105°F
weather icon Clear

Police fire officer who waited in hallway during Las Vegas massacre

Updated July 3, 2019 - 11:55 am

A Las Vegas police officer who froze one floor beneath the Route 91 Harvest festival gunman was fired, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has learned.

Officer Cordell Hendrex separated from the Metropolitan Police Department on March 20, department spokesman Larry Hadfield said Tuesday.

The move came nine months after the release of body camera footage that showed Hendrex hesitating in a Mandalay Bay hallway one floor beneath the killer, holding his position for nearly five minutes as rounds continually sprayed into the crowd of country music fans below on Oct. 1, 2017.

Records have shown that the attack lasted about 10 minutes.

Metro provided no further comment Tuesday on Hendrex’s employment status. But police union president Steve Grammas confirmed that Hendrex had been fired in connection with his actions on the night of the attack.

“We do not believe Cordell should have been terminated,” Grammas said Tuesday.

He pointed to an internal affairs investigation that he said Metro launched only after body camera footage of Hendrex’s hesitation started circulating in the media.

“After they knew, he continued to work for the department,” Grammas said. “In our opinion, until it came up in the news and they started getting some heat is when they made this decision.”

The news about Hendrex’s termination comes about a month after former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson was criminally charged for not confronting a gunman who killed 17 students and staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last year.

Hendrex joined Metro in August 2008.

In his officer report, which served as his self-reported narrative of the night, he admitted to being scared during the shooting. The report and records like it were released to the Review-Journal only after the newspaper and other media organizations sued for their release.

“I know I hesitated and I remember being terrified with fear and I think that I froze right there in the middle of the hall for how long I can’t say,” Hendrex wrote.

Body camera footage captured by his trainee, Elif Varsin, clocks how long he froze: about 4½ minutes. It was Varsin’s first day in the field.

Grammas said Tuesday that on the night of the attack, “all of our officers were up against something that nobody has been up against before.”

“Everybody talks about how they would respond to these things,” Grammas continued. “But no one knows until they are up against that evil.”

A request to speak to Hendrex on Tuesday went unanswered.

Caught on camera

Hendrex and Varsin happened to be in Mandalay Bay’s security office just before the Route 91 attack began about 10:05 that night.

The first 30 seconds of Varsin’s footage, released in June 2018, contain no audio. But about 22 seconds in, the officers can be seen walking out of the resort’s security office and onto the casino floor accompanied by three armed guards. A few seconds later, the audio cuts in and the words “active shooter” can be heard in the background.

For about two minutes, the group walks past slot machines and casino patrons as police radio transmissions describe what is unfolding at the nearby festival grounds. It is not until an officer broadcasts over police radio that shots are coming from Mandalay Bay that the group begins running and makes it to an elevator, hopping in front of hotel guests waiting with their luggage.

Inside the elevator, the group discusses the 32nd floor, where the shooter is located, and the 31st floor. For unknown reasons, Hendrex and Varsin get out on the 31st floor with the armed guards, pistols drawn.

A few steps from the elevator, thunderous gunfire can be heard in the background. But nearly two minutes pass before Hendrex announces his position over police radio.

“I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor,” he says. “I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

About 20 seconds later, the group hears a transmission from an officer on the ground: “Multiple GSWs (gunshot wounds) to the chest, leg, femoral arteries in the medical tent,” according to the footage.

As the transmission ends, Hendrex suddenly takes several steps backward, then dips behind an alcove next to a hotel room door. His trainee and the guards follow his lead and do the same.

For another minute-and-a-half, the group stands still.

“We’re taking gunfire,” an officer on the ground can be heard saying in the meantime over police radio. “It’s going right over our heads. We’re pinned down here with a bunch of civilians.”

Hendrex “once again hesitated” and “did not know what to do next,” according to his report.

As the final volley of gunfire goes off, Hendrex exclaims, “Oh, my God!”

“We can’t worry about victims,” a different officer can be heard broadcasting over police radio a few seconds later. “We need to stop the shooter before we have more victims. Does anyone have eyes on the shooter?”

Hendrex does not respond but begins walking down the hallway alone.

“Where are you going, sir?” his trainee asks. But Hendrex does not answer.

Without direction, Varsin and the guards slowly follow.

Michael Quinn, an expert in law enforcement tactical training and use of force, previously told the Review-Journal that it’s hard to judge any officer’s actions from the night of the shooting because “it’s such a terrible incident.”

“But my gut feeling is experienced officers would have moved on that room as quickly as they knew where it was,” he said. “They would have come up with a plan.”

He noted that Hendrex had a trainee with him, which may have affected his response. He also acknowledged the “fear factor.”

Still, he said, “I think it’s our responsibility to get in there as fast as possible.”

