News & Opinion | October 5, 2017 9:18 am

Las Vegas Mass Shooting Highlights the Lethal Power of a Sniper

Heavily armed Stephen Paddock was a quarter of a mile away from the festival.

Las Vegas shooting
People run from the Route 91 Harvest country music festival after apparent gun fire was hear on October 1, 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. (David Becker/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The man who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history did so from a quarter mile away, on the 32nd floor of a hotel. The shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, in Las Vegas, where 22,000 people had gathered for a night of music and fun, left nearly 60 people dead and over 500 injured, according to The Los Angeles Times

LA Times writes that the mass shooting reveals two things: the power of a sniper and the “chilling limitations of responding officers.”

Authorities have known for a long time the threat of terrorism by a sniper in a crowded area. Some places, like LA, have tried different tactics, such as sharpshooters on rooftops during big events like the Academy Awards, reports LA Times. But the LA Times writes that realistically, employing those tactics at open-air events would be “costly and in some case impractical.”

Stephen Paddock had a “commanding terrain” from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel because there were so many people in his line of fire, there was no need to target anyone specifically, Charles Heal, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander and special weapons leaders, told LA Times. 

“If you don’t find cover, given his position, he is likely to hit you,” Heal said, according to the LA Times. 

Retired Army Lt. Col. Arthur B. Alphin told LA Times that Paddock was also a “patient, well-trained gunner.” He did not chose any targets, but instead, held to a “steady kill zone” in the middle of the thousands of concertgoers.

Based on his location, according to LA Times, officers on the ground would be “virtually ineffective when combating a sniper so far way.” San Marino Police Chief John Incontro, a former LAPD SWAT captain, told LA Times that even if you can tell where the sniper is, the officers on the ground have pistols, and even if they have rifles, there is a chance of missing and hurting other people.

According to LA Times, this mass shooting will force changes for policing outdoor events. Places will now be checked for escape routes for large crowds, nearby buildings have to be considered in tactical plans, and organizers might be asked to bring materials, potentially some that could become a makeshift fence.