Las Vegas Police fire officer who ‘froze’ during mass shooting
As a gunman opened fire on concertgoers from his Las Vegas suite in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, Officer Cordell Hendrex waited in a hallway a floor below while the bullets flew, a police report said.
Hendrex remained on the 31st floor of the hotel as the shooter targeted the Route 91 Harvest festival in October 2017. Other officers dashed toward the gunman’s perch on the 32nd floor, leaving Hendrex a floor below with a police trainee and a hotel security team.
“I know I hesitated, and I remember being terrified with fear and I think that I froze right there in the middle of the hall for how long I can’t say,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal quoted him as saying last year.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said Wednesday that it fired Hendrex in March this year for issues related to his performance. He had been with the department for 12 years, police said, declining to comment further due to ongoing arbitration.
Steve Grammas, union president for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, told the newspaper that he was fired due to his actions on the night of the mass shooting.
He was at the hotel when the gunfire started
Stephen Paddock’s shooting rampage at the Mandalay Bay Hotel killed 58 people and left hundreds more injured. Police have said he fired for nine to 11 minutes after the first 911 call came in. His motive remains unknown.
Hendrex was a field training officer in the area and was already at the hotel responding to a trespass call when they heard reports of an active shooter, according to the police report. He instructed everyone to move back and took cover in an alcove along with a trainee officer and two hotel security managers, it said.
“They remained in the alcove for just over two minutes,” the report said. “After leaving the alcove, they moved to the stairwell at the end of the hall. As they got closer to the stairwell, the gunfire continued, and they smelled gunpowder. They entered the 100 Wing stairwell and posted in that location.”
Hendrex said they stayed there to ensure the shooter could not escape down the stairwell, according to the report.
Union leader defends officer
The union president said Hendrex should not have been fired.
“In our opinion, until it came up in the news and they started getting some heat is when they made this decision,” Grammas told the newspaper.
Grammas said his union is representing Hendrex to help him get his job back, and the arbitrator has not yet reached a decision.
“It’s unfortunate that we are in the position that we are in now,” he told the newspaper. “But that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we are defending him.”
Las Vegas police have been criticized for their response after a timeline suggested there had been several minutes of delay between Paddock shooting a security guard and the gunman opening fire on the crowds below his hotel suite, raising questions on why officers didn’t arrive on the scene sooner.
CNN has reached out to Grammas and the association’s general counsel, David Roger. CNN also called a number listed for Hendrex on Wednesday, but no one answered.
Other officers fired for shooting response
Hendrex is the latest officer fired for his response to a mass shooting.
Last week, Broward County announced that two sheriff deputies who responded to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were terminated for neglect of duty during the massacre that left 17 people dead.
An internal affairs investigation into the police response to the February 2018 shooting in Florida determined that seven deputies did not immediately move toward the gunshots and confront the shooter, a violation of department protocol.
Of those seven, four have been terminated, including school resource officer Scot Peterson, who was criticized for his shooting response. He is facing 11 counts, including felony child neglect charges, authorities said.