Quick brief, 15 January 2022: Man brings bomb onto property of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, OK

15 January, 2022 Hotel Attacks

(Muir Analytics’ Quick brief is broadly based on the Pentagon EXSUM briefing method. The aim is to quickly explain an evolving hotel threat issue in about 15 lines in executive summary format. Muir has added a quick analysis of the issue that can help hotels mitigate certain risks.)

Chain of events

  1. Fox 23 News reports that, at 8:00 pm on 11 January 2022, Cherokee Nation hotel security at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma, discovered an unattended bag close to the building’s outside “northeast staircase.” The same network also described it as being located “under some stairs outside.” It is not clear if this was a main staircase to the casino or a side or back stairwell to one of the property’s other buildings.
  2. The Cherokee Nation owns the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa along with two other hotel-casinos and 10 other properties, most of them casinos.
  3. When security inspected the bag, they found what appeared to be an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) inside.
  4. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) photos of the device shared by Fox 23 News showed a cylindrical object about 13 centimeters long (5.118 inches) wrapped in dark grey/black electricians tape or duct tape. It appears that a visco fuse (green cannon fuse) at least 18 cm (7 inches) long protruded from one end of the device.
  5. Fox 23 News said Hard Rock security moved the IED to a safe location and then called the ATF and the Tulsa Police Department’s bomb squad.
  6. Additional first responders included the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department, the Catoosa Police Department, and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
  7. Law enforcement played back Hard Rock CCTV to identify the person who planted the device, and then they found said individual – Zachary Schmidt – inside the casino. ATF quickly arrested him.
  8. Fox 23 said Schmidt denied making the device, saying that he had found it in a trash bin, apparently while dumpster diving, but he knew there was an IED in the bag when he left it outside the hotel casino.
  9. Ashley Stephens, ATF Tulsa Resident Agent in Charge (RAC), said the Hard Rock’s security team did a highly professional job finding the device and then alerting the correct law enforcement agencies to deal with it. “They did a great job keeping a lot of people safe in a very dangerous and very scary situation,” Fox 23 quoted him as saying.
  10. While as of 14 January, the explosive compound used in the device was still not known, RAC Stephens said the IED could have injured and killed people.
  11. RAC Stephens concluded his remarks by praising the hotel’s security again and urging public vigilance: “It doesn’t matter what badge you carry, what badge you’re wearing, the goal is to keep Oklahomans safe. Be vigilant. See something, say something.”
  12. Interestingly, on 6 January 2022, 4 State News says that police in Bartlesville OK, 52.8 miles from the Hard Rock Tulsa, discovered a pipe bomb in the parking lot of a Walgreens, which they safely detonated.
  13. Authorities are continuing the Hard Rock and the Bartlesville investigations.

 

Takeaways

First, tactically, the Hard Rock’s security staffers were highly effective. As the ATF said, their high level of professionalism probably saved lives and prevented property damage.

Second, the security team’s actions also suggest they likely had some level of technical IED identification and reaction training. Why? Because if they had identified a more sophisticated device, they might not have moved it. The Hard Rock IED had a visco fuse emanating from it, indicating it required a lighter or match to ignite, and motion was probably not going to set it off.

Having said this, the security team certainly exhibited bravery because the bomb could easily have been boobytrapped to look like a crude device when, in fact, it was a sophisticated one and designed to detonate by motion (like a trembler device) or by command (like a cell phone trigger.)

Third, outwardly, the device, with its tape and visco fuse, appeared quite crude, which suggests the bombmaker had, at the very least, rudimentary bombmaker skills that could be acquired via multiple sources, including online.

Fourth, since only one device was found, and since there were no reports of the perpetrator having a firearm on his person, the indication is this was not the work of a professional terrorist group targeting the hotel casino for a mass casualty event – such as detonating a device inside the property and then shooting people amidst the chaos. However, a deeper inferred analysis of the threat is not possible without more information.

Adding to this latter statement, the perpetrator might very well have found the device off property and left it outside as not to introduce it to the interior of the hotel casino. On the other hand, he might also have been testing security or reconnoitering the property for various attack scenarios.

Fifth, while the Bartlesville pipe bomb is certainly an issue of interest in the Hard Rock bomb case, law enforcement has not yet connected the two incidents.

Muir Analytics has a multitude of cases in its hotel violence database where bombs, explosive material, and/or destructive flammables were introduced into US hotels or onto US hotel properties by persons with malicious intent. In short, it is not an uncommon occurrence in America. Intelligence on hotel violence trends can help train hotel security, housekeeping, and other staffers on emergency and crisis response procedures in IED cases like these.

Muir Analytics runs the world’s largest, most sophisticated hotel violence database – the SecureHotel Threat Portal – with over 1,900 hotel attacks (and growing). We can provide the hospitality sector with intelligence that facilitates full-spectrum risk reduction, which helps hotels protect guests, staff, buildings, brands, and revenues. Contact us for a consultation:  1-833-DATA-444.

Sources and further reading:

New details on the explosive device authorities found outside the Hard Rock Casino in Catoosa,” Fox 23 News, 12 January 2022.

Man arrested for placing an improvised explosive device outside of the Hard Rock Casino in Catoosa,” Fox 23 News, 12 January 2022.

Tulsa police safely detonate pipe bomb found at Bartlesville Walgreens, ATF Investigating,” 4 State News, 6 January 2022.

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