04th October 2017
CLOSE CALL: Thuli Johnson was not far away from the shooting scene. Source:The Midweek Sun


By Dikarabo Ramadubu -

Batswana escaped a terror attack on Sunday in America when retired accountant Stephen Paddock, 64, sent bullets on thousands attending a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas from his adjacent Mandalay hotel room. The hotel is situated in the Las Vegas strip, an area in Las Vegas that has all forms of gambling resorts. It’s about 6.8km long.

 Botswana Gambling Authority CEO, Thuli Johnson was in the area

Other BGA executives trapped on the route from nearby airport

The southernmost resort property is the Mandalay Bay which is not far from the hotel. The Mandalay Bay resort hosted the Country Music festival known as Route 91 Harvest Festival which on the day of the attack was on its third and last day. Amongst Batswana who escaped by the Grace of the Lord are CEO of Botswana Gambling Authority, Thuli Johnson and four members of his executive staff who are currently in Las Vegas attending the annual Gambling Global Convention and Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Johnson confirmed to The Midweek Sun in an exclusive interview that he is in Las Vegas but is not hurt as he did not attend the festival despite being in the vicinity of the concert venue. Johnson said he arrived in Las Vegas on a flight from Chicago and that everything was as Las Vegas should be - full of optimism and excitement. “I am here for the Gambling Global Convention and Expo held annually at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. I am staying at the Venetian-Palazzo which is part of the Expo resort.

The convention focuses on responsible gambling and addiction; new gambling trends including technologies being introduced. I am attending with my staff from Licensing, Compliance and Legal departments. “They flew different flights for risk management and arrived around 10pm. I arrived at 1900hrs and got to the hotel at about 20:00hrs from the Las Vegas Mac Carron Airport, an international airport just outside the Las Vegas Strip,” he revealed. When the shooting started Johnson was in the room and did not even know the attack was taking place.

At the time of the attack, the four members of the team were delayed at the airport as Las Vegas Strip went into lockdown. This means that roads were closed and hotels shut their doors. “There were long queues at the airport and they were advised by public announcement that there had been a shooting in the Strip and that the Strip was in lockdown. They managed to get into a cab which took the back roads to get to their hotel. “They found the hotel in lockdown meaning they had to wait outside the hotel for some 30 minutes before being allowed in. Initially, they were told that they had to find accommodation elsewhere for the night. But all worked well in the end. “So they arrived at 12:30 am and only managed to check in at 1am.

The Mandalay Bay resort is a few minutes drive from my hotel and so I was that close to the festival. I did not know the festival was taking place and would not have attended anyway. I am informed about 22, 000 were at the festival.” Johnson told The Midweek Sun. He said the convention is proceeding as normal and that security is significantly more intense than before. “There is generally good security in the resorts and the police. This is visible especially outside the hotel,” said Johnson. The attack on the festival attendees happened at 10:08 pm from the 22nd floor room in the Mandalay hotel where the attacker is said to have had 10 rifles and ammunition and managed to kill 59 people and injure over 527.

“The video footage shows that this man used an automatic weapon generally used by the military. Video footage shows that he had two rifles set on automatic and initially people thought it was fireworks.” Johnson said the city’s spirit remains amazing. “The injured need blood and the queues for blood donation are super long. The Mayor started a relief fund and set a target of USD500, 000 and already within a day the funds exceed USD2m. “So they have decided that they must be resilient and continue with their lives and show support to the victims. They donate clothing, food and so on.” Media reports from Las Vegas indicate that Police recovered 23 guns from Las Vegas hotel room and another 19 guns from Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nevada, Clark County Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo is quoted saying.

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