No one has yet made sense of the October 2017 shooting that left 58 dead and injured about 850 people on the Las Vegas Strip.
But two Metro police officers spent 18 months looking at how police and others, in the heat of that 10-minute massacre, dealt with it - during and after.
A few weeks ago, Sheriff Joe Lombardo released the entire after-action report. At 164 pages, it includes 93 recommendations for change.
Captain Kelly McMahill and Detective Stephanie Ward wrote the report after more than 600 interviews, watching 3,000 body-cam videos, reading 500 police reports and listening to about 5,000 dispatch calls.
Ward said the officers and civilians they spoke to were more than willing to be interviewed for the final report.
“Folks were very forthcoming," she said, "At times, it was emotional in some of those interviews. To interview the officers and our civilian who were right there inside the venue that day going through the worst mass shooting in history here, it was very emotional.”
McMahill said some people who proofread the report before its release wanted some of the emotional language removed, but she and Ward fought to keep it in.
“As much as this is an after-action and it’s factual, we also didn’t want to remove all of the emotion,” she said.
Besides conveying the emotional impact the shooting had on the department and the community at large, McMahill said the facts of the report are vital to prepare for future events.
“As horrific as they are in the law enforcement and first responder community, it is where we learn the most about how to prevent these, how to respond quickly and efficiently,” McMahill told KNPR's State of Nevada.
McMahill said the report will help the department prepare for a critical incident. But it's also for other departments around the country and the world.
“It is to make sure that every first responder agency across our country has access to this report because there are going to be things that they have not thought of, that they have not had to endure – thank goodness," she added. "And so it really is a living and breathing lesson for everybody out there that does the job that we do in public safety."
One of the items in the report that's already surprised many law enforcement agencies is the close relationship between Las Vegas police and security at Strip resorts.
“I think that is one of the 'aha moments' that folks think about when we go and speak about 1 October is that the relationship that we have with that whole tourist corridor is phenomenal,” Ward said.
Another important relationship highlighted in the report is between Las Vegas police and the Clark County Fire Department. McMahill said other departments are shocked to find out that fire and police train together for emergencies.
“The training exercises that we do, the big ones and the small ones, definitely helped us succeed on this night,” she said.
While the training paid off, in this particular case, some firefighters ignored protocol--because they wanted to help. And did. Under fire department policy, personnel are only supposed to go into so-called 'warm zones,' which are areas that have been cleared and deemed safe by police officers.
“On this night, they didn’t care," McMahill said, "They went into hot zones repeatedly with our police officers, knowing that this was so massive that there was no way to wait for a warm zone. The pride that all of us have in how our men and women responded that night is much understated in this report. Honestly, we saved lives doing what we did that night.”
While those were successes on October 1, McMahill admits there are holes in procedures and policies that need to be addressed.
Perhaps one of the biggest is that police doesn't have a policy dedicated to mass casualty incidents; McMahill said a policy is now being crafted for that specific event.
Another critical issue took more time to work out. Officers along the Strip did not carry rifles slung over their backs before October 1. So some lost minutes of time running back to their vehicles to grab their rifles from the trunk of their patrol vehicles.
In addition, at all outdoor venues, including Vegas Golden Knight games, officers will now be positioned above the venue with rifles and surveying the area for anything suspicious.
“This incident changed all of that for us,” she said.
In addition, officers on the ground will have rifles slung over their backs with a partner who will be able to grab that weapon - if necessary.
“I hope that moving forward that what people recognize when they walk in is – we’re going to protect them," she added. "Sadly, after this incident, what we know is those high-powered rifles are necessary to protect people."
Another change: off-duty officers who rush to an emergency scene will have to check in to let supervisors know who they are and where they are going. On October 1, hundreds of officers left their homes and raced to the scene but dispatchers and others didn't know who was there.
The report ends with the names and biographies of the 58 people who died that night.
“The whole purpose of this report is to honor them and their families and what had happened that night. This was also for the community,” Ward said.
She noted that Metro's own Officer Charleston Hartfield was killed that night. He was off duty and enjoying the concert when he was shot.
McMahill said when the team that worked on the report first started their work she gave them the pictures and biographies of those killed. She told them to look at it when they were feeling down or frustrated by the process.
“I think that a lot of people in the public may perceive that law enforcement officers, firefighters are cold. That we go to these calls, one after another after another and that sometimes the people don’t matter and this was our way of saying, every one of them matter. I personally will never forget them,” she said.
Capt. Kelly McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; Det. Stephanie Ward, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
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