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Las Vegas shooting to change security priorities, experts say

Megan Guza
| Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, 6:09 p.m.
An ambulance leaves the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave. after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing.
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An ambulance leaves the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Ave. after a mass shooting at a country music festival nearby on Oct. 2, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing.

Sunday's mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip might not have been preventable from a security standpoint, but lessons learned from it figure to alter how authorities prepare for major events and respond to potential tragedies, experts said.

“The sad fact is we will never prevent these,” said emergency management consultant Michael DeCapua, an adjunct professor at Concordia University's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in Portland, Ore.

“Each incident changes how we plan and how we react,” DeCapua said. “It's a constant process of analysis, looking at the plans, training and exercising.”

The Las Vegas massacre that left at least 58 dead and more than 500 people injured could result in increased emphasis on ensuring that the environment surrounding an event venue is secure, said Laura Dugan, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland.

“Security focuses on who's let into the event. I think that's going to change now in that I think different events will pay attention to whether there are tall structures around. You can't guarantee security in places like this,” Dugan said.

The suspected shooter, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., was across the street from the Route 91 Harvest Festival in a Mandalay Bay hotel room on the 32nd floor when he opened fire. Country music star Jason Aldean was performing in front of more than 22,000 people.

“Anytime you've got a park in a large city and an event is held there or on public grounds … there's the potential for this type of shooting,” Dugan said. “With the availability of automatic weapons in this country, there's little that can be done to stop it.”

DeCapua said event planners figure to look more closely at potential hazards around venues in the future.

He said investigators also figure to hunt for better ways to reduce risks, such as looking at whether drone technology could have been used to detect when the hotel windows were blown out by gunfire. That might have helped authorities pinpoint the shooter's location faster, he said.

Hotels will re-evaluate their security policies, DeCapua said. One of the central questions will be trying to determine how Paddock got at least 10 firearms, including rifles, into his hotel room, he said.

New York-based security consultant Anthony Roman said the investigation needs to look at whether hotel bellhops had any suspicions that they didn't speak up on — such as overly heavy luggage weighted down with ammunition.

“Were signs misread? Or did he cleverly disguise them? My guess is they were missed,” Roman said.

Added DeCapua: “Even though this was a mass shooting, that was only part of it. How did hospitals react? How was the mass casualty planning? The joint actions of police and fire together? It's not just the shooting aspect. This is the start of a lot of internal reviews as the days go forward.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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