Attorneys representing a consortium of news outlets including the Los Angeles Times filed two lawsuits in Nevada on Wednesday night asking officials to turn over law enforcement records related to the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead.
A month after the shooting, many questions remain unanswered about why the gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, of Mesquite, Nev., opened fire on a country music concert from his room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, as well as questions about how police and hotel officials responded as Paddock unleashed his attack.
One of the lawsuits filed in Clark County, Nev., district court asks a judge to unseal court records related to at least 14 search warrants filed in connection with the investigation of Paddock, including probable-cause affidavits and transcripts of oral arguments that might provide insight into the police investigation.
“The law enforcement authorities in charge of the criminal investigation have publicly declared that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, acted alone,” the lawsuit says. “Although aspects of that investigation are still ongoing, law enforcement officials cannot credibly claim that a search for further suspects — the primary reason why investigations are kept confidential — will be harmed if these records are unsealed.”
The lawsuit adds: “The public has a compelling interest in learning as much as possible about the government’s response to the deadliest mass shooting in this nation’s history.”
The second lawsuit filed in the district court Wednesday demanded that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department turn over law enforcement records that had been unsuccessfully requested by several news outlets in public records requests.
The requests sought police body camera footage, recordings of 911 calls, dispatch calls, evidence logs and surveillance footage collected from the Mandalay Bay as evidence.
The lawsuit argues that “under Nevada law, all video and audio recordings made by police-worn body cameras are public records subject to inspection,” as are recordings of 911 calls. In some cases, police denied requests to release the records, stating that the investigation was ongoing, while ignoring other requests altogether.
“A full month later, significant questions remain unanswered about the shooter’s actions and the response of public agencies,” the lawsuit argues. Authorities’ “blanket refusal to produce any of the records pursuant to the requests is improper, and all requested information and records should be produced without redactions.”
The lawsuit asks a judge to order police to turn over the records immediately, and also seeks attorneys’ fees.
The news organizations plan to file an additional lawsuit Thursday in federal court with a separate request to unseal records connected to the shooting.
The other news organizations involved in the lawsuits include the Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and KSNV-TV, the Las Vegas affiliate of NBC. The media outlets are represented by the Ballard Spahr law firm in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas police did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent late Wednesday night.
Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.