Las Vegas police made a dramatic change to the official timeline of the shooting Monday, stating for the first time that hotel security guard Jesus Campos was shot by Stephen Paddock before the attack on the concert began, not after. Tuesday a spokeswoman for the owner of the Mandalay Bay hotel questioned the accuracy of the new timeline. From the LA Times:
A spokeswoman for the company that owns Mandalay Bay seemed to dispute the police timeline given to The Times on Tuesday but did not explain why.
“This remains an ongoing investigation with a lot of moving parts. As evidenced by law enforcement briefings over the past week, many facts are still unverified and continue to change as events are under review,” MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a statement. “We cannot be certain about the most recent timeline that has been communicated publicly, and we believe what is currently being expressed may not be accurate.”
DeShong added, “It is not appropriate for us to comment further at this time on what remains an open matter for law enforcement.”
As mentioned, the spokeswoman didn’t say why they are questioning the timing, nor did she offer any alternate timeline. So what is going on here? Does it matter if Campos was shot before the attack rather than a few minutes after?
According to the new timeline, Campos was shot in the leg at 9:59 pm. He moved away from the door and then used a radio to contact the hotel management to tell them he had been shot. Six minutes later at 10:05 pm, Paddock started firing on the crowd from his hotel window.
Police arrived on the 31st floor of the Mandalay, one floor below Paddock, at 10:12 pm. They could still hear the shooting directly above them. At 10:15 pm, Paddock stopped shooting. It’s not clear why he stopped. Initially, police thought it was because he was distracted by Campos but under the new timeline, Campos had been shot before the attack even began.
When police reached the 32nd floor at 10:17 pm, Paddock’s attack had been over for two minutes. They discovered Campos wounded in the hallway along with a maintenance man. The LA Times reports a hotel security team arrived at the same time:
[Clark County Assistant Sheriff Tom] Roberts said the hotel dispatched its own armed security team to the 32nd floor, which arrived “right around the same time” as Las Vegas police, who officials have said arrived on the floor at 10:17 p.m. But the gunman had already fired his final shots out his hotel window at 10:15 p.m.
Police officers who started searching the hotel after the shooting began didn’t know a hotel security guard had been shot “until they met him in the hallway after exiting the elevator,” Lombardo said.
So somewhere along the line, there was a breakdown in communication. Did the hotel notify police of the shooting or did they simply send their own security team to deal with it? If they didn’t notify police, did police fail to notify officers on the scene who were searching the hotel?
Let’s stipulate that there’s still a lot of uncertainty here about the timeline. Things could still change (again) so it’s too early to say definitively what happened. But given what we have at the moment if you add up the 5 or so minutes from the time Campos was shot until the attack began and the five minutes between police arriving on the wrong floor and the right one, you’ve got about ten critical minutes. If the police had arrived on the 32nd floor ten minutes earlier (at 10:07 instead of 10:17), Paddock would only have been 2 minutes into his attack. Most of the attack, which lasted 10 minutes in all, hadn’t happened yet at that point.
Realistically, communication isn’t instant. It may have taken Campos a couple minutes to talk to the hotel. It could have taken the hotel a couple minutes to contact police. And my point is not to be critical of the Las Vegas police who were on the scene. They appear to have been doing the best they could with limited information. And that’s really the point here: Why was the information so limited? It matters because it really seems plausible that, if that information had been passed on quickly, police could have arrived before the attack was over and maybe attempted to respond.
But again, the hotel is now suggesting the new timeline may be inaccurate so there may be more to this story that we haven’t heard yet.