Las Vegas police responded “heroically” to the June 2014 slaying of two officers and a third man by anti-government extremists, and their training likely prevented more loss of life, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department.
But the 36-page report, prepared for the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in Washington, also found flaws in the initial police response to the ambush of the officers. The report said it hoped the findings would help other law enforcement agencies plan for future attacks.
Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were shot to death June 8, 2014, while having lunch at a CiCi’s Pizza at 309 N. Nellis Blvd. The assailants, Jared and Amanda Miller, were later shot to death by police at a Wal-Mart across the street after they killed shopper Joseph Wilcox, who had pulled out a handgun and tried to intervene.
The couple had strong anti-government leanings and were supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy during his April 2014 confrontation with the Bureau of Land Management. They went to the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville but were asked to leave before the armed standoff. The report quoted Ammon Bundy, the rancher’s son, as saying the two were “very radical.”
The analysis of the deadly ambush at CiCi’s and subsequent shootout at the Wal-Mart was requested by former Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.
“I commend the men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for their willingness to support this assessment,” COPS Director Ronald Davis said in a news release. “If not for the courageous actions of the officers responding to the ambush, it is likely the loss of civilian life would have been much greater.”
The report gave a minute-by-minute account of the horrific events two years ago before making 21 key findings it said would benefit officers in the future.
“Despite some process and systems improvements suggested in this after-action report, there is nothing the LVMPD could have done to prevent or predict the tragic loss of life perpetrated by the assailants,” the Justice Department report said. “The LVMPD’s preparation for critical incidents and the department’s response in the wake of the incident offer an opportunity for learning in law enforcement agencies across the country.”
Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts, who oversees the administrative and investigative side of Metro, agreed with that assessment.
“It’s not every day that a law enforcement agency experiences something like what we experienced two years ago,” he said. “With the COPS office producing a national level report, other agencies will now have the ability to learn from it.”
The report praised Metro’s training and preparedness, but found communication problems when the call came out that Beck and Soldo had been shot.
The communications center, which includes 911, was burdened with repeated requests for updated information about the shootings, the report said.
The department initially did not properly establish who was in command of the response, which “resulted in confusion and miscommunication,” the report said.
“Specifically, the incident commander role was not appropriately filled and a staging area was not established, which hindered the coordination of the response at the incident site,” the report said.
Also, because of “procedural issues” in the dispatch center, not all information was communicated accurately and timely throughout the department, the report said. That delayed the arrival of SWAT officers.
Roberts said the report didn’t come to any conclusions that were new to the police department, which conducted an internal review and cooperated fully with the Washington-area firm that prepared the report for the Justice Department.
“We made corrective actions right away,” he said.
The report hailed Metro for the way it kept the media and public informed about the shootings through regular news conferences and releases on its website.
Contact Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135. Find @JGermanRJ on Twitter.