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‘I just basically trusted them’: VicPD chief describes lockdown during Las Vegas massacre

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It was an unexpected role reversal for Victoria’s police chief, who found himself held under lockdown at the Mandalay Bay Resort on Sunday while a killer opened fire on crowds from a hotel window dozens of stories above.

Del Manak and his wife were among the 3,000 people in the Mandalay’s theatre, taking in a Cirque du Soleil performance when the attack unfolded.

LISTEN: CKNW’s Jeremy Lye speaks with VicPD chief Del Manak about the lockdown

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The show stopped halfway through, and officials came over the loudspeakers with a “generic announcement” that something was happening and asked the crowd remain in their seats, Manak said.

Del Manak became Victoria’s police chief in July.
Del Manak became Victoria’s police chief in July. Victoria Police Department

“They weren’t panicking and they kept announcing every five minutes, ‘stay in your seats,’ so I knew that law enforcement and the staff would know more than I did, so I just basically trusted them,” he said.

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Unbeknownst to Manak, a man on the 32nd floor of the same building was at that moment firing hundreds of rounds at some 22,000 people gathered across the street for a country music festival.

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At least 59 people died in that attack, and more than 500 others were hurt.

According to Manak, police arrived at the theatre quickly, taking up positions around the room and asking the audience to lie on the ground and remain calm.

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Manak said he quickly received a sense of how serious the situation was when he checked social media, and turned his attention to trying to keep the people around him calm.

That involved reminding his wife and others that, with police posted around the theatre, they were likely in one of the safest places in the city.

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“Being at the other end of it, I’ve never experienced something like this before,” he said.

“I’ve done a tremendous amount of training with our officers on responding to active shooters where we are at the front lines and we are keeping people safe.”

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But in all of those scenarios, Manak said, he was used to being looped in on security and operational intelligence. This time it was different.

“So here I was in the dark, not knowing what was going on and having to rely on Las Vegas police. But they really did a phenomenal job,” he said.

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Manak said the theatre lockdown lasted for about four and a half hours, but he began to sense the situation was easing when officers posted there began to relax and started taking people on escorted trips to the washroom.

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In the wake of the experience, Manak said he was impressed by the level of organization and professionalism displayed by the local police, who he said communicated clearly and regularly with the crowd — something he credits with keeping the room calm.

Manak said he and his family will return to Victoria on Tuesday.

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