The Las Vegas Review-Journal took legal action Friday to obtain law enforcement records kept secret by authorities in the wake of the Oct. 1 Strip massacre.
In three separate actions, the newspaper is joining other media outlets seeking to shed light on the investigation into the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Fifty-eight people were killed after a gunman fired into a crowd of concert-goers from his 32nd-floor Mandalay Bay suite before killing himself.
As authorities continue to lock down public records related to the shooting, questions are mounting about the emergency response and the shooter’s motive.
The Review-Journal submitted a petition Friday in Clark County District Court seeking 911 recordings and logs of the emergency calls the night of the shooting. More than a month after the newspaper asked for the public records, Las Vegas police have declined to turn them over, the petition says.
“The Review-Journal requested documents on Oct. 2 and we have received little to no response,” Keith Moyer, Review-Journal editor-in-chief, said Friday. “Other media outlets across the United States have encountered the same outcome and share the Review-Journal’s concern about what amounts to an information shutdown — thus these actions, in an effort to help the public understand more about this historically horrible event.”
In a petition filed in federal court on Thursday, lawyers for the Review-Journal and other news organizations sought to unseal court affidavits submitted by FBI agents seeking permission to conduct searches of the shooter’s Mesquite home and other locations involved in the sweeping criminal investigation.
Because authorities have said the gunman acted alone, there is no valid reason to keep the documents secret, the petition states.
“Under the circumstances, there is no compelling state interest that overrides the pubic’s constitutionally guaranteed right of access to the records,“ the petition says.
The news organizations — which include The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, CNN and ABC News — filed two separate petitions in District Court this week requesting additional records that Las Vegas police have refused to make public.
One action seeks affidavits attached to as many as 14 warrants police obtained to search the shooter’s home, Mandalay Bay room and other locations in the days after the massacre.
Citing the Review-Journal’s leadership in litigating public records issues in Nevada, the newspaper’s lawyer, Maggie McLetchie, moved to intervene in that case Friday.
“Any unfavorable ruling from this court would impact the Review-Journal’s long-term ability to report on matters of public interest,” McLetchie wrote. “Thus, intervention as a matter of right is not just important — it is crucial to the Review-Journal’s continuing ability to provide the public with important news.”
The other petition filed by the media outlets this week demands that police turn over police body camera footage, 911 recordings, evidence logs and hotel surveillance video.
That evidence is crucial to informing the public about one of the “most devastating events” in Las Vegas, the petition states.
“Notwithstanding the frequent press conferences that Las Vegas and federal authorities conducted in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, now, a full month later, significant questions remain unanswered about the shooter’s actions and the response of public agencies,” the petition says.
Laura Meltzer, a Las Vegas police spokeswoman, said the department has not yet received copies of the court petitions and cannot comment on pending litigation.
FBI spokeswoman Sandra Breault could not be reached for comment Friday.