The most horrific U.S. mass shooting ever illustrates again that no place in America is safe from extreme gun violence.
Public officials and law enforcement authorities say they continually work to update safety procedures. But the stark reality of places synonymous with death – Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Pulse nightclub, and now a killing field in Las Vegas – shows security measures do little to deter killers bent on attacking with advanced, rapid-fire weapons.
“Obviously there’s no way to make it 100-percent safe,” said Mark Schwieterman, the city manager of Kettering, whose office is a short walk from Fraze Pavilion, one of the region’s popular concert venues.
Several area residents narrowly avoided Sunday’s violence.
A Bellbrook native left the country music festival in Las Vegas just a half hour before Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, according to her mother.
Lori Sparks said she received a call from her daughter, Molly, early Monday morning.
“As a parent getting that 2 a.m. phone call from your children is heart-stopping,” Lori Sparks posted on Facebook.
“I got that call (this morning) from my daughter Molly Sparks who had been at that country concert in Las Vegas, but luckily had left about 30 minutes before the chaos started,” she added. “Those that were not so lucky, my heart goes out to their families and I will pray for the injured as well. I hope that type of call never happens again.”
Janet Eby and four other members of an Eaton-based singing group, “Something Good,” had stepped off a bus just two blocks away from the melee.
Eby described the scene as”eerie” and “scary” as sirens wailed. People on the Vegas strip were solemn, many on cell phones, she said. The women had scant information about what was developing nearby as police and ambulances passed.
“Like everybody says, you think it’s going to happen elsewhere and not to you,” she said. “We were only two blocks from the Mandalay. We could have been off at that stop very easily.”
Holly Bennett, who is from Xenia, and her husband planned to be at the Route 91 Festival but changed plans Sunday night. They are safe after deciding to attend another show.
“It is unbelievable and shocking,” Bennett said. “The atmosphere is weird, kind of somber and strange.”
Layers of security
In Kettering, all events at the Fraze Pavilion, the 4,300 seat outdoor amphitheater, are staffed by Kettering Police Department officers and venue security personnel provide another layer of security and perform bag checks, said Schwieterman.
The president of Ohio’s Country Concert at Hickory Hill Lakes says he and colleagues developed over 37 years “multiple layers of security” for the summer event that draws tens of thousands to Shelby County.
“Safety is our highest priority,” Paul Barhorst, president of Country Concert, said in a text to this news outlet. “We want fans to make friends and awesome memories in a safe, fun environment.”
Barhorst said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, formerly superintendent of Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and second-in-command at the Ohio attorney general’s office, has been involved as advisor or head of our security for each event held in Fort Laramie, about 55 miles northwest of Dayton near Sidney.
“We continue to monitor, learn and improve our safety techniques every year and use the best safety options possible,” he said.
Security plans are being formed for Levitt Pavilion, a new outdoor music facility, that adjoins several downtown high rises, including the Crowne Plaza Dayton, said Jen Cadieux, a Levitt Pavilion spokeswoman.
“Of course (security) is something that is on the new venue’s agenda right now as we want to protect our patrons,” Cadieux said. “We plan to be working closely with the Dayton police and Homeland Security devising the plans to best approach with that in mind.”
Elevated shooters in the dark — such as the one suspected in the Las Vegas mass killings — is among the most difficult situations law enforcement officers can face, according to a local police commander.
“That’s probably one of the ultimate challenges for any police officer, because it’s hard to determine where it’s coming from” said Lt. Gregg Gaby, Dayton Police Department violent crimes bureau commander and former SWAT commander.
“Especially in a city where sound can bounce off multiple objects — like high rises and buildings. It’s just really hard to determine where they’re coming from,” he said. “Also, high ground gives anybody an advantage in looking for somebody.”
Gaby said in many mass shootings, “the response to something like this is not really going be a SWAT response.
“We learned in Columbine that you can’t wait for SWAT,” he added. “ If you wait for SWAT, then there’ll be more casualties.”
Eby said her group is thankful to be safe but knows many others will never see loved ones again.
“It is just devastating to know how many lives have been affected by this,” she said. “It’s grandparents, it’s grandfathers, it’s moms, it’s dads, it’s kids.”