“Would that have saved lives? Probably, if it went well,” Quinn said. “Would it have cost them their lives? Yes, absolutely. That’s part of the job.”

The gunman killed 58 concertgoers and injured hundreds more before fatally shooting himself.

Fighting for his job

In the wake of the footage release, Metro spokeswoman Carla Alston told the Review-Journal that “every officer’s actions that night are being evaluated.”

“One of the things Sheriff (Joe) Lombardo has said from the beginning is that this is an ongoing investigation,” Alston continued. “Part of that investigation is the evaluation of the performance, actions and conduct of every officer and civilian employee involved in the incident.”

Alston did not confirm at the time that Hendrex was under internal investigation. It remains unclear whether any other officers were disciplined or terminated as a result of their actions on Oct. 1.

Grammas said he and his union are fighting for Hendrex, representing the former officer during an arbitration process with the department to “get his job back.” The arbitrator has not made a decision.

“We had plenty of officers doing heroic things, and there were officers who were afraid of the situation but still acted,” Grammas said of the mass shooting. “Cordell was up there. He was on that 31st floor. And he had a lot of things to deal with.”

“It’s unfortunate that we are in the position that we are in now,” Grammas continued. “But that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we are defending him.”

Metro confirmed that as of Tuesday, Varsin is still employed by the department and serving as a patrol officer in the resort corridor.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct amount of time between the release of body camera footage and Hendrex’s termination.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
Las Vegas police fired 6 shots to end standoff at Laughlin casino - VIDEO
SWAT officers fired six rounds Monday morning when they fatally wounded an attempted robbery suspect who pointed a weapon at officers following an hourslong standoff in the Aquarius casino parking lot in Laughlin. (Angus Kelly/Las Vegas Review/Journal)
Off-duty Officer Exchanges Gunfire With Suspect
Las Vegas police Capt. Nichole Splinter briefs the media on a shooting involving an off duty police officer on August 21, 2019. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department/YouTube)
Paul Browning Released from Ely State Prison - VIDEO
Paul Browning greets his mother, Betty Browning, after being released from Ely State Prison. Browning served 33 years on Nevada’s death row. (Rachel Crosby/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Armed robbery suspect killed in officer-involved shooting at Laughlin casino
An armed robbery suspect was killed by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers after six-hour standoff outside the Aquarius Casino in Laughlin on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect dead after officer-involved shooting at Laughlin casino
An armed robbery suspect is dead after a nearly seven-hour standoff the Aquarius Casino in Laughlin ended with an officer-involved shooting. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Second officer-involved shooting of 2019 for North Las Vegas Police Department
North Las Vegas Police hold a press conference about the second officer involved shooting of 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Road Rage Homicide Suspect Van
Las Vegas police have released video of the vehicle they believe was involved in a deadly road rage incident on August 5. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police look for armed robbers
Police are seeking two men involved in an armed robbery Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, on the 7500 block of North Cimarron Road, near Farm Road. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police searching for video related to road rage homicide
Lt. Ray Spencer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Section is asking for clues from the public to solve a murder from Aug. 5. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Jury hears closing statements in killing of 17-year-old
Closing statements began today for Jaiden Caruso and Kody Harlan charged in the death of 17-year-old Matthew Minkler. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CCSD to vote on shooting settlement
The Clark County School Board will vote Thursday on a $100,000 settlement for the mother of Dalvin Brown, the Canyon Springs High School student who was shot and killed on school grounds at the beginning of last school year. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police find 2 dead in northwest valley home
Las Vegas homicide detectives are investigating after two people were found dead in a home Friday night in the far northwest valley.
Teen talks about alleged sexual assault at Las Vegas grocery store
A 17-year old says she was groped and then sexually assaulted by a loss-prevention specialist at an Albertsons store in east Las Vegas. The subject's voice has been distorted to protect her identity. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Court hearing For 17-year-old Who Was Found Dead Begins - Video
An image that captured blood pooled near the head of a 17-year-old’s lifeless body appeared on monitors inside a Las Vegas courtroom Wednesday, as prosecutors gave opening statements in the murder trial for two teens charged in Matthew Minkler’s death.
Purse Theft Occurs at Suncoast - Video
Purse theft occurred July 24 at Suncoast just after 930 pm.
Woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl in Las Vegas - Video
A woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip agreed to plead guilty to a child abuse charge, her attorney said. Gigi Mitchell, 40, faces several counts of child abuse and one count of child sex trafficking. The 11-year-old girl told social worker Felicia Tucker that she was a “hustler” and entered nightclubs where she drank and flirted with men.
Federal officials fail to keep criminal undocumented immigrants from reoffending
