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A Close Call

Long Beach Marriott Employees Help Snuff Out Potential Shooting

Monday, August 26, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Last week’s arrest of a hotel employee from the Long Beach Marriott in California should serve as a reminder to all of us just how vulnerable this industry can be.

In case you’re not familiar, a disgruntled chef at the hotel had been stockpiling all kinds of weaponry with intent to “shoot up” both hotel guests and employees or basically “anyone who entered the hotel.” The plan obviously had been in the works for a while but escalated following a human resources dispute at the property.

The Long Beach Police Department arrested the suspect, Rodolfo Montoya, after seizing the weapons, which included thousands of rounds of ammunition, shotgun cartridges and an array of handguns and rifles.

Fortunately, the suspect, Rodolfo Montoya, mentioned his intentions to an associate at the hotel who wisely took action. The employee shared the information with the hotel’s general manager Imran Ahmed who promptly informed authorities, which led to an investigation and eventually an arrest.

We all know the national media is quick to point out when hotels, or anyone involved, are negligent in these type of situations so let’s give the hotel as well as the local police department credit for snuffing out this potential attack. It’s easy to say of the employees ‘of course they would share that information’ or ‘that’s how it’s supposed to work,’ but we’ve all seen plenty of examples where it doesn’t work like that and the result is tragic.

The incident at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas a couple years ago is a perfect example of hotel employees ignoring plenty of warning signs and not being proactive while the shooter remained undisturbed in his room for days on end.

It would have been easy enough for that employee at the Marriott Long Beach to brush it off and say that Montoya was just blowing off steam and take the easy way out and not go up the ranks with it. Or for general manager Ahmed to say ‘I’m too busy, I’ll deal with this later.’ Thankfully, neither did that.

Police Chief Robert Luna said in statement during the news conference, “Montoya had clear plans, intent and the means to carry out an act of violence that may have resulted in a mass casualty situation. Because this was reported, I firmly believe many lives were saved.”

And let’s not forget that police departments hear about plenty more of these type of threats than are reported. They have to make a decision at some point as to how credible they are and what course of action to take. They made the right call on this one.

We know copycat shooters are a real threat. Some 25 people have now been arrested over threats to carry out a mass shooting since the attacks in El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH, at the start of August.

The scary thing is we never know where they are going to come from. Consider that Montoya actually received an award at the property last year for never missing a shift, according to the Long Beach Post.

Montoya is being held in the Long Beach City Jail on charges of manufacturing and distribution assault weapons, possession of an assault weapon and making a criminal threat.

All of this begs the question of how can hotels be better prepared for such potential incidents. After all, we can’t always count on the suspect confiding in fellow employees. Are metal detectors and security screening devices at all entry points to the hotel a viable option moving forward?

When these solutions were discussed years ago I was adamantly opposed to them. After all, this is supposed to be hospitality. However, as the size and scope of these attacks continues to increase I must admit I am reconsidering. An important part of hospitality and what we do is making sure guests feel safe. If you take that away there is no hospitality.

There are no easy answers for any of this but at least this week we’re talking about an attack that didn’t happen rather than one that did.

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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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