LAS VEGAS (CBS) — WBZ-TV security analyst and former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said the attack in Las Vegas was a scenario that law enforcement have been fearing for some time.
At least 50 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded when a sole gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino–an attack that Davis characterized as “our worst fear realized.”
“This has been a fear of my police colleagues for many years, and unfortunately it’s come true,” he told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker. “There’s no doubt from the recorded things that I’ve seen that it was a machine gun that was utilized here, and from a high position like that, it’s a devastating attack on a big crowd … This guy, unfortunately, has found a very effective way to kill a lot of people.”
Davis happened to be in Las Vegas to give a presentation about security at the Global American Gaming Association Conference. He said he drove past the Mandalay on the way to his hotel a couple of miles away.
He said he heard the police sirens heading down the Strip around 10:30 p.m., and then witnessed as police responded to secure other hotels.
“They actually did a very, very great job with securing other venues,” Davis said. “They have what are termed strike teams that went to each one of the hotels to make sure that they were secure.”
Authorities said Monday morning that the suspect, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nevada, was found dead in his room of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was found with “at least ten rifles”–and while Davis acknowledged that it’s hard to imagine an arsenal like that going undetected, he said it would actually not be difficult to get those weapons into a hotel.
“It’s not unusual to stop housekeepers from coming into a room,” Davis explained to WBZ-TV’s Anaridis Rodriguez. “It’s also not difficult to put a large number of firearms in a rolling bag and just push it up into the room. Nobody checks bags at a hotel, it’s virtually impossible to do that. If you’re there for a few days, you could slowly and methodically bring the equipment in that you needed. Clearly, this was very well-planned and devastating in its effect.”
Preventing mass shootings at a venue of this sort also presented unique difficulties, Davis said.
“You put security measures in place, but to try to stop something like this from a high vantage point, it’s very difficult to do,” Davis said. “When you get a big crowd like this in this type of a venue, how do you stop it? It’s very, very difficult.”
In the coming hours and days, local police and the FBI will have to decide who would take the case–and Davis said the work of processing the enormous crime scene would take some time.
“In any event, no matter the jurisdiction, the local and the federal authorities will have to work very closely together processing the scene,” Davis said. “That area of the Strip will be shut down for a while, I’m sure, to make sure that all the evidence is gathered. They need to make a case on each one of the individuals involved, the victims, to try to figure out exactly what happened to them.”
Authorities will also have to determine whether or not the attack can be characterized as terrorism–a process Davis shed light on.
“It all goes to motivation–there has to be some indication that there’s a political agenda, a forming of an idea and using threats of violence and actual violence to forward that, to make it a terrorist event,” he said. “They’re looking for anything in the room, notes and things the suspect may have left … they’re going to look at his computers, they’re going to interview his friends, they’re going to try to find out exactly what motivated this act and then they can make that determination.”
Davis also noted that the mental and emotional toll of events like these should not be forgotten.
“The amount of PTSD that occurs for the police, to the fire, to the EMS people who are witnessing a battle scene here along with the civilians who were in the middle of this and were traumatized by what happened … this is going to be a huge problem for them in the days and weeks to come, and they need to be prepared for that, it’s a very difficult issue,” he said.
He said there are lessons from every attack, and that every incident improves law enforcement’s ability to stop a similar one in the future. But he said he wasn’t sure what the lessons would be after this.
“With the nature of the Supreme Court that we have right now and the lack of controls on weapons, I don’t know how you can stop this other than removing that component of it,” Davis said. “It’s almost impossible to check every package that goes into a high-rise building. This is a complex problem that doesn’t have an easy solution.”
But one thing Davis didn’t want people to take away from the attack was fear.
“I don’t think we can be afraid, I think we just have to be cognizant of where we are,” he said. “Security forces have to work close together and we have to keep moving forward, but we can’t let something like this stop us from doing what we do.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports