Hundreds of Victims Suing Over Las Vegas Massacre

Lawsuits name MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay resort; Live Nation, organizer of the country music festival where 58 people were killed; and the estate of shooter Stephen Paddock, Plaintiffs say the shooting could have been prevented, and they seek policy changes to avoid similar incidents.

Hundreds of victims of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting have filed five lawsuits in Los Angeles Superior Court. The largest of the suits names 450 plaintiffs. Among those being sued are MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay resort; Live Nation, organizer of the country music festival where 58 people were killed; and the estate of shooter Stephen Paddock, reports NPR. The victims claim negligence by MGM and Live Nation. They accuse MGM of not having adequate security policies, not properly training staff or surveilling the premises, and failing to respond quickly when security guard Jesus Campos was shot. The suit says Paddock’s VIP status as a high-stakes gambler gave him access to a Mandalay Bay service elevator he used to stockpile weapons and ammunition. Plaintiffs say Live Nation failed to provide enough exits or train employees “in case of a foreseeable event, such as a terrorist attack or other emergency.”

Attorney Muhammad Aziz said the cases were filed in California because most of the plaintiffs are from that state and received treatment there. Last week, another law firm filed 14 suits in a Nevada court. Plaintiffs argue that the shooting could have been stopped, and that the lawsuits are intended to bring policy changes so it can’t happen again. MGM said the shooting “was a terrible tragedy perpetrated by an evil man. These kinds of lawsuits are not unexpected and we intend to defend ourselves against them.” Tom Russell, a University of Denver law professor, said, “One can’t blame the hotel for not predicting that this gunman would go up to their 32nd floor with an arsenal and break out the windows and start firing at people.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Is Mass Murder Exceptionally American?

According to an Idaho historian and commentator, events like the recent mass shootings in Texas and Las Vegas and the 2015 massacre at a Charleston, S.C., church belong to a litany of similar tragedies occurring around the world—including countries where there are strict gun licensing laws.

The recent tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, are causing many Americans to wonder, “Is this kind of mass murder peculiarly American?”

The facts suggest otherwise.

There is nothing exceptionally American about mass murder or even firearms mass murder —even though some of the rhetoric accompanying these tragic events portrays the U.S. as singularly plagued by them.

For starters: the FBI defines mass murder as four or more dead (including the killer) in one event, in one location. [FBI, Serial Murder: Multidisciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, 8]

Of course, we are excluding the genocidal mass murders that largely define the 20th Century (for example, the Turkish extermination of the Armenians; the Holocaust; Rwanda; among far too many).

The types of mass murder referred to here are crimes not committed by or with the acquiescence of governments.

Former President Barack Obama, for example, declared after the 2015 shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., that left nine people dead and three injured “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

He went on to say, “It does not happen with this kind of frequency.”

The implication was that the U.S.’s relatively laissez faire approach to gun control is at fault.

According to Politifact, the first sentence was incorrect, noting that between 2000 and 2014 there were 23 incidents of mass shootings in ten other countries besides the United States; though, it added, the second sentence was “not quite as wrong as the first claim.”

The more commonly accepted measure of crime is events per 100,000 population or dead per 100,000. Even then, the U.S. is only fourth on the list of mass-murder deaths per 100,000 people (0.15) compared to #3, Finland (0.34), #2, Norway (1.3), and #1, Switzerland (1.7).

Mass murders (as well as the far common ordinary murders) are disproportionately committed by persons with severe mental illness problems, whose actions are clearly a consequence of those problems—and the U.S. is not alone in suffering from the consequences of their actions, whether they involve firearms or not.

Christian Dornier

Christian Dornier. Photo via Wikipedia

A few examples over the last several decades:

Christian Dornier, 31, under treatment for “nervous depression,” murdered 14 people in three villages in eastern France. He was later found innocent by reason of insanity.

