The motivation may be different, but the intent is the same: hurt as many people as possible. Active shooter situations can happen anywhere at any time. To be proactive, the Metropolitan Police Department established the Multi-Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities (MACTAC) to address any such situation in the Las Vegas Valley.
On Feb. 21, Metro and NV Energy held a community safety forum at the Mob Museum, 300 Stewart Ave., on what actions one should take in an active shooter situation. Nancy and Gerald Kinder, who live near Sunrise Mountain, were in the audience.
“With more crime going on here in Las Vegas, it’s nice to know how to protect ourselves,” said Nancy, who added that active shooter situations are now part of modern living. “I think it’s a possibility that can happen anywhere you are … We go to church, and some of them have been happening in churches. We’ll be sitting there and see someone who we’ve never seen before come in and go, ‘They have a bag.’ So you just start watching and making sure you do know how to get out if you have to.”
Metro Officer Dean Hennesy, who has served 16 years with the department, addressed the 30-plus attendees.
“I want you to remember three words,” he said. “Run. Hide. Fight.”
He showed a short video using that as its title. The scenario showed a man in dark glasses enter an office building. The man pulled a gun out of the bag he carried and began shooting indiscriminately.
Office workers scattered, some ducked under their desks, others ran and gathered in one room.
“First and foremost,” the video’s narrator said, “if you can get out, do, even when others insist on staying. … Remember what’s important: You, not your stuff. Leave your belongings behind.”
The video went on to show the workers who’d gathered in the room hoisting anything that could be used as a weapon — a fire extinguisher, a desk phone, a laptop — as they waited for the perpetrator, who then burst into the room. The video ended there, and Hennesy picked up the narrative, saying that fighting back is the best alternative if you’re cornered.
“We’re not advocating that you chase down the assailant,” Hennesy said. “… What we’re saying is that we need you to fight for your life.”
The video is available on YouTube by typing in Run Hide Fight.
But the best idea is to flee. By leaving the building, people are forcing the perpetrator to waste time searching for his next victim. It’s time, Hennesy said, that can allow MACTAC responders to arrive and begin operations.
To combat such attacks and take down the perpetrator as quickly as possible, MACTAC has taken lessons learned from past active shooter events to coalesce strategy should an attack happen here. Hennesy said that Las Vegas is a prime target with its often-packed Strip events and as a city where anyone can blend in. But neighborhoods are not immune to possible attacks. One big lesson, he said, was to strike back quickly, and that means using all possible law enforcement members.
“We learned from Columbine that we cannot not wait anymore (to move in and take down) the perpetrator,” Hennesy said. “…We’re looking at this from a regional perspective. It’s not a Metro program but a group effort. We realized it just can’t be Metro (handling) this.”
So, now MACTAC responders from all branches of law enforcement will be securing each area of a building as they move in to engage the suspect and resolve the situation. This means leaving the wounded to the EMTs, who will move in once the area is secure.
The policy began taking shape seven years ago when six members of Metro met with the Los Angeles Police Department’s tactical unit in fall 2009 to develop Las Vegas’ active shooter strategy. They returned to Las Vegas to form a team to digest the information and develop strategy. One of the officers on that team, Alyn Beck, was shot in and killed on June 8, 2014 — as he ate lunch along with fellow officer Igor Soldo, who was also killed — by two people who had been part of the Cliven Bundy standoff. The perpetrators then took their killing spree to a nearby Walmart, their location within the store immediately determined by the store’s security cameras. It proved another lesson in MACTAC’s arsenal: Use security cameras to provide multiple eyes on the location under attack.
“So, if we come to your business, one of the first things we’ll want to know is, ‘Where is your surveillance room?’ ” Hennesy said.
MACTAC training has been ongoing, and now, all areas of law enforcement, including county and regional, receive standardized training and are considered part of the defense.
“There (is a) SWAT team here, and they are very good,” Hennesy said. “However, we know that when a situation like this starts, it’s going to be our patrol officers who are the first responders. … And if we (send SWAT), and there turns out to be multiple locations of shooters, we’re going to run out of resources really quick.”
He suggested businesses have “go bags” to hand over to first responders. These should include such things as a master key that opens all doors, walkie-talkies should police need answers from the business’ security department, a floor plan of the building and the location of surveillance monitors.
For those in the building, Hennesy said to try to find a place that provides cover, meaning material that will stop a bullet. If not cover, then a place of concealment is another option. Playing dead can also work, Hennesy said.
Some situations may include hostage taking, he warned.
With so many people owning guns and many Las Vegans having conceal and carry permits, should residents with a weapon try to gun down the perpetrator?
“I personally think that’s a bad thing,” Hennesy said. “The biggest reason is because we have officers responding, and we don’t want an officer to show up and see someone who is CCW standing there, and then we accidentally engage them, thinking they’re the bad guy.”
There was also the possibility of residents with conceal carry permits shooting one another if they’re in cross fire.
Hennesy said even children should be aware of what to do and added that he taught his 10-year-old daughter things from the seminar, including how to fight back.
“She asked me, ‘Can I kick him where you told me not to?’ and I said, ‘Yes, honey,’ ” he said. “But we’re not going to practice that.”
To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-387-2949.