Las Vegas Police Describe Harrowing Minutes Getting into the Gunman's Hotel Room During Mass Shooting
Guns — “so many guns” — were among the first things police saw last weekend after they breached the room in the Mandalay Bay casino where Stephen Paddock had, minutes earlier, been raining down bullets on a nearby concert crowd.
“So many guns, so many magazines, stacks and stacks of magazines everywhere,” Las Vegas police officer Dave Newton told CBS News’ 60 Minutes on Sunday.
Newton, along with Sgt. Joshua Bitsko and detectives Casey Clarkson and Matthew Donaldson, all with Vegas police, appeared on 60 Minutes to detail their rapid response to the mass shooting on Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Harvest festival.
Paddock, from his 32nd-floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay near the festival, killed 58 concertgoers and injured another 489 after he opened fire just after 10 o’clock that night, according to authorities. (The total casualty numbers have been revised as the investigation continues; earlier figures included 527 injured, including wounds from gunfire and trampling.)
Speaking to CBS, Bitsko, Clarkson and the others recalled the harrowing minutes spent trying to understand what was happening, at the onset of the mass shooting, and their efforts to stop it.
“I took my boots off. I just threw ’em in the casino. That was slowing me down,” said detective Donaldson, who drove nine miles from police headquarters before running the final blocks to the scene. “I was faster barefoot and I was gonna be more effective barefoot.”
At the hotel, 12 minutes after the shooting began, law enforcement assembled on the floor outside Paddock’s room.
Around 11 p.m., they began working to blow off his door, through which Paddock had already fired on a hotel security guard before police arrived.
While the gunfire had stopped once police were on Paddock’s floor, they weren’t sure what they would encounter when they found him.
“I’m standing out in front of this bullet-ridden door with nothing except for a shield that’s, you know, I’m hoping would help a little bit,” officer Newton told 60 Minutes. “And that was the point I just start praying that nothing goes off of phone-wise or radio or anything else, ’cause we’re trying to be as quiet as we can ’cause we didn’t want him to know we were out there and start spraying at us.”
With the explosion successful, the police entered Paddock’s room.
They saw “an armory,” Sgt. Bitsko said.
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“Stacks and stacks of magazines everywhere, just in suitcases all neatly stacked against pillars, around the room, all stacked up, rifles placed all throughout,” Newton said. “All kinds of monitors and electrical equipment he had in there. It just looked like almost a gun store.”
“Shell casings all over the floor. I could smell the gun powder that had went off in the room,” Bitsko continued, noting that they “were trippin’ over guns, trippin’ over long guns inside.”
Authorities found that Paddock was already dead of an apparent suicide — a gunshot to the head.
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“My initial scan, coming in the room with my rifle, is just seein’ I’m seeing one male down, bleeding from the face,” Donaldson said. “He was not a threat. [I] kept going, kept going, kept going.”
Nearby, the police found a “bloody revolver” and what seemed to be handwritten calculations Paddock had made about how his height and distance from the concert venue would affect the shooting.
Newton called the scene “very eerie.”
“The dust from the explosive breach — and then you have the flashing lights — and that looked straight like out of a movie,” he said.
As they then worked to clear the rooms where Paddock was staying, Donaldson told CBS he remained on the alert for more shooters: “It was still very much in my brain there’s 50 other dudes in here somewhere.” (Investigators have said they believe Paddock was the only gunman.)
Bitsko said it seemed the shooter used “days of planning” for his attack, and Newton said it appeared he may have been planning to “shoot it out” with police before he chose to kill himself.
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“He could of held us off for hours,” Newton said.
Instead, thanks to the work of the responding police and the hotel guard — who was later hailed as a hero — “I think they prevented a thousand deaths,” Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told 60 Minutes. “And I think it’s important for the American public to understand that.”
“During a critical incident, 12 minutes is a long time, you know?” he said. “Could you imagine being in a fistfight for 12 minutes? It’s a very long time. But when you step back and you evaluate it after the fact, it’s a very short period of time to get the intelligence, figure out what the hell is going on.”