A Fine Line

Life and Death in Las Vegas

Sometimes there is a very fine line between life and death. Every man who has been in combat knows this. There are no atheists in foxholes. Only God draws that line and we mortals mostly do not know why God drew the line where He did. Let me bring this thought to the current day, in Las Vegas.

In the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting of 1 October, 2017; I was contacted by a number of various agencies; including political, news and law enforcement. In February, 2018, I was given a trove of documents, including all 58 autopsy reports of the dead from this murderous rampage.

But, I saw that fine line; the difference between life and death. And I feel compelled to write about the specifics of the Las Vegas rampage.

I think that now (March, 2018), a review of some details from the reports might shed a little light upon the depth of the tragedy of that night. I hasten to add that the autopsy reports were numbered 1 to 58 and no photographs were divulged. All names had been redacted so as to preserve a little dignity for the victims.

A few things stand out. The majority of the dead had serious abrasion wounds. There is only one answer for these wounds. I have seen it so many times before. You hear that ripe watermelon “thump” that you know is a bullet hitting flesh. The person goes down. You grab a hand, or web gear, or anything handy; and try to drag him to safety; before you realize that he is dead. You mentally struggle with it for a moment, then release his hand and get back into the fight. Despite the videos showing panic; there were a large percentage of people who stayed with it and tried to do something, tried to save their fellow man.

In autopsy #28, a woman had been hit in the knee. The tibial plateau (proximal, or top end of the tibia) and the distal (bottom) end of the femur were shattered. As normally happens, this also destroyed the arteries and veins in that area. The poor woman lay there, bleeding out, with no other wounds. It probably took about 90 seconds. At second number 60, she started to get light headed; her heart began to hammer, trying to keep blood flowing. But the blood volume was decreasing so that the heart had nothing to pump. And in those last 30 seconds, her lights slowly went out. I wonder what thoughts were going through her mind. She could have been saved. Someone came along and slapped a tourniquet above the knee. It was still there on the autopsy table. That potential savior, likely an American veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars, came along a few seconds too late. If he had gotten there just 30 seconds (maybe less) earlier, and she would have lived. I wonder if she even spoke to him as he applied the tourniquet. But by then the blood volume was gone, she was doomed to die. What a fine line between life and death.

Another woman had two fatal brain shots. One entered from the rear, the other through the right temple. Both would have been instantly fatal, with cessation of all voluntary movement. Her heart continued to pump, filling the brain pan with blood and sending spurts of blood out onto the ground. As blood volume decreased, the heart slowly came to a halt. But she was already dead. Why the second shot ?? Dung beetle (my code name for the perpetrator of any mass shooting. I believe their name should never be spoken again, should be “chiseled from all monuments and obelisks”.) was just spraying bullets down into an area, he had no idea where the bullets were actually going. The second brain shot hit her as she lay on the ground. The only good thing is that she did not suffer. It was all over, in less than .001 (a thousandth) of a second, from the first shot. Her heart just did not get the memo for another 45 seconds or so. Her heart wanted to live, but there was just not enough blood volume, and the brain was dead anyway. Another fine line; six inches left or right (a movement of dung beetle’s rifle on the order of the thickness of a sheet of paper, .005 inches) and this woman would not have been hit.

How do I know dung beetle was just spraying bullets ?? Of the 14 different rifles which he was shooting, only 2 had a complete set of sights. Dung beetle could not aim, even if he wanted to. The news garbage that he had a piece of paper with ballistic calculations is meaningless, nincompoop hogwash. He just pointed and sprayed, with no idea where any specific bullet was going.

Still another victim was hit in the thoracic cavity. The bullet coursed down through the right upper back. The bullet broke apart on contact with ribs, with bullet fragments and bone fragments being recovered in the right pleural spaces, with some few small exits. Some 1.95 litres of blood and blood clots were recovered from the right pleural cavity (the extra space around the lung within the chest).

