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On the night of October 1 2017, the Las Vegas shooting occurred. A lone sniper was shooting at the crowd of the Route 91 Country Music Festival from the Mandalay Bay Resort. Law enforcement first responders found themselves in the line of fire immediately, without knowing whether they are dealing with a single shooter or many, his or their location, how many weapons they had or who exactly they are targeting. Still, they went about their duties, attending to the wounded, evacuating attendees, and trying to locate the shooter or shooters. Numerous reports of multiple gunmen at various locations sent resources in every direction. The volume of gunfire was terrifying for even the most seasoned of officers. The darkness only added to the problems.
Eventually, reliable reports came in locating the single shooter’s position on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. SWAT officers were able to get there and set about securing the safety of those trapped in surrounding rooms. Entering the room, the officers were confronted with the shooter’s dead body, after he has put an end to his own life. They also saw the evidence of a well-planned and executed killing mission. Nearly two dozen guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition were scattered everywhere. His weaponry included a number of high-powered rifles, specially modified to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. He had built shooting platforms, and notes were found, which turned out to be essentially range cards.
With the attack over, it was time to tend to the hundreds of casualties, and for self-evaluation, examining the lessons learned from the experience.
According to policemag.com, whether it was by default or the result of team training, the Las Vegas Metro personnel followed the progression perfectly. In classes, the strategy taught for responding to a criminal sniper is a five steps tactical progression. This progression also applies to many other situations, but of course have to be modified and adjusted according to the threat. Those five steps are Locate, Isolate, Identify, Engage, and Evaluate:
Locate: No response can start until the source of the gunfire has been located. This information may come from callers reporting the incident, or witnesses on scene. In Las Vegas, calls came in from a large number of sources, including some from inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel, which helped officers precisely locate the shooter’s position.
Isolate: Once the shooter is located, he can’t be allowed to go mobile or escape. A perimeter must be set up as quickly as it can be done safely. That process started with restricting the
shooter to the hotel, then to a single floor. SWAT officers took control of the 32nd floor, trapping the shooter in his suite and cutting off any possible exit strategy the shooter may have had in mind.
Identify: While knowing who the shooter is may be helpful, that information is not always available in the initial moments of the incident. But in this context, the concept of Identify includes other mission-related information, like what is he shooting? Who is he shooting? Essentially, all information about the incident is important. This information will be coming from a lot of sources but needs to be disseminated from a central collection point to all involved parties on a regular basis.
Engage: As soon as anyone on the scene can see the sniper, they need to shoot the sniper. The primary goal in responding to a criminal sniper incident is to stop the killing. If he is taking fire from law enforcement, his focus is removed from the innocents he was shooting before and move to his own survival.
Evaluate: Has the problem been resolved? Has the shooting stopped and is the shooter either neutralized or in custody? If not, the law enforcement response must continue.
Remembering those five steps makes it easy for law enforcement and military operators to know exactly what to do in each and every situation. When it happens, the response from law enforcement must be immediate and seamless, according to the website. That efficiency only comes from training.