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EMS training, trauma kits highlighted in saving professor in UNLV shooting

Las Vegas officers relied on EMS training, IFAKs when they found the wounded professor

By Ayden Runnels
Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS — When Metro Police Officers Ty Vesperas and Jacob Noriega arrived at the UNLV campus in response to an active shooter call in December, their focus was on apprehending the violent gunman.

[RELATED: 911 calls underscore real-time terror of the deadly university shooting in Las Vegas]

But as soon as the two arrived at UNLV’s Beam Hall, they saw a professor limping toward them with a gunshot wound. They immediately shifted priorities, with Noriega applying a tourniquet to the victim and Vesperas providing cover, still unaware of where the shooter might be.

The officers placed the wounded professor in the back of Vesperas’ squad car and drove him to paramedics, Noriega staying with the victim in the back of the car. They saved the man’s life.

“We were headed there with the thought process of finding the shooter, and it just happened to be that he came out when we were arriving,” Noriega said Wednesday, when the officers spoke for the initial time following the Dec. 6 tragedy.

The medical training that Noriega and Vesperas used to save the 38-year-old UNLV professor was provided to Metro Police by the Engelstad Foundation and the Touro University Nevada School of Medicine and Health Sciences, officials said.

Members of the foundation and Touro University on Wednesday gathered at the Metro Police’s Joint Emergency Training Institute to recognize the officers for their bravery and highlight how the provided medical supplies and training are saving lives.

“We’re not paramedics, we’re not firefighters, we’re not EMS, but oftentimes we find ourselves where we’re there first and we have the opportunity to save a life,” Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said during the event.

The Engelstad Foundation and Touro University help provide Metro with individual trauma kits, also referred to as IFAKs, as well as training on how to use them.

Each kit comes with a variety of medical supplies primarily designed to stop bleeding and secure victims until paramedics can assist the victim. All the supplies in the IFAKs are commercial products that can be purchased online.

The shooting Vesperas and Noriega responded to claimed the lives of three UNLV professors in December after a 67-year-old armed with a handgun entered Beam Hall and began firing. The gunman was killed by UNLV police, and the only other person injured was the professor the two officers saved using their training and IFAKs.

McMahill said that when the IFAKs were initially implemented in 2022, they were designed to be used on officers who were shot during confrontations. Quickly, the department realized the kits could be used for victims police responded to and suspects that are shot by police. The high use of the kits has changed how the department approaches situations, McMahill said.

“We’ve actually gotten so far into this mindset, that after we’ve shot someone in an encounter between my officers and a suspect, we put the gun away and save the suspect’s life,” McMahill said.

McMahill underscored how often Metro Police use the medical kits, stating that in the last month, officers used over 10 tourniquets and 11 chest seals. Tourniquets are designed to stop bleeding in limbs by restricting blood flow, and chest seals are used to prevent air from entering the body when a person is shot or stabbed in the chest area.

“It’s humbling when you see it all in action,” Engelstad Foundation CEO Kris Engelstad said during the event. “All of us hope we never have to see it in action, but it’s the world we live in.”

Officers from Metro’s Multi Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities team conducted several demonstrations at the event to show how police prepare for an active shooter situation. In the scenario, two officers responded to an active shooter in a crowd, neutralizing the target before approaching them to provide first aid.

Metro officers are required to attend yearly active shooter and medical training with the assault action team.

Noriega said that after stressful encounters like the shooting at UNLV, it’s family life that helps him decompress. For Vesperas, helping people like the professor at UNLV is what being an officer is about.

“That’s why you sign up for this job, right?” Vesperas said. “This is why I went to school. This job is my dream job — I wanted to help people, and that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.”

UNLV President Keith Whitfield on Tuesday in his State of the University speech said he made a request for funding through to the Board of Regents to help with campus recovery efforts, dubbed Rebel Recovery.

Additionally, the Campus Security and Safety Committee has discussed solutions to make the campus more safe, Whitfield said, adding their “preliminary thoughts” will be shared to the public at the end of the spring semester.

The committee is researching new safety technology, such as locks on doors that teachers can control through their phones, Whitfield said.

UNLV “is not going to forget Dec. 6 , but we’re not going to let it define us and we’re not going to let that hold us back,” Whitfield said.

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