The damaged lung bled heavily, not only into the thoracic cavity but also into the lung itself, filling up the alveoli with blood. She died from lack of oxygen, along with lack of blood volume for her heart to pump. Whether from the blood filling the thoracic cavity, and physically blocking the lung from expanding; or the lung filling up and then flowing over the trachea “y” into the other; or from low blood volume, causing the heart to fail; we will never know which occurred first. What is sure is that she was in pain and she felt her death coming. I imagine that she lay on the ground, beseeching her God and asking “Why me ??”. As her thoracic cavity and lungs filled with blood, she felt the pressure in her chest, and her vision became hazy as the oxygen supply gave out. And then, her lights went out, like a camp generator sputtering as fuel runs out. A fine line of uncontrollable chance, bullets were spraying in neither controllable nor predictable fashion. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If she had bent over and run, she would have made it.

I could write more about the autopsies. But my spirit is not in it. I have looked in the eyes of men, as their blood volume dropped, their “generator ran out of fuel”, and their lights went out. I do not care to do that again, and I would prefer not to write more about it here.

There was a rumor that two shooters were involved. This came from doctors who thought they saw differences in the entry wounds. For a terminal ballistician, the answer to that rumor is easy. A rifle bullet is spin stabilized. The bullet is an “interference fit” in the barrel, meaning the bullet is bigger on the outside than the barrel is on the inside. It has to be this way in order to seal against the propellant gases behind it and for the rifling to engrave grooves on the bullet and impart spin.

But at high volumes of fire, the barrel overheats quickly. As the barrel expands from the heat, it is common that the barrel increases in diameter such that the bullets are not properly engraved by the rifling. These bullets are not stable and will precess in flight, much like a child’s wobbling toy top. Such non- stable, precessing, bullets make larger entrance holes in flesh, akin to the larger cross-sectional area defined by the base of the precessing bullet. This led to the rumor, but it was clearly false.

It was easy to figure out which report was for “dung beetle” the shooter/killer. I do not know what he was thinking, but I do know the last thing that went through his mind. It came from a Smith & Wesson Model 342. Thank you Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson. I just wish dung beetle had availed himself of your invention earlier.

Which brings us to my idea as to why dung beetle blew his brains out when he did; which was long, long before any armed intervention was actually brought to bear.

An AR-15 platform rifle has a very light steel barrel, mounted to an aluminum upper and lower receiver. The receiver holds all the moving parts in relation to the barrel. At the high rates of fire, the AR-15 rapidly over-heats. The aluminum receiver either warps, or is fouled from the residue of firing, such that the operating parts slow down and malfunction.

Further, each and every AR-15 platform rifle in the main room had a bump stock, All but one rifle was found with a 100 round box magazine. So that is 12 rifles with 100 round magazines and 1 rifle with a 40 round magazine. That totals 1,240 rounds ready for immediate fire, without changing a magazine. Yet only 1,050 expended cartridge cases were found. A few expended cartridge cases may have gone out the window, but the inventory listing of what was in the two rooms is quite meaningful.

Despite the rubbish written by the manufacturer of the 100 round magazines, such magazines are not reliable. The width of the magazine where it fits into the magazine well of the lower receiver of the AR-15 is 0.88 inches. The width of the 100 round magazine below where it fits into the magazine well of the lower receiver is 1.66 inches. To go from 1.66 to 0.88 inches creates a transition point. At that transition point, the magazine uses a second spring and a multi-part, interleaved, follower, which squeezes down inward in order to get past the transition point. The follower is akin to the floor of an elevator. Imagine going to the top floor of the Empire State Building. But instead of exiting the lower bank of elevators and entering the upper elevator bank, the floor of the elevator just decreased in size by 50% and the elevator kept going up. The cartridges in the 100 round box magazine are just as jumbled as the squooshed passengers in that elevator.

The cyclic rate of fire of the AR-15 (not the sustainable rate, the cyclic rate is the rate at which the mechanism goes back and forth with every shot) is between 600 and 700 cycles per minute. This means the mechanism is cycling between 10 and 11.6 times per second. With the bump stock simulating full automatic, there is no way the 100 round magazine is going to be pushing up that stack of cartridges; past the transition point, such that the next cartridge is fully up against the feed lips of the magazine, ready to feed, as the mechanism cycles. This means a “failure to feed” is assured under the situation which dung beetle created. The “failure to feed” is incredibly difficult to clear from an AR-15 because the closed top of the receiver, and the small ejection port on the right side of the receiver, means that the shooter cannot get his fingers into the receiver in order to clear the rifle.

