Scanner traffic shines a light on the chaos, confusion officers faced in Las Vegas

Country music star Jason Aldean was finishing up a song as the first shots rang out Sunday night at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.

In the 20 or so seconds between songs, the gunman held his fire. As Aldean started another tune, the shooter unloaded a barrage of uninterrupted gunfire. The music stopped, and Aldean ran off stage. It was just after 10 p.m.

“We’ve got shots fired … at the Route 91. Sounded like an automatic firearm,” yelled an officer in to his radio at 10:08 p.m. “It’s coming from upstairs! From the Mandalay Bay. Upstairs at Mandalay Bay. Halfway up, I see the shots coming from Mandalay Bay — halfway up,” he yelled a minute later.

For about the next 10 minutes, the gunman rained down hundreds of rounds from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Several officers got on their radios and reported what they were seeing, as police scrambled to find the source of the gunfire.

“Just advising, there are people down on stage left,” an officer can be heard saying around 10:10 p.m. “Shots fired from Mandalay Bay. There’s many people down stage left.”

But there was still confusion about where exactly the shots were coming from. “We’re in front of Mandalay Bay. We’re trying to see where the shots are coming from. If anyone can advise if they’re coming from Mandalay,” one officer said around 10:12.

“It sounds like it’s either Mandalay or Luxor. We cannot tell,” another officer replied.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said a group of officers was inside Mandalay Bay when the shooting began. “We had patrol officers actually working another event at the Mandalay Bay who heard the shooting and took it upon themselves to form up into a team, enter the stairwell, begin ascending the floors, and also evacuating hotel guests,” he said.

“I’m inside the Mandalay Bay on the 31st floor,” an officer could be heard saying into his radio around 10:15. “I can hear the automatic fire coming from one floor ahead, one floor above us.”

Meanwhile, officers on the festival grounds flooded the channel with reports of people with gunshot wounds. “Multiple GSW’s to the chest, legs, several arteries,” one officer yells frantically. “Control, I got one down, gunshot wound to the leg, Reno and Giles, in the intersection. I also have another female…she’s been shot, looks like in the mouth.”

At about 10:17 p.m., an officer synthesized the life and death choice law enforcement faces during mass shootings. “We can’t worry about the victims!” he yelled into his radio. “We have to stop the shooter before we have more victims! Anybody have eyes on ’em to stop the shooter?”

Around this time, a security guard had found the shooter’s room on the 32nd floor. “That security guard went up to the room,” said McMahill. “He was advancing towards the room when the suspect fired through the door at the security guard and struck him.”

“He shot down the hallway and hit a security guard,” an officer said over the radio. Shortly after the security guard was hit, the gunfire stopped. It was about 10:20 p.m.

“We’re considering it a barricade at that point because it’s no longer an active shooter,” said McMahill. “We’re not hearing any further shots. The floors had already been evacuated of the guests. The suspect was now isolated and contained within a room.”

“It’s room 135 on the 32nd floor. I need the SWAT,” an officer can be heard saying over the radio around 10:25 p.m.

“Just confirming that is the Mandalay Bay 32nd floor room 135,” says the dispatcher. “That is affirm, we have a four-man element at the very end of the hall,” the officer replies.

Over the next hour, SWAT officers positioned themselves outside the room. At the same time, active shooters were reported at six casinos along the Las Vegas Strip, including New York New York and Tropicana. Teams went to those locations and found nothing.

“I need everybody in the hallway to be aware of it and get back,” an officer can be heard saying at 11:20 p.m., just before officers set off an explosive outside the hotel room door at Mandalay Bay. “We need to pop this and see if we get any type of response from this guy — to see if he’s in here or he’s actually moved somewhere else,” the officer said.

“Copy, all units on the 32nd floor, SWAT has explosive breach. Everyone in the hallway needs to move back. All units, move back,” the dispatcher said.

“Breach, breach, breach,” an officer can be heard saying in to his radio before an explosion goes off.

The SWAT team entered the room and found 64-year-old Stephen Paddock with a self inflicted gunshot wound. “We’ve got one suspect down, multiple firearms,” an officer announced over his radio.

Officers citywide would spend the next few hours investigating reports of active shooters, helping victims, and gathering evidence. In all, 58 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured in the massacre.