Eric Borel, 16, murdered his family with a hammer and a baseball bat, and then went on a shooting rampage in the nearby town of Cuers, France, in September 1995. He killed 12 in total beside himself.

In March 2002, Richard Durn murdered eight local city officials and wounded nineteen others in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris. Durn had a master’s degree in political science and “a long history of psychological problems.”

After his arrest, he was described as “calm but largely incoherent,” then leaped to his death through a window.

In April 2002, 19-year old Robert Steinhaeuser went into a school in Erfurt, Germany, and murdered 18 people before killing himself.

In April of 2011, Wellington Menezes de Oliveira went into a school in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, murdering 12 children, before killing himself. His suicide note was unclear, but a police officer described de Oliveira as a “hallucinating person.”

Later the same month, Tristan van der Vlis went into a shopping mall in Alphen aan der Rijn, the Netherlands, and shot six people to death. The Netherlands has very strict gun licensing laws; nonetheless van der Vlis had a gun license in spite of a history of brief mental illness hospitalizations and suicide attempts.

Countries with more restrictive gun control laws also have non-firearm mass murders, such as the five stabbed to death in Calgary, Alberta, in 2013. Matthew de Grood was found not criminally responsible because of “a mental disorder.

Australia is sometimes given as an example of the effectiveness of gun control for preventing mass murders such as the 1996 Port Arthur massacre which killed 35 people and wounded 23.

But Australia still has mass murders after that gun control law, such as the mass stabbing that killed eight siblings in Queensland, Australia, and blunt object mass murders such as one that killed five people in Sydney in 2009.

The mental illness often present in these tragedies, schizophrenia, is a genetic disease affecting about 1 percent of the population.

Obviously, not all mass murders fit into the mental illness category.

Some are acts of terrorism. A few fit no existing pattern. The recent mass murder in Las Vegas, for example, seems to be a Black Swan crime: a multimillionaire who engaged in meticulous planning with devastating loss of life (although lower than at least four other U.S. mass murders in the last three decades).

Eight terrorist mass murder attacks in Paris in 2016 resulted in 130 deaths, although only four of the incidents qualify as mass murders (15 dead at Le Carillion and Le Petit Cambodge restaurants, with firearms; five dead at Café Bonne Biere; 90 dead at the Bataclan concert hall, from firearms and grenades).

For many people, it is a surprise to find out that there are many mass murders committed with weapons other than firearms.

USA Today gathered data on mass murders (“defined [as] killing four or more victims”) committed in the U.S. from 2006 through 2010.

“A third of mass murders didn’t involve guns at all. In 15 incidents, the victims died in a fire. In 20 others, the killer used a knife or a blunt object,” the newspaper reported.

Mass murders by arson are also a problem in other countries:

Childers, Queensland’s Palace Backpackers Hostel was intentionally burned in 2000, killing 15.

The 2011 Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire killed 11, set by a nurse after police questioned him about drug abuse.

Other weapons besides guns and fire are also used. In the last few years, there have been multiple motor vehicle mass murders in Europe and Australia (84 murdered with a truck in Nice, France, 12 in Berlin, Germany, with a truck, three with a SUV, one by stabbing in London, five with a truck in Stockholm, 13 with a truck in Barcelona, Spain.

cramer

Clayton Cramer

While all of these were terrorist mass murders, others have been mental health-related (six murdered with car in Melbourne, Australia).

While our rates of firearms mass murder are higher than most other developed nations, we are not at the top of the list.

Including non-firearms mass murders might move us further down the list.

Clayton Cramer teaches history at College of Western Idaho. His ninth book, Lock, Stock, and Barrel, will be published by Praeger Press in February 2018. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

‘Stop the Bleed’ Teaches Bystanders to Save Lives

A public service campaign started after the Newtown, Ct., school shootings, has taught 900 people how to stop bleeding from violent incidents and save victims’ lives.

