicions of security personnel, a plan to have police present when the guest is confronted might be a way to keep everyone safe. In the worst-case scenario, confronting a guest who is armed might lead to other guests being harmed if gunfire were to ensue. In addition, if household staff notice a disturbing element in a guest room, they should be trained to leave the room and report directly to security.
Foreseeability plays an integral part in determining liability. If an act that caused traumatic injury or wrongful death was reasonably foreseeable, the defendant may be liable for the damages the plaintiff or victim suffered. Security plans must include direct and quick notification of local authorities when an assault occurs.
Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Wrongful Death Lawyer. Events like what happened in Las Vegas frighten many people. It caused emotional harm to families who were not expecting something like this. However, hotels are more than a place to sleep while on vacation. They should be a place where you are safe. If you are injured, or a family member has died due to an event at an outdoor venue or while staying at a hotel, call me for free and friendly advice about your options and to review your case. I am always available at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.
As an injury lawyer, I have helped many Californians, including Sacramento, who faced financial hardship due to a catastrophic injury or wrongful death. My team and I work hard to ensure you receive the compensation you need to pay medical expenses, replace lost wages, and get back on your feet. If a family member has died, it helps you pay for the funeral and other end-of-life expenses and receive compensation for the funds the decedent would have contributed to the household expenses or even college costs for children in the family.
If you want to know more about me and my practice, go to Yelp, Google, or Avvo to see what prior clients have said. You can also look at some of the verdicts and settlements I have won for clients.
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Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/sign-las-vegas-nevada-iconic-2237590/
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