How Des Moines police plan for security at large-scale events


DES MOINES, Iowa — After a lone gunman shot and killed 60 people from a room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel overlooking a music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, hotel employees around the country were put on high alert. Police say a hotel worker in Chicago may have prevented another potential tragedy this past weekend.

“Alarm bells” went off when a worker went to clean an Iowa man’s room at the W Hotel in Chicago and allegedly found a semi-automatic rifle, scope and several magazines of ammunition sitting on a windowsill.

Keegan Casteel, 32, of Ankeny, Iowa, now faces two felony charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. It’s still unclear whether Casteel had any sinister intentions for the weapons, but Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes a potential disaster was averted, as his hotel room overlooked Chicago’s lakefront.

“Five loaded magazines that he had perched up on the windowsill. Thank God for that hotel worker who saw something and said something and I believe, adverted disaster,” said Lightfoot.

Des Moines police are also applauding the hotel worker, who say if you have even the slightest suspicion about a potentially dangerous situation, it is always best to report it.

Des Moines law enforcement officials said they have never experienced a potential threat like a large-scale mass shooting, but they are constantly trying to prepare for the worst.

The Des Moines Police Department says it’s key for the right training and precautions to be in place for big events where things could go wrong.

“Our public-private partnerships are something that we’ve thought about and taken into consideration for a long time when it comes to event planning. We basically go out there and we’ll give them the tools they need and it all starts with ‘see something, say something,’” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

Parizek says the training and vetting depends on the scope of the event. For events like politician visits, they will do bomb searches with K-9 dogs. Things like security and fencing are also options to consider depending on what is happening.

Preparation for mass shootings is something that has increased over the years and is something Parizek hopes they never have to deal with. But he says the best thing to do is to always say something if you see something suspicious, even if you have doubts about your suspicions.

“Is a person’s behavior suspicious? Are they making the hair stand up on the back of your neck? If you see weapons, or if you hear a conversation about weapons, if it seems suspicious or seems something where there might be some kind of sinister plot in mind, we certainly want to know … The key is to trust your instincts,” said Parizek.

Parizek said police also work with local hotels before events so their staff is prepared for anything that could go wrong.

WGN-TV and Nexstar Media Wire contributed to this story.

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