Responding to a 911 call for a gunshot victim, Chicago police officer David Watson followed a trail of blood into an apartment and found a teen with blood streaming from a leg wound. Using Marine training, Watson took the belt from the man’s pants and wrapped it around his thigh. He placed a stick under the belt to tighten it by twisting, and partner Paul Moreno pressed down on the wound until paramedics arrived. Doctors said that if Watson and Moreno hadn’t taken those steps, the teen probably would not have survived, the Chicago Tribune reports. Medical experts say anyone can employ a few basic techniques to achieve the same results when confronted with a life-and-death scenario. A public service campaign called “Stop the Bleed” aims to do just that: teach bystanders to save someone’s life by learning basic blood-stemming techniques.

Stop the Bleed was established by the White House in 2015 in response to the Newtown, Ct., mass school shooting in 2012. It aims to arm civilians with skills and bleeding control kits to provide crucial aid in an emergency until medical professionals can take over. Each time there is a mass shooting like the massacre in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, the campaign takes on greater urgency. In Chicago, more than 3,000 people have been shot this year; the victim can bleed to death in five minutes. Bystanders are on the scene before first responders, and bleeding is a leading preventable cause of death for victims. Lessons learned from battlefield medicine are the basis for training to stop blood loss. In two years, the American College of Surgeons, coordinating Stop the Bleed classes, has trained 165 people as bleeding control instructors. They have held 80 courses for 900 students.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Suspect Caught in Fatal CO Walmart Shooting

Scott Ostrem, 47, was arrested by police in Thornton, Co. A police spokesman said, “He walked in very nonchalantly with his hands in the pockets, raised a weapon and began shooting. Then he turns around and walks out of the store …it appears to be random.”

Thornton, Co., police have arrested Scott Ostrem, 47, in an apparently random Walmart shooting in which a man almost casually fatally shot two men and a woman before turning around and walking out of the store Wednesday night, the Denver Post reports. Police spokesman Victor Avila said the gunman “walked in very nonchalantly with his hands in the pockets, raised a weapon and began shooting. Then he turns around and walks out of the store. From what we have right now it appears to be random. It’s a crazy world we live in.”

Aaron Stephens, 44, was in the self-checkout line at Walmart when he heard a single shot fired, followed by more bursts of gunfire. He said customers started screaming and running for the exits. The victims have not yet been named. According to court records, Ostrem declared bankruptcy in 2015, but he does not have a lengthy criminal record. In 2013, he was arrested for driving with impaired ability.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Newtown Shooter Lanza Did Not ‘Snap,” FBI Files Say

Newly released documents say that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, had planned the attack nearly two years earlier.

Adam Lanza, the shooter in the 2012 Newtown, Ct., elementary school massacre, “did not snap” and had planned the attack as early as March 2011, say newly released FBI documents reported by the Wall Street Journal. The bureau made public hundreds of pages of documents related to the criminal investigation of the shooting, providing new insight into the weeks leading up to the attack by Lanza, 20, in which he killed 20 children and six adults. Investigators found that Lanza had a deteriorating relationship with his mother Nancy in the days leading to the shooting. Ms. Lanza said her son, who had become a vegan, hadn’t left his room for three months before the shooting and would communicate only by email. Lanza told his mother he wanted to move to Seattle “where it was dark and gloomy.”

Ms. Lanza said her son hacked a government computer system when he was in the ninth grade. She said his hacking prompted a visit by either the FBI or the Central Intelligence Agency. The FBI told families of victims that Lanza had a complex background “featuring many problematic bio-psycho-social issues. Historical, clinical, and contextual factors contributed to the shooter’s extremely rigid world view. The shooter did not ‘snap,’ but instead engaged in careful, methodical planning and preparation.” The bureau said, “There is evidence to suggest that the shooter had an interest in children that could be categorized as pedophilia.” One person who claimed to communicate via email with Lanza said he “devoted almost all of his internet activity to researching and discussing mass murders and spree killings.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

S.F. Murder Trial Starts With Immigration Overtone

The murder case that ignited a national debate over immigration policy went to trial Monday with attorneys sparring not over politics but the case’s legal question: whether the killer of Kate Steinle on Pier 14 intended to fire in her direction or accidentally shot a gun he said he found under a bench.

