There was something surreal about sprinting through Las Vegas casinos a week ago with my wife and friends as we searched for a safe place to shelter from an alleged active shooter.
A couple days before, I submitted my column on the Active Shooter Alert Act but knew it had not been published yet. The irony crossed my mind amid a flurry of thoughts as we ran.
We arrived in Las Vegas to attend a Chelsea soccer match. Their pre-season tour of the United States made it easy for a large contingent of Rocky Mountain Blues supporters to abscond from the British Bulldog and watch our team play in person. More than 50 of us arrived at Allegiant Stadium along with fans from across the country.
Through a happy set of circumstances, a few of us even ended up at field level where I saw all the players up close and got autographs from two of my favorites.
We were in a good mood when we headed out to the Taco Bell Cantina so one of us could complete his Arthurian quest for a Baja Blast Margarita. We separated into different groups packed into an assortment of rental cars, ride shares and cabs, but planned to meet up at the cantina.
As the cab driving me, my wife and my friend Andrew approached The Strip, we saw a small group running down the middle of the street frantically trying to wave the cabbie down. Strange, but we were in Las Vegas, so we shrugged it off.
However, when a second group tried to wave us down 10 seconds later we grew a bit concerned. And that is when we realized there were more lights and sirens than usual around us.
The driver proceeded to our dropoff location, Paris Las Vegas Casino, where things seemed normal. We got out, crossed over to Planet Hollywood Casino and began to walk through to our meet-up location.
That was when we saw a wave of people running across the casino floor toward us.
If you have seen video of the crowds fleeing earlier this month in Highland Park or Philadelphia, that is exactly what it looked like. Except in this case they were weaving through slot machines and card tables like obstacles.
The three of us glanced at each other for a fraction of an instant and joined the crowd. I grabbed my wife’s hand and held it through the flow of people trying to exit the casino maze as fast as possible.
As we ran we each independently looked for places to hide, places to find cover, places to escape. I wondered whether it would be best to go up an elevator or keep running through the halls of the main level.
Eventually, we found some security guards, but they had no more information than we did. We crossed a pedestrian bridge into another casino — I think it was the Cosmopolitan — before another wave began dashing toward us.
When we found an exit, my wife and I (we had been separated from Andrew by then) ended up with a crowd at Las Vegas Fire Station 32. Given the presence of first responders and medical supplies (only one ambulance was still in the garage bay), we waited out the crisis.
At the same time some of our friends were locked inside casinos, the Taco Bell Cantina itself or were just outside trying to hide behind and under cars.
After an interminable period we learned that no shooting had even taken place. Someone smashed some windows at the MGM Grand Casino. The noise had been mistaken for multiple gunshots and caused panic across multiple casinos as fear spread on social media.
With recent memories of Buffalo and Uvalde still fresh in people’s minds, the knowledge that the deadliest mass shooting in the country took place less than a couple of miles away, and no clear way to obtain information from law enforcement, the panic was inevitable.
This is exactly the type of situation that could have benefited from the Active Shooter Alert Act. We live in a country where politicians refuse to protect us from the tools of mass murder. The least they can do is give law enforcement a way to update us quicker as we run for our lives.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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