Despite injuries, Weinke still tried to help other victims
By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
CDCR Sgt. Todd Wienke was shot while shielding his girlfriend from gunfire at the country music festival in Las Vegas Oct 1. While trying to lead others to safety, he was shot a second time. He survived.
He’s the second CDCR employee Inside CDCR has learned was shot at the event.
Fire camp commander killed
Family, friends and staff at Sierra Conservation Center and Ventura Conservation Camp were stunned to learn one of their own was killed in the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Camp Commander Lt. Derrick “Bo” Taylor, 56, attended the country music festival but didn’t survive the Oct. 1 attack which left 59 dead and more than 500 wounded.
“I was so deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Lt. Derrick Taylor. The horrific circumstances make his death all the more painful. I visited the camp ‘Bo’ Taylor managed and it was so uplifting to hear the stories from staff that clearly exemplified him as a well-liked and respected man, not only as a leader but as a friend. He devoted nearly 30 years to our Department and served us well. I extend my warmest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” said CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan.
“There are no words to express the feeling of loss and sadness regarding Bo’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. We truly are a family here at SCC and Bo’s loss will be felt throughout the prison, conservation camps, and Department,” Warden Joel Martinez wrote in a memo to staff.
Lt. Taylor served the department for decades, beginning his career on Jan. 25, 1988, at the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center in Galt. His first appointment as an officer was at California Correctional Institution. He transferred to Wasco State Prison in 1994 and then went on to High Desert State Prison in 1995.
A promotion to Correctional Sergeant saw him transfer to Pleasant Valley State Prison in January 1997. In June 2001, he promoted to Correctional Lieutenant. He transferred to La Cima Conservation Camp as the Camp Commander in November 2004 and then to Ventura Camp in October 2014.
Helping others in the chaos
California City Correctional Facility Sgt. Wienke was enjoying the music festival with his girlfriend, about 40 or 50 yards from the stage, when the shooting started.
Sgt. Wienke spoke to Inside CDCR by phone before traveling home to seek medical care.
“Jason Aldean, the headliner of the last night, had taken the stage and was probably 20 or 25 minutes into his performance, maybe four or five songs,” recalls Wienke. “I was standing to the right of the stage, which was closer to Las Vegas Boulevard in a huge crowd of people. We were 40 or 50 yards from the stage, from the right side, facing it, closer to the shooter. We heard the first group of gunshots. My first reaction was it could have been fireworks because of the sound.”
He realized it was gunfire. Since he couldn’t tell where the sound was coming from, he assumed it was from the street and was possibly a police encounter.
“The shots were actually coming from high up in the Mandalay Bay and it was hard to determine where the shots were coming from. I thought they were coming from ground level and from Las Vegas Boulevard, so we would be safe,” he said. “I told everyone around me it was fireworks to keep everyone calm. I thought the police were in a shootout on Las Vegas Boulevard.”
The initial gunfire quickly ended and while there was confusion, Sgt. Wienke thought they were safe.
“There was a burst of gunfire and then it was over. Aldean kept playing and I thought the venue was safe since we were well-searched before we went in,” he said. “Then another 10 or 20 seconds happened and then shots just rang out – multiple gunshots in a rapid way. Then I realized, not only are they shooting at us, but it was from an elevated position.”
Sgt. Wienke assessed the situation and his surroundings.
“I threw my girlfriend to the ground and covered her. I yelled for others to get down. I was worried about getting trampled by the crowd,” he said. “I told people around me we were staying here and waiting for the shots to stop. Then I got shot in the back.”
While shot, he was still concerned with those around him.
“I felt (the gunshot) but I also felt as if it wasn’t going to kill me,” he recalls. “I thought maybe it was a through-and-through so I checked my girlfriend, but she was OK. I whispered to her I was shot.”
Quickly he looked around, knowing they were in a dangerous place.
“Then I saw where everyone was running, and they went across stage. Then, when enough people got off the ground, we ran in a C-pattern, running further away from the stage rather than across from the stage.”
He knew two coworkers, a married couple who were also correctional officers at California City Correctional Facility, were also at the concert, having been with them before Aldean started playing. Wanting to make sure they were safe, he ran to their last known location, but the area was empty.
“That’s where I got shot again,” he said. “Then my next step was to go find cover for my girlfriend and went to where the vendors were. I found a place where she would be safe and found three Las Vegas officers there with weapons drawn.”
He identified himself and offered assistance, asking where the staging area was.
“They told me to get out of there because I was wounded and covered with blood. They weren’t having anything to do with me and I understand,” he said.
Nearby, two women were profusely bleeding from their heads, but were trying to get away.
“There were two women who were shot in the head but they were on their feet. I figured Las Vegas Boulevard was in the line of fire, where everyone was running, so I grabbed those women and my girlfriend and we ran to Hooters casino and went in through a back entrance,” he said.
Once inside, he began setting up a triage area along with others who fled to the casino.
“There were other civilians in Hooters who said they were nurses and they started bandaging people. I took off my shirt and belt and had my girlfriend check me out to see if I had a chest wound. She didn’t see any so I helped organize the triage area,” he said.
After some confusion about a possible additional shooter, which turned out to be false, they spotted an ambulance outside the doors.
“I looked for green and yellow (minor) injuries. There were no red-level injuries. I piled into the ambulance with the two women shot in the head and they took us to the Henderson hospital, which was the furthest outlying hospital. One of the women was fading in and out and I kept pressure on her head and I tried to keep her talking. The ambulance emergency medical technician kind of freaked out. No one can imagine what you’re going to do in a situation like that,” he said.
At the hospital, he was told he was going to be held for observation and they were going to leave the bullets and shrapnel in his body for now.
“First they said they would take me into surgery and then they realized others were in more critical need so they monitored me until 4 a.m. and said they’d determine later what to do,” he said. “I told them if all they were going to do was observe me, I was going to leave to free up a bed so I went out to the waiting room. People were already coming from Cal City. They picked up my girlfriend and then they showed up at the hospital and took me to a hotel.”
He has multiple gunshot wounds.
“I have three – one under my arm, one in my left side, halfway down my torso toward the back, and above my left buttocks,” he said. “I think one is an exit wound but I will learn more at the doctor. They say I have tons of shrapnel but they said they don’t always remove it all. I can feel stuff in my body.”
His efforts to protect his girlfriend paid off as she only suffered bruises.
He’s also concerned about how the mass shooting might affect others.
“I appreciate the concern and outpouring from the department. It’s really been heartwarming. So many people did so many things and there were so many victims,” he said. “I’ve talked to CCSO and I’m a peer support counselor and would like to offer help to others in my area. I’ve already contacted EAP to get help for my girlfriend and my kids.”
California City Correctional Facility Warden John Garza said prison staff are proud of Sgt. Wienke’s actions.
“I and all the other staff here at CAC are very proud of the heroic actions of Sgt. Wienke. It comes as no surprise considering his character and caring spirit. We pray for his speedy recovery and mourn with him the loss of all those innocent lives. Our condolences go out to all those impacted by this tragedy,” Warden Garza said.