ICE and the DOJ courts say they are trying to remove undocumented criminals. But statistics show the courts are doing less than a decade ago. (Art Kane/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gragson crash seen in surveillance video
Newly-released video reveals more details around Scott Gragson crash, including Gragson arguing with a guard over allowing cars to follow him to his home. Video from a resident’s security camera shows the vehicle crash on a median. And police bodycam footage shows Gragson talking to an officer after the crash. (Grand Jury Exhibits)
Woman accused of stealing $1M from company makes court appearance
Donna Blizniak, the Las Vegas woman, who is accused of stealing more than $1 million over the course of five years from Nevada’s largest alcohol distributor, appeared in court on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ex-Metro detective accused of killing her former son-in-law appears in court
Pamela Bordeaux, a Las Vegas former detective, who is accused of shooting and killing her former son-in-law, appeared in court on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police address latest office-involved shooting
Metro police officials provided details on Monday, July 22, 2019, during a media briefing about an officer-involved shooting, which occurred on July 17 in east Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Steve Meriwether talks about his son, who was killed by a drunk driver
Retired Metro sergeant Steve Meriwether talks about his son, Garrett Meriwether, who was killed by a drunk driver. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Las Vegas Metro Police holds press conference about Oct. 1 report
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo held a press conference on Wednesday, July 10, regarding a new report about the police department's performance during Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Surveillance footage of persons of interest in deadly shooting
Las Vegas police have released surveillance footage of two persons of interest in a fatal shooting at Desert Shores Villas. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Bail for Cierre Wood set at $500,000 for murder charge
Bail was set at half a million dollars for Cierre Wood, the ex-pro football player who faces a charge of first-degree murder with his girlfriend Amy Taylor in the death of 5-year-old La’Rayah Patra Nicole Lamont Davis. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man takes plea deal from murder to battery with deadly weapon
On Tuesday, July 9, Christopher J. Weygant II, originally charged with murder in the death of Bailey Beck, pleaded no contest to battery with a deadly weapon. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man convicted of 1998 homicides at Las Vegas assisted living home
A judge found Gustavo Ramos-Martinez guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon and one count of sexual assault with use of a deadly weapon.
Henderson youth accused in killing of 19-year-old girlfriend arraigned
18-year-old Noah Hadley, accused of shooting his girlfriend after a house party, appeared in Henderson Court Tuesday morning for arraignment.
Security guard charged with murder appears in court
Security guard Brian William Love appears in court at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 2, 2019, on a charge of open murder with a deadly weapon in the shooting death of homeless man Max Garcia. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Preliminary hearing held for woman charged with sex trafficking of 11-year-old girl
Witnesses took the stand during a preliminary hearing held Thursday for Gigi Mitchell, the woman accused of trafficking an 11-year-old on the Las Vegas Strip.
Wayne Newton testifies during burglary trial
Wayne Newton takes the stand during the trial of Weslie Martin, one of two men who allegedly broke into and burglarized the Newton family residence.
Woman suspected of pushing man off Las Vegas bus stays on house arrest - VIDEO
Cadesha Bishop, accused of pushing a 74-year-old man off a Las Vegas bus to his death, will remain on house arrest until her trial in April 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trial begins for man with wire left in his body after medical procedure
Opening statements began today in a trial where a man says a physician left a wire in his body during a heart procedure in 2005. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas police warn of fuel thieves
Las Vegas police and fire officials are warning the public of the danger of fuel thieves using modified vehicles to transport and dispense gasoline. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Surveillance video captures details of man pushed off bus
RTC surveillance video captures multiple views and audio of Cadesha Bishop shoving 74-year-old Serge Fournier off a Las Vegas bus.
LVMPD Investigates 9th Officer Involved Shooting of 2019 -- Armed Robbery Suspects in Summerlin
LVMPD Captain Yasenia Yatomi gives preliminary details about an officer involved shooting that occurred in the 1200 block of N. Town Center Dr.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas woman accused of pushing man off bus pleads not guilty
A woman caught on video shoving a 74-year-old man off of a Las Vegas bus pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder and other charges related to his death. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspect faces 15 counts in shooting at Las Vegas Strip mall - VIDEO
Hasean Quinn, the man who faces multiple counts including assault with a deadly weapon after a gunshot was fired inside the Fashion Show mall on the Las Vegas Strip on Memorial Day, appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A man whose wives were found dead 8 years apart under similar circumstances is denied bail - VIDEO
Alan Sylwester, the man suspected of killing his wife, was denied bail again Wednesday morning during his preliminary hearing in Henderson.
THE LATEST
 
Las Vegas police officer shoots at charging dog

A Las Vegas officer shot at a “pit bull style” dog after it charged at police Wednesday morning as they investigated reports of two armed men at a business complex in the Spring Valley area.