Wynn Las Vegas casino armed security officers will start wearing ballistic body armor for increased protection. The decision comes days after a murder-suicide at the gaming property where a security guard was shot dead by a hotel worker.
The Wynn undertook a review of security protocols on Tuesday following the death of guard and ex-Marine Yoseph Almonte, 31, of Las Vegas.
Police say Reggie Tagget, 42, also of Las Vegas, who worked at the hotel, fatally shot Almonte before killing himself.
Almonte had gone to the hotel garage to do a welfare check. Tagget was sitting in a car.
He opened the door, took out a firearm, and shot Almonte about eight times in the torso, according to KLAS, a local TV station, based on a statement from Almonte’s widow.
The number of shots could not be confirmed immediately. The local coroner’s office did not provide autopsy details to Casino.org.
In recent months, Almonte had told his wife, Marjorie, he did not feel safe at the hotel-casino following the Labor Day weekend melee in the Encore lobby, KLAS said.
“They were scared because they realized this is out of control,” Marjorie told the TV station.
She also recalled asking him about wearing a bullet-proof vest, which she says might have saved her husband. He responded, “We have been asking for three years.”
“The Wynn had neglected them because they say it did not look good for guests,” she added. “It was going to be intimidating for the guests.”
Typically, such vests are worn over uniforms by security guards.
When asked about violent risks at hotels, security consultant Brad Bonnell told Casino.org, “We are … experiencing across the country something of a strategic shift in policing that has resulted in a reduction in the level of support that the police are able to provide to some hotels.”
Bonnell is a principal at the Hotel Security Group. Formerly, he was Global Director of Security at the InterContinental Hotels Group, as well as chief of staff for the Georgia State Patrol.
The change in policing was brought on in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and possible changes in the political and budget climate faced by police departments, Bonnell said.
“The net result is that we in the hospitality industry are now required to be less dependent on the police for our security,” Bonnell explained. “We now must do more on our own to meet our duty of care.”
Nationally, many hotels are employing more contract security personnel and off-duty police officers than ever before, Bonnell said.
The presence of armed and armored security personnel in a hotel also creates a deterrent, he said. It discourages those “who might be inclined to believe that hotels are now vulnerable due to an overworked, understaffed, and underpaid police force,” Bonnell added.
Another security consultant, Tommy J. Burns, said most casino-resorts already allow security officers to wear body armor, at their own expense.
The decision by the Wynn to have security officers wear body armor is not a trend, Burns said.
“(I) don’t believe it is or will be a trend for the near future,” Burns told Casino.org.
Burns is a former chief at the Henderson, Nev. Police Department. He was security director at Harrah’s Las Vegas and The Flamingo Hotel & Casino, as well as at Station Casinos’ Fiesta Henderson and Green Valley Ranch Resort.
When asked about the legal risks following the murder-suicide, Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, told Casino.org. “I would not be surprised if Almonte’s family sued the hotel.”
Tagget’s estate likely has no money, so the only “deep pocket” is the hotel, Jarvis said.
“Such a suit would be based on a claim that the hotel was negligent and its negligence led to Almonte’s death,” Jarvis explained.
But the family’s suit is likely to fail, he added. Almonte was killed on the job, so his death is covered by Nevada’s workers’ compensation law, and, in general, workers’ compensation law bars lawsuits for on-the-job injuries, Jarvis said.
Second, businesses normally are not liable for the criminal acts of a third party, he added.
But from a legal point of view, if attorneys for Almonte’s family bring a lawsuit and can prove that the hotel knew, or should have known, that Tagget was dangerous, mentally disturbed, or had a death wish, then the hotel should not have sent Almonte to the parking garage, Jarvis said.
Metro police could have been contacted instead, given the risk, Jarvis said. The Wynn declined to comment to Casino.org beyond confirming that its security officers will wear the armor.
Nationally, security officers are at risk for injuries. For instance, this week a security officer at an Arkansas casino was shot in the stomach during a gunfight with patrons outside the resort.
In response, police departments, such as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, use protective vests all the time. They also routinely cooperate with casino security staffs.
Not all vests are the same, a law enforcement source told Casino.org. There are different levels of protection provided by manufacturers based on whether the vests will be used for uniformed officers or even SWAT teams.