Las Vegas shooting: Officers recall Stephen Paddock hotel raid
The Las Vegas police officers who stormed the hotel room of gunman Stephen Paddock a week ago have been describing what they found to US media.
CBS interviewed them for a programme marking the one-week anniversary of the attack, which killed 58 people.
The officers discussed the lengths Paddock went to defend himself from police, and the contents of a note found inside his 32nd floor room.
They also described the extent of the “armoury” of weapons they found inside.
It was revealed that the officers were not specialist “Swat” (special weapons and tactics) response, but ordinary Las Vegas police officers responding to police radio chatter about the shooting.
One detective drove nine miles to get to the scene at the hotel from police headquarters and another two were from the K-9 unit training dogs nearby.
“We heard it over the radio. We heard, you know, active shooter. Multiple victims,” Dave Newtown recalled.
In the interview the officers described showers of bullets “raining down” by the hotel. One officer, Casey Clarkson, ended up bleeding heavily after getting shrapnel in his neck.
The source of the gunfire was located after a Mandalay Bay security guard was shot at in the 32nd floor hallway, through Paddock’s door.
Authorities have been searching for a motive for the mass shooting which killed 58 concertgoers close to the Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas strip last Monday.
Investigators say they are examining electronic devices found in the hotel suite, as well as evidence uncovered in Paddock’s Nevada homes.
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Earlier police had said a note with numbers was found in the suite. The officers explained to CBS that this appeared to be calculations of shooting trajectory to the crowd nearby.
“I could see on it he had written the distance, the elevation he was on, the drop of what his bullet was gonna be for the crowd,” officer Dave Newtown explained.
“So he had had that written down and figured out so he would know where to shoot to hit his targets from there.”
Paddock had smuggled 24 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition into the hotel, concealed in 10 suitcases.
The police officers described the elaborate electrical equipment and tools the gunman had set up in the suite he had occupied for four days before the attack.
They found the stairwell door for the floor screwed shut with metal. They said a Swat officer, Levi Hancock, was able to burst it open with equipment and give them access to the floor.
Plans for escape?
The interview revealed that a gun had been set up on a bipod stand by the doorway, and showed pictures of hidden cameras wired to a room service cart outside Paddock’s room.
This could be evidence that Paddock was hoping to escape after a shoot-out with police, which Sherriff Joseph Lombardo alluded to as a possibility on Wednesday.
It has also been widely suspected that Paddock had been scouting out other locations near open-air concerts in the weeks before the Las Vegas attack.
In the CBS interview images of Paddock’s body were shown and the officers described finding his body after blowing open the bullet-hole ridden doorway to his room.
“I didn’t see any apparent wounds to his head. But I did see a lot of blood that had come out of his mouth,” Dave Newtown recalled.
“There was a bloody revolver I think nearby. Nearby him that was on the ground consistent with him shooting himself” Joshua Bitsko added.
Despite Paddock being the only gunman, the officers recalled their anxiety that other people were involved after finding the extent of Paddock’s arsenal.
“It was still very much in my brain there’s 50 other dudes in here somewhere. You know, we were still clearing that room, the curtains, moving the curtains,” Matthew Donaldson explained.
“I wanted to make sure somebody wasn’t hiding between the windows and the curtains.”
They said they avoided getting close to hotel room windows in case they themselves were taken out by a sniper – because of the difficulties in communication between police officers.
Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo had previously travelled to Mumbai after the 2008 attacks, and said the lessons he learned there had helped shape his officers’ fast response to Paddock’s shooting.
Praised by the interviewer for reaching Paddock in 12 minutes, the sherriff responded: “During a critical incident, 12 minutes is a long time.”