GUEST OPINION: Steps to help prevent another public massacre

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Realizing all the facts in the Las Vegas shooting have yet to be released, this is my opinion of what transpired from the information released — if accurate or truthful. This is not a condemnation of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police or the Mandalay Bay Hotel Management, but an analysis of events as reported and actions that might have prevented or minimized the injury and death toll.

Two factors apply in an active shooter situation: Police response time and the actions taken by the first responding officers. What we don’t know is the exact timeline between the first shots fired, at the Mandalay Security Officer, and when the incident was reported to law enforcement, as well as the amount of information received by police.

Until the fiasco at Columbine High School, most police departments responded to active shooters by securing the immediate area and waiting for a special weapons team to assault.

This approach magnified the injuries and loss of life at Columbine. Since Columbine, some departments no longer secure the scene and wait for SWAT.

Realistically, most police departments can’t financially afford a standing 24/7 Response Team. Therefore, relying on SWAT takes time to gather team members, gear, respond and set up. This allows active shooters to continue their assault and prevents victims from escaping. In the Mandalay situation, it appears from reports that the police secured the 32nd floor and waited for their SWAT personnel to make the assault. Between the first shot fired and the assault by SWAT, 58 people died and 546 were injured.

Luckily, the shooter perceived an immediate assault by police and committed suicide immediately upon their arrival. According to police, the suspect had ample weapons and ammunition to sustain a much longer assault on the people below.

Rather than pointing fingers at who’s most at fault, this is a perfect opportunity to correct mistakes and better manage security. Patrol officers have historically been under-armed. Police in the 1920s had 38-caliber revolvers and crooks had sub-machine guns and pistols. Still in the 1960s, police had 38-caliber revolvers and crooks had semi-auto pistols and semi-auto rifles. Today police carry high capacity semi-auto pistols and have M16s or AR15 semi-auto rifles.

Given the reality of mass assaults in the U.S. and Europe, the time has come to equip all patrol vehicles with the tools necessary to stop active shooters as soon as possible. Officers should be trained and have at their immediate disposal door-breaching shells, flash-bang grenades, tear gas projectiles and protective gear. Hotels should never allow guests to utilize the “Do Not Disturb” door sign for longer than 12 hours without security checking on their welfare. It has been reported, if true, the gunman used the sign for 36 hours and had ample opportunity to construct a shooting platform in his room.

• • •

Jerry Weaver has been a correctional officer with the California State Department Corrections and a sheriff’s sergeant retired from Kern County, Calif. He resides in Coeur d’Alene.

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