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A Year After Shooting, Memories and Changes for Las Vegas


Las Vegas: One Year After America's Worst Mass Shooting by an Individual
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Las Vegas: One Year After America's Worst Mass Shooting by an Individual

The drone hovered like a vulture from the ceiling, a drone catching cage ready to trap it. Nearby, an enormous concrete ball was painted white with red stitches to resemble a baseball, thereby masking its real purpose as a barrier to stop heavy trucks from plowing into crowds or buildings. These high tech security measures were part of hundreds of booths on the show floor at a Global Security Exchange conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The site and timing of the annual conference were especially significant this year. It was held less than a week before the anniversary of the country’s worst shooting by a single individual.

The security company Barrier 1 displaying its newest technology at the Global Security Exchange Conference. The pillars stop vehicles from ramming into crowds or buildings.
The security company Barrier 1 displaying its newest technology at the Global Security Exchange Conference. The pillars stop vehicles from ramming into crowds or buildings.

On Oct. 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock fired from his room on the 32rd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas into a crowd at a country western concert. He killed 58. More than 800 were injured in the gunfire and the frenzy to flee.

The Global Security Exchange conference included hundreds of educational sessions. K. Campbell of Blue Glacier Security & Intel spoke on “Hardening Concerts and Special Events.”

The three P's of security

Campbell teaches participants to protect the Three P's: the Performer, the Patrons, and the Pocketbook.

He explains that some incidents have left performers standing on stage, what he described as “shell-shocked from the attack,” like Jason Aldean in last year’s Vegas shooting. Campbell says security guards must ensure only ticketed concertgoers get in.

“There’s overlap in that because once you are protecting the pocketbook,” says Campbell, “you are also protecting the patrons.”

In the year following the massacre, Las Vegas has concentrated on enhancing security for its annual 45 million tourists. A drive down South Las Vegas Boulevard, known as the Strip, shows more cylinder-shaped waist high permanent barricades to protect pedestrians from errant or intentional ramming vehicles.

C. David Shepherd reviews documents in his Las Vegas office. Shepherd owns the Readiness Resource Group and was head of security of the Venetian Hotel and Casino for nearly eight years.
C. David Shepherd reviews documents in his Las Vegas office. Shepherd owns the Readiness Resource Group and was head of security of the Venetian Hotel and Casino for nearly eight years.

Thousands of cameras, but not in one room

C. David Shepherd, CEO of Readiness Resource Group wrote the active shooter program for the Department of Homeland Security. Before he held that position, he led the security departments at the massive Venetian hotel and casino in Vegas.

Shepherd says more security guards are in place now and many are dressed in casual clothes to better blend in with tourists, but some carry more powerful guns to better match the criminals. He says one casino can contain thousands of surveillance cameras.

However, “the only place you don’t have cameras is in the bathroom,” Shepherd said.

Near Stephen Paddock’s vantage point from the 32nd story of the Mandalay Bay hotel, where he shot and killed 58. About 22,000 attended the 2017 country music festival in the open lot on the left.
Near Stephen Paddock’s vantage point from the 32nd story of the Mandalay Bay hotel, where he shot and killed 58. About 22,000 attended the 2017 country music festival in the open lot on the left.

Paddock, the perpetrator, stockpiled more than 20 guns in his hotel room over several days and was able to use those weapons to fire more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd.

Shepherd says most hotels have instituted a new policy to help prevent that. Housekeeping now reserves the right to enter and inspect a room with a “do not disturb sign” on the doorknob for longer than 24-48 hours.

Elizabeth West, center, looks at the 58 crosses commemorating the people who died in the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting. It was the largest shooting massacre by one individual in U.S. history. West and her daughter were at the concert.
Elizabeth West, center, looks at the 58 crosses commemorating the people who died in the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting. It was the largest shooting massacre by one individual in U.S. history. West and her daughter were at the concert.

Memorials

As the city elevates security, it also increases visibility of the memorials to help recovery and to give tribute to the victims.

In the days following the tragedy, 58 handmade white wooden crosses and one that read “Vegas Strong” were erected in a flowing line near the iconic Las Vegas welcome sign.

For the memorial weekend, a second group of crosses was placed at the same location and the original crosses were moved to the Clark County Government Center. They stand in a roped-off area alongside 58 portraits, one of each victim. Organizers solicited volunteer artists from around the globe via Facebook to paint these tributes to the victims.

Following this year’s remembrances, the portraits will be given to the families, said Kevin Schiller, assistant Clark County manager. Schiller says the Vegas strong resiliency center has had “a constant focus on outreach to get to victims or potential victims” because 60 percent of the concert victims lived in California, one state to the west.

The newly wed Josh and Lacey Trujillo. Lacey wanted to get married on the weekend of the anniversary of the shooting to overshadow the tragic memories with new joyful ones.
The newly wed Josh and Lacey Trujillo. Lacey wanted to get married on the weekend of the anniversary of the shooting to overshadow the tragic memories with new joyful ones.

Turning tragedy into celebration

Elizabeth West clicked her black calf-high cowboy boots across the center’s concrete floor and paused a few feet from the crosses to take a photo. She wore a silver necklace of angel wings and a shirt commemorating last year’s music festival.

West, of Yucca Valley, California, and her daughter Lacey, were among the 22,000 people who attended the concert and ran for their lives when the bullets started flying. They returned to Las Vegas for the events to commemorate the anniversary. This year, Lacey brought someone new to support her, her fiancé, Josh Trujillo.

In the past, Lacey and her mom would drive to Vegas several times a year for concerts and “girl time.” But since the shooting, Vegas visits took on a somber note as they relived the horror of the previous year. So Lacey and Josh chose to get married during this visit. They said their vows Friday at the Chapel of the Flowers.

Lacey says she’s “taking the opportunity to turn last year’s tragedy back around and create that positive memory again.” And where will the new Mr. and Mrs. Trujillo spend their honeymoon? In Las Vegas, of course.

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    Carolyn Presutti

    Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy, Silver World Medal, AP Broadcaster’s Best of Show, and Clarion award-winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous TV, Radio, Multimedia, and Digital awards for her TV/Web coverage of Muslim Portraits, The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.  Presutti was VOA’s Nathanson Scholar to the Aspen Institute and VOA’s delegate to the U.S. government’s Executive Leadership Program (ELP).

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