I doubt that dung beetle knew how to clear the rifle; plus, he was in the dark (room lights were out), he was not trained as a combat soldier, and he probably knew little about rapid magazine changes. I could go into much further detail but I do not want to educate the next dung beetle in waiting.

In the second room was an AR-15 with 100 round magazine but no bump stock, a bolt action .308 (the mechanism has to be manually cycled, by hand, for each shot), 3 each AR-10’s (.308/7.62x51mm NATO caliber) with bipods and telescopic sights, 8 each expended 7.62 cartridge cases and absolutely zero expended .223/5.56x45mm cartridge cases (the caliber of the AR-15’s).

My information comes from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) report, which I got, along with the autopsy reports. The report is actually quite poor in analysis. I fear that LVMPD sadly lacked the technical expertise to properly evaluate what they were looking at. I am assuming that the totals of items found in each room were reasonably correct; because I believe that LVMPD officers can accurately count. Based on the foregoing, and on my expertise, here is how I think this shooting went down.

Dung beetle got himself ready, with weapons distributed in each of the two rooms. He had over 5,280 additional 5.56mm cartridges, much of it already loaded into additional magazines. He probably had an adrenaline dump as he got himself ready to begin. He knocked out the windows and began to blast away. He knew he was having some target effect because he could hear the shouting and he could see the cell phone lights running all over the place.

He saw, on his remote cameras, the security guy in the hall and dung beetle blasted the door and then kept firing at the crowd. As each rifle malfunctioned (near the end of the 100 rounds, remember the round count and the cartridge case count; based upon random factors, there would be 12 to 20 live cartridges left at and above the transition point in the magazine), he flung it down, and went to the next rifle.

Dung beetle went through all the AR-15 rifles (the ones with the bump stocks) in the first room. He then ran into the second room, picked up an AR-10 and fired at the fuel storage tanks. He expected a Hollywoodesque ball of fire but he did not get it. The steel on those tanks is as thick as a ship’s hull. He fired 8 rounds of 7.62x51mm NATO (a full up .30 caliber cartridge) and got zero target effect.

At this point, dung beetle thought he had no functional rifles left and his will to continue collapsed. He had a sudden shock as he realized that his grand plan had come to a screeching halt. He could no longer keep killing because his primary rifles were all in a state of malfunction. He could not set the fuel storage tanks on fire. He knew that he could not shoot his way out of the room and get down to his waiting vehicle, because he thought that he did not have enough functioning rifles, and he knew the police were coming, thus blocking the stairwells. In his frustration, he turned to his S&W.

There is one more fine line here.

The ATF, a Federal agency, failed miserably. Ever since the National Firearms Act of 1934; fully automatic weapons, and a host of other “weapons of war” have been abnormally tightly controlled (and/or banned outright). The ATF, consistently and vigorously, prosecuted any, and every, person who tried to produce, or modify, any part (such as the trigger, the sear, etc) which could be used to make an AR-15 platform (or any other firearm) into a full automatic weapon. I defended one case in Louisville in the 1990’s; where ATF agents changed spring tension, and modified parts, in a seized AR-15; so that they could get it to fire two consecutive rounds, in full automatic mode, while simultaneously bashing it against a table. The point is that the ATF was fanatical (and corrupt) in trying to keep full automatic firearms out of the stream of commerce, and out of the hands of ordinary citizens.

The bump stock inventors, and various prospective manufacturers of the bump stock, applied to the ATF for a variance to the regulations (Title 27 CFR), so that they could produce and market the bump stock. The ATF, knowing full well that the bump stock was a device which could make a semi-automatic into a full automatic, granted the variances anyway; in clear contravention of the existing laws and regulations: starting in 2009.

What would have happened if this fine line had not been crossed. If the bump stock had not been made legal. ?? But the bump stock was made legal, under the auspices of the monumental jackass, Eric Holder, and the jackassette, Loretta Lynch.

There are 57 souls looking for the answer to that one. May they find an answer, and may they rest in peace.