Las Vegas shooting tragedy raises questions in personal safety

One MNSU professor weighs in on police procedure and how to handle this situation

Tragedy struck the Las Vegas strip Sunday night at an outdoor concert, killing 58 people and hospitalizing another 400 more.

The Las Vegas Police cornered the shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, in the Mandalay Bay Resort room he was shooting from, which is where Paddock shot himself. While the Islamic State is taking credit for the attack, the FBI have yet to identify any evidence tying him to the organization. Paddock open-fired from his hotel room above the concert while music star Jason Aldean was on-stage performing.

After getting into the room Paddock was in, authorities found 19 assault style rifles in total, several with long range scopes. While the police have yet to find motive for the shooting, they are labeling him a lone shooter.

Paddock’s father, Benjamin Paddock, had trouble with the law as a serial bank robber and spent time in prison. Stephen Paddock, however, had no criminal past, with one citation in the last seven years the only mark on his record. His brother, Eric Paddock, even noted his surprise to the New York Times saying, “If he had killed my kids, I couldn’t have been more dumbfounded.”

Pat Nelson, an associate professor in the Department of Government at Minnesota State University, Mankato, was as stunned as the rest of us, but gives an eye opening look into police procedure in such times of crisis.

“The first response for a police chief is to do an external response and say, ‘At this time we don’t have any more suspects, but at this time, to ensure the safety of the community, we are continuing to investigate to make sure there are no other threats,’” said Nelson on the immediate response. “The second thing is to express concern for the victims. The third thing to do is assure the public that while you are taking care of the scene and arresting the suspect the rest of the public is still being tended to. On the internal side, I want to reassure my officers that they did everything they could to make sure the threat was stopped and help the victims.”

The question that always arises after a tragedy like this is what could have been done to prevent this. Are stricter gun laws, tighter security or more security the answer to stop these acts of violence? Unfortunately, as Nelson points out, this is one of those impossible situations that law enforcement can’t prepare for due to the nature of the attack and the randomness that goes hand in hand with it, causing it to be impossible to plan ahead and maneuver against.

“Most lone wolves—which is what this was, a single person acting in a violent manner—are very difficult to predict,” said Nelson. “There’s really no consistent psychological profile that goes with it. Even increasing security might make people feel better, to an extent, but it will not catch a lot of them.”

As for what people should do if they have the misfortune of getting caught in a horrible spot like the one in Vegas, Nelson details what you should do to try and stay as safe as possible in the situation.

“The first thing is be safe, [not] trying to video the event. If you’re holding up your phone as someone is shooting into a crowd, you’re going to be a target,” said Nelson. “The second thing is if you can avoid using your cell phone, do that because cell phone lines go down and then people who actually need help cannot call for it. So if someone is injured in a classroom, they cannot get help because everyone is texting, ‘Are you ok?’ The third thing would be decide what you’re going to do; are you going to stay in a locked room or try to get in a safe place if you’re walking around? Just be aware of your surroundings instead of getting caught in the middle out in the open.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those injured and their families along with the city of Las Vegas.

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