THE FIVE STAGES OF AN ACTIVE SHOOTER

Often I come across an article that has been written so well and so on point that it I feel it needs more attention.  Below are some points that ring so true in today's society.  Please take note.

One thing criminal justice experts understand about Active Shooter Incidents (ASI) is that such tragedies will not fade away on their own. An ASI will reappear from time to time in a host of situations unless citizens, school or workplace authorities make an effort to forewarn law enforcement officials. Past incidents make it clear that, more often than not, questionable conduct of a potential active shooter is not brought law enforcement’s attention.  Such information tends to go unreported. Most often law enforcement is called upon after the shooting begins.

 The role of first responders is important.  First responders are efficient, effective, professional, and continually evolve with changing times. However, law enforcement and Executive Protection Agents can do much more in addressing Active Shooters if given the opportunity.  All members of society must take the lead in providing reliable information to local law enforcement agencies and to their management in the workplace. Law enforcement officials and EP Agents depend upon information being brought to their attention for evaluation and follow up before the shooting begins.

Society must do more to assist law enforcement. The Active Shooter can be defeated before the shooting begins if citizens are proactive in informing the police about questionable behavior.  Terrorism has been addressed in the same way; “If you see something, say something.”

No one will lose their civil liberties guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.  At the same time, members of the public providing information about possible Active Shooters to the police will ensure that others will not lose their right to live. Society must take an active role in providing law enforcement the appropriate information to initiate a proactive rather than a reactive approach. Let’s stop the killing before it begins.  This is where a Temple 57 Agent comes in.  If you notice anything odd of an employee/employer, and especially the 5 below noted stages of an Active Shooter, a simple call will save lives.  Simple as that.

The Five Stages of the Active Shooter are:

1.) Fantasy Stage

The shooter exhibits fantasies about hurting others in speech, drawings, writing or as posted online. This is the best time to intervene. A criminal act has not yet occurred. Nobody has been hurt.  At this stage, a potential AS is crying out for help. If police are notified, assistance may be provided without incident.

The following incidents have occurred:

Virginia Tech Shooting – A panel was convened to review the circumstances leading up to the shooting. The finding of the study accuses the university of a systemic failure to respond to Seung-Hui Cho’s two-year history of mental health troubles on campus or to communicate effectively as Seung-Hui Cho, murdered 32 students and faculty before turning a gun on himself.

Gabby Gifford Shooting – Jared Loughner was suspended from Pima Community College. He was believed to be a danger to others. Loughner appeared to be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. Police documents released by the college indicated various instructors, students and others described Mr. Loughner as “creepy,” “very hostile,” “suspicious” and someone who had a “dark personality.”

Loughner was not permitted to return to the school until he could provide documentation by a mental health expert that he was not a threat to others. Pima Community College acted appropriately to safeguard the school from Loughner’s bizarre behavior.  However, PCC authorities failed to notify local law enforcement this individual was considered a risk to others. Soon thereafter, Representative Gabrielle Gifford was shot in the head when Loughner opened fire outside a grocery store during a constituent’s meeting, killing 6 people and wounding 13 others.

2.) Planning Stage

The shooter’s thoughts are replaced by action at this stage. He is making decisions about targets, activities, as the when, where, and how are being coordinated. An individual planning an ASI may research topics on a computer or even write and publish a manifesto authorizing death warrants.

The Aurora Colorado shooter created such a manifesto, which was discovered in the University of Colorado Mailroom shortly after the tragedy. Reportedly, the shooter provided information and diagrams regarding his intentions.

Intervention at this stage brings all activity to a stop. The circumstances will dictate if medical treatment or legal action is required to address the situation at this stage, if law enforcement is given an opportunity to intervene.

3.) Preparation Stage

The potential shooter devotes time to gather needed materials to complete the deadly task. Items can be purchased to construct explosives. Ammunition may be acquired or purchased. The potential shooter practices his moves. The shooter is ensuring that he can carry out the plan. A potential active shooter tends to forewarn friends to stay away. An alert range master, ammunition dealer, or other vendors may be key in identifying a potential active shooter at this state.  If law enforcement is notified of a potential shooter’s suspected intentions, there is a possibility that police can intercede without the loss of life.

4.) Approach Stage

This is a very dangerous time.  The shooter is committed to carrying out his plan. He is headed toward his intended target. Most likely, he has his weapons on his person or secreted nearby.  Law enforcement may unknowingly engage the shooter by initiating an unrelated traffic stop or may be directed to the shooter based on reported suspicious conduct. This is the last opportunity to overcome the shooter before he acts out.

5.) Implementation Stage

The shooter makes his entry. The plan is in action. The shooting begins. People are being injured and killed. Four phases have already transpired. This is the last one. It is usually at this point law enforcement receives the first call.  Law enforcement has become very quick, efficient, and effective at this stage. Unfortunately, this action tends to be too little, too late. The police are on scene when people are already either wounded or dead.  The shooter has often taken his life by the time officers respond.

The Active Shooter phenomena will not be defeated without education of law enforcement, workplace, and school personnel.  Implementing a Temple Agent prior to impacting an employee or simply due to odd behavior may deter and Active Shooter as well as save lives in the event they follow through with their planned actions of violence. 

John J. Mesa~President, PI, PPS