Police admit high-rise gun massacre is 'nightmare security scenario' as more events prepare to open

The Las Vegas gunman's perch in a 32nd-floor hotel room overlooking 22,000 people jammed into a music festival below is the kind of nightmare scenario police dread in places where big crowds and high-rises mix.

From two broken windows at the Mandalay Bay Resort, Stephen Craig Paddock had an unobstructed view to rain rapid-fire bullets on the crowd, with few places for people to hide.

Survivors of Sunday night's bloodbath which left 59 people dead and more than 500 wounded repeatedly compared it to shooting fish in a barrel.

In places like New York, Chicago and Austin, Texas, where big events are planned in the coming days, police sought to reassure residents by outlining some of the precautions they are taking to prevent just such a scenario.

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said these measures include sharpshooters with binoculars on rooftops scanning nearby building windows for potential threats, helicopters circling above with snipers of their own, and detectives making security sweeps of nearby hotels.

But he acknowledged there is only so much that can be done.

"We do understand that no city or town in this country is completely immune to such unbridled hatred," he said.

David Katz, CEO of Global Security Group, which conducts active-shooter training around the world agreed, saying: "The answer only really is: if there's a sniper, there's a counter-sniper."

But he added: "You're not going to be able to deploy police units with sniper capabilities everywhere.

"There are, at some point, too many things going on, too many opportunities to stop them all. Unfortunately, if someone is intent on doing harm they will find a way to do it."

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose son will be among the 45,000 runners in the city's annual marathon on Sunday, said emergency officials, including federal authorities, have conducted roughly a dozen workshops to talk through various scenarios and Chicago is prepared for "any eventuality".

Mr Emmanuel said: "People don't just show up on marathon day and decide to run 26 miles. They train all year.

"That's also true of the Chicago police."

Despite assurances of a heavy police presence at this weekend's Austin City Limits music festival, which is expected to draw 75,000 people a day to a large park near the city centre, organisers are offering refunds to anyone uncomfortable with attending following the Las Vegas shooting.

Austin knows all too well the dangers of high-angle shootings. In August 1966, Marine-trained sniper Charles Whitman fired for an hour and a half from the 27-storey clock tower in the heart of the University of Texas campus in the city, killing 17 people and wounding 30 more.

Police stopped the carnage by shooting Whitman dead.

In the Las Vegas shooting, police say Paddock fired from his hotel suite for nine to 11 minutes before eventually killing himself.

They found 23 guns in the room, along with 12 "bump stock" devices that can enable a semi-automatic rifle to fire continuously, like a fully automatic weapon.

Perhaps the most stark example of the crowd-building dynamic is in New York, where the city's 36,000-officer department regularly goes on high alert for such events as the New Year's Eve Times Square celebration, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Monday's Columbus Day parade, and even some New York Yankees baseball games.

For such events, the NYPD puts officers with body armour and high-powered weapons around the perimeter, sharpshooters on nearby rooftops to scan the windows of other buildings for threats, and police with bullhorns on the streets instructing people in nearby buildings to keep their windows closed.

They also have detectives ramp up security sweeps at hotels, particularly ahead of the festive season. The NYPD has a programme to train thousands of private businesses and employees, from housekeeping staff to security, on how to spot explosives or tell a golf bag from a gun case.

David C Kelly, associate managing director K2 Intelligence and the former assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism at the NYPD, said the shooting forces private security and law enforcement alike to give more regular events treatment usually reserved for special occasions like a presidential or papal visit.

Mr Kelly said: "It's a big ask, but maybe that's what needs to be done now.

"It's forcing law enforcement to look at this in three dimensions, the car in the crowd, the bomb in the backpack, now the assault from the air."

AP


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