The San Francisco murder case that ignited a national debate over immigration policy went to trial Monday with attorneys sparring not over politics but the case’s central legal question: whether the killer of Kate Steinle on Pier 14 intended to fire in her direction or accidentally shot a gun he said he found under a bench, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A prosecutor said in her opening statement that Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, 45, brought the stolen pistol to the waterfront location, pointed it toward Steinle and pulled the trigger on July 1, 2015. The public defender representing the Mexican citizen said he found the gun in a T-shirt on the pier moments before the shooting, and that after he unwrapped the bundle the gun discharged a bullet that ricocheted off the concrete and struck Steinle in the back.

The trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Samuel Feng opened to broad interest fueled by the political firestorm that followed it. Garcia Zarate, who was homeless and had a record of drug crimes, was wanted for deportation by federal agents when his San Francisco jailers set him free 2½ months before the shooting under the city’s sanctuary laws. The job of the jury is to put aside those politics. It is Garcia Zarate’s intentions on the day he killed Steinle that could mean the difference between a conviction for second-degree murder or manslaughter, or an acquittal. Prosecutor Diana Garcia said the defendant was guilty of murder because he either aimed a loaded gun at Steinle directly or at a crowd of people — an act that implies malice, or an intent to kill.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Six Minutes in Vegas: Did Police Respond Quickly Enough?

A revised chronology from investigators for the Las Vegas massacre is intensifying pressure for police to explain how quickly they responded to what turned out to be the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, the Associated Press reports. One lawsuit alleging a failure to protect the crowd has already has been filed.

A revised chronology given by investigators for the Las Vegas massacre is intensifying pressure for police to explain how quickly they responded to what turned out to be the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, the Associated Press reports. Two hotel employees called for help and reported that gunman Stephen Paddock sprayed a hallway with bullets, striking an unarmed security guard in the leg, several minutes before Paddock opened fire on a crowd at a musical performance, killing 58 people and injuring nearly 500 others. At 10:05 p.m. Paddock began his 10-minute deadly barrage into the crowd, firing off more than 1,000 rounds. Police didn’t arrive on the 32nd floor until 10:17 p.m., which is two minutes after he had stopped firing.

Questions remain about what happened in the six minutes between the time  Paddock fired 200 rounds through the door of his 32nd-floor suite into the hallway and when he unleashed a deadly hail of gunfire into the crowd at a the Route 91 Harvest festival. Among them: Were police notified immediately about the hallway shooting and did officers respond quickly enough to have a chance to take out the gunman before could carry out the bloodshed? Lawyers representing a woman shot at the festival have filed a lawsuit based on what they say is a failure to protect people attending the concert. The AP takes a close look at what we know and still don’t know about the six minutes in question.

from https://thecrimereport.org

As Bad as Las Vegas Was, 809 Have Been Shot Since

At least 809 people were shot in the seven days after the massacre on the Las Vegas Strip, 247 of them fatally, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. They were struck by bullets fired during domestic incidents, drive-by shootings, and accidental shootings. The national gun violence tally for October 2 through October 9 includes at least 22 victims wounded or killed in multiple-casualty incidents, defined as shootings with four or more victims.

At least 809 people were shot in the seven days after the massacre on the Las Vegas Strip, 247 of them fatally, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive reported by The Trace.. They were struck by bullets fired during domestic incidents, drive-by shootings, and accidental shootings. The national gun violence tally for October 2 through October 9 includes at least 22 victims wounded or killed in multiple-casualty incidents, defined as shootings with four or more victims. In one incident, four people were wounded at a vigil for a shooting victim in Miami. In another, five people were wounded in a drive-by shooting outside a Houston club. In another case,, Crysta Proctor and three of her friends were fatally shot by her estranged husband in Casa Grande, Az. Proctor had been granted a protective order against her attacker three weeks earlier.

