On Oct. 1, Las Vegas Police Detective Kenneth Mead ’97 said goodbye to his 7-year-old son and left for work. A few minutes later, he was at the center of something unthinkable.
A gunman opened fire at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival, killing scores of people and injuring hundreds of others. Mead, one of the first officers to arrive at the scene near the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, still recalls the fear and chaos.
“It was probably one of the first times in my 20 years in law enforcement that I legitimately thought ‘this might be the last time I get to hug or kiss my son,’” Mead said. “From an emotional standpoint, it was very hard, but it’s what I signed up for and it’s my duty, so there was no hesitation.”
The gunfire at the concert eventually stopped that night. But for Mead and other detectives working the case, that was only the beginning of a long journey. The investigation into the incident remains arduous, and those who were at the scene cannot easily shake the things they saw and heard.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever be the same to be honest,” he said. “The city itself has changed; the police department has changed; the community has changed; the country has changed. It’s just very tangible.”
Today, Mead, who focuses on domestic terrorism matters and is a member of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, cannot talk about the details of the case or his specific involvement.
But he does say that lessons he learned at the University of La Verne as a psychology major, such as time management, leading by example, and empowering others, have greatly benefitted his professional life and how he has handled the Route 91 case.
“My leadership skills allow me to manage my cases, investigations, and prosecutions to my own style. The University of La Verne taught me that success is self-defined. There are lots of ways to get to the goal. You have to decide which path you will take to get there,” he said.
Mead’s family, colleagues, and friends have provided him moral support in the wake of the incident. The police department has offered counseling and other assistance. The outpouring of community support has given Mead and his fellow officers hope.
In the hours immediately following the incident, Mead witnessed the Las Vegas community come together to show its support for the department.
Counselors, psychologists, pastors, community leaders, children, and even members of the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team showed up at the department. Many brought food and drinks and letters of encouragement.
“It’s hard to ever describe how helpful that was for us,” he said.
Amid the height of the investigation, Mead also received a call that helped ease the stress. That caller was Devorah Lieberman, president of his alma mater, who thanked him for his service.
“Honestly, it was very touching and felt very emblematic of the university that I knew,” Mead said. “It was one of those moments where you’re feeling tired and drained and things are wearing on you. To get a call like that really refocuses you and makes you realize that what we’re doing is important.”