At least 28 other people were also killed in domestic shootings over the week-long period. At least 25 people were accidentally shot in the week after Las Vegas, 13 of them fatally. In Las Vegas itself, three people have been shot since the attack: A man was wounded during a home invasion robbery and another man was critically wounded by his sister during an argument. One woman was killed after an argument at a friend’s house, bringing the number of gun deaths this year in Las Vegas to 169.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Police Fear Vegas Shooting Could Prompt Copycats

“Almost every school shooter since Columbine has made reference to Columbine. We know they study one another,” said Arvada, Co., Police Sgt. A.J. DeAndrea. “This could lead to a copycat syndrome, and we’d be remiss if we don’t find ways to address it.”

Law enforcement experts predict that Sunday’s Las Vegas mass shooting will alter police training to include more of a focus on the threat posed by high-rise snipers or others who kill from long distances, reports the New York Times. “This is a paradigm shift,” said John Urquhart, sheriff in Seattle’s King County. While police  will continue to train for mass shootings that follow the more common pattern where the gunman is closer to victims, Urquhart said the Las Vegas attack might have an impact similar to the 1999 Columbine massacre. That shooting led departments to retrain patrol officers to confront a gunman instead of waiting for a SWAT team.

The options for taking down high-rise snipers armed with assault-style weapons are limited.  Some larger, urban departments already train for an elevated gunman, said Mark Lomax, formerly of the National Tactical Officers Association. After the Las Vegas massacre, “there is going to be a lot more emphasis on out-of-reach situations, whether from a high-rise tower or a bridge,” said Lomax. Ordering sharpshooters to fire on a high-rise from a distance could also mean shooting into a room that might include hostages. “You can’t have a bunch of cops on the ground shooting up with their patrol rifles,” Urquhart said. Some experts fear that other potential gunman, having seen the devastation in Las Vegas, will try similar tactics. “Almost every school shooter since Columbine has made reference to Columbine. We know they study one another,” said Arvada, Co., Police Sgt. A.J. DeAndrea. “This could lead to a copycat syndrome, and we’d be remiss if we don’t find ways to address it.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Why Hotels Are a ‘Soft Target’ for Shooters

That Stephen Paddock was able to take 17 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition up to a room highlights the security priorities of hospitality companies.  Wishing to appear inviting to guests, many hotels focus on limiting theft, corralling unruly drunks and ferreting out people wandering the halls without a room,.

Before Stephen Paddock killed 59 people in Las Vegas on Sunday, police said he brought an arsenal of rifles past security and up to his 32nd-floor room at the Mandalay Bay hotel. That Paddock was able to take at least 17 firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition up to a room starkly highlights the security priorities of hospitality companies, the New York Times reports.  Wishing to appear inviting to guests, many hotels focus on limiting theft, corralling unruly drunks and ferreting out people wandering the halls without a room, said Mac Segal of the executive protection firm AS Solution. U.S. and European hotels have been “much slower on the uptake” regarding the chances of violence, compared to the Middle East and Africa, he said.

Explosives scanners and X-ray machines — standard equipment at airport terminals — will continue to be scarce in hotels because of the enormous premium that customers place on their privacy, said Jim Stover of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an insurance brokerage. “The hospitality industry hasn’t gotten its act together in terms of antiterrorism,” he said. “It’s not going to be pushed, it has to be pulled.” In countries where hotels have been targeted by attackers, such as Egypt, Indonesia, and Israel, security tactics are much more intense and often invasive. In India, where in 2008, terrorists bombed two hotels in downtown Mumbai and attacked other sites around the city, holding hostages and killing more than 100 people, major hotel chains began using explosive trace detectors and X-ray systems throughout the country. Jan Freitag of  STR, which tracks hotel data worldwide, said hotels are “a soft target — always have been and always will be.”

from https://thecrimereport.org