At the end of part one, I suggested a solo intervenor’s mission is driven by two goals: (1) Interrupting, containing, and deactivating the active killer, and; (2) communicating and identifying oneself as the “good guy” so victims, witnesses, and responding LEOs do not mistake an intervenor (you) for the active killer. I didn’t suggest which of the two was more important. That depends on the intervenor’s own analysis of the SHOULD and MUST. I also purposely failed to mention something obvious: Time spent on the second goal delays implementation of the first, thereby diminishing the chance of an earlier, more lives saved intervention.
Let’s see what an active killer scenario might look like. If you believe occurrence statistics are predictive of future events, consider the following ballpark for your lone active killer event (/ = out of) : It will be 3 -10 minutes after the first shot was fired before the first on duty LEO arrives, with a 1/2 chance shooting is still occurring, but that LEO will have less then 1/4 chance of actually interrupting the active killer; the active killer will be an armed male, 3/5 chance he is armed with a pistol, 1/10 chance he is armed with a shotgun, 1/4 chance he is armed with a rifle, 1/20 chance he will be wearing body armor, and 3/100 chance IEDs are in play (know the standoff distances for hand carried IEDs?). Here’s more: There is better than equal chance a solo intervenor will be successful, but a 1/4 chance a solo intervenor will be wounded by the active killer. Finally, there is about 2/3 chance the active killer will commit suicide when he learns an intervenor is closing, or is confronted by armed intervention. Had enough? How about the odds the active killer has a confederate, or that an intervenor will be mistakenly shot (by police or another Good Samaritan intervenor)? Let’s assume the former has a 1/10 chance and the latter 1/4. These event odds can be calculated differently, or dismissed as meaningless. Whatever the odds are, they are complex and daunting — maybe to some a hint that solo intervention is mere fantasy. How does the intervention dynamic change if the event becomes a barricaded hostage taker?
If you are undaunted (you can bet Paul Howe is, see here for his “real fight” doctrine), let’s fast forward — chaos and panic abound. Potential victims are fleeing incoherently (you direct them out the way you came in), others will “shelter in place” cowering behind furnishings or closed doors. Victims will already be dead or dying, and an intervenor will likely hear others suffering a victim’s fate, possibly at a rate of one every several seconds. Power may be off, fire alarm and/or sprinklers, or emergency strobes on, public address system blaring warnings. Potential victims may have engaged their own murderer and present a confusing scene to an arriving intervenor. Still feeling like you CAN and SHOULD? Read on.
What might you do to lessen the odds you are shot by responding LEOs? Some of the tactics to accomplish that are equipment/kit oriented, others lie in acting and looking like a “good guy,” including verbally communicating your good intentions (to a 911 operator, fleeing victims, witnesses, and instructing your companion to implement “Plan A” outside after you enter) confirming that you are NOT the active killer. Part of the same verbal process includes finding out who and how many are doing what, what weapons have been seen, where (get directions), and if there are wounded. An intervenor should not run with an exposed gun, but, whether tactically sound or not, wait until just before hostile contact is anticipated to deploy the handgun.
My thoughts on tactics. Upon entry, the mission is not to search or perform a methodical structure clearing. It is an all out sprint to the the sound of gunfire and/or screams. A “shoot on sight” ambush mission. Likely a blur of walls, halls, doors, and maybe stairs. (You may have to “hopscotch” to avoid slipping on blood). There will be no pie slicing or advancing carefully from one cover position to another. (Can you shoot safely and effectively while moving or with distraction of loud noises, smoke, lights? Know what walls and doors in commercial and public buildings stop what rounds?). You may have decided in advance that your intervention mission is only to find a preselected person, group, or location (loved ones, your spouse’s office suite, child’s classroom) and remain with them ensconced, to protect them from a roaming active killer. Or, you may decide the appropriate intervention is to post up in a corridor or hallway, trapping the active killer in a room (hoping your presence, announced by yelling or gunshots, causes him to promptly shoot himself). That tactic will save those in other rooms, facilitate large scale evacuation, and give time for the cavalry to arrive. It may be the best plan for an unarmored intervenor or when the active killer has a long gun. (Nobody promised pretty or rose garden). Finally, upon conclusion of a successful intervention, the solo intervenor must present himself to the first on scene LEOs as something other than a person in tactical kit with smoking gun in hand. Finishing the open 911 call and sitting on the ground motionless, hands exposed, or ducking into a closed room with some saved victims might just do the trick. (See parting shot below to get some other ideas).
My thoughts on equipment/kit. Assume your EDC on body gear consists of handgun, two spare magazines, white light, knife, smart phone, 12′ of Paracord, eye protection. As Paul Howe suggests, you ought to have a shoulder slung pack/bag to stow your EDC gear which has additional kit already packed. I like the kind of pack that can be rotated to the front for access and hold a soft armor panel or hard plate to cover vital organs, leaving the front of the bag/pack and my entire back exposed to responding LEOs so they can see “signs” (see below) that shout good guy. Some pack/bags nicely accommodate a Level III (rifle rated) stand alone 10X12 chest plate (can you run with the additional 5-8 pounds?). (I have “appearance” tested pack-stowed plates in public venues — both a “special threats” handgun (LIIIA 8X10), and a stand alone (10X12 LIII). Please, no chest or thigh rigs with visible magazine, grenade, etc., pouches. Or anything else a well publicized photo has shown an active killer to look like. For those who like/need tailor made, intensely mission specific kit, Honor Point USA makes a nifty piece (ZOT® ZERO) designed to hold a SAPI plate and backer and other gear, with hydration sleeve (click on photo for link to description and more photos):
Be prepared (“go” bag concept, or patrol unit “active shooter” bag) in case the incident is or turns into something other than a deranged, suicidal lone active killer. Kit slows you down (hat tip Paul Howe), so choose wisely in setup. Balancing speed with need, consider (in no particular order):
- Small Halligan bar or SWAT tool
- Large fat marker (to write on doors/walls);
- Additional ammunition reloads (second handgun?)
- Surefire EP3 Sonic Defenders® earplugs
- Drinking water, snack
- Spare cell phone (inactive one will connect to 911 system)
- Mini two-way handheld radios (matching set, 2 or 3)
- Duct tape
- Handcuffs, flexible restraints (visible, LE tools of the trade, “signs”)
- Smoke/particulate mask respirator
- IFAK (visible, with red cross or caduceus, a “sign”), extra gunshot wound supplies
- Traffic vest (Hi-Vis ANSI “POLICE/SHERIFF” the very one locals buy at their cop shop, a “sign”)
- Door wedge/jam devices
- Backup flashlight, small strobes, light sticks
- Blood type patch (visible on pack/bag, a “sign”)
Parting shot: Scope out potential active killer venues you frequent. Introduce yourself to security personnel and LEOs likely to be on scene or respond first there. Ask what visual cues might cause them to instantly identify someone as a Good Samaritan intervenor and not the one who needs to be “serviced” (hat tip Paul Howe). (One told me that my Safariland cap works for him). Suggest they “get some” at MSW and friends, CSAT, etc. Study the AARs of those who have been in active killer situations: Haggard, The Tactical Wire. Don’t leave home without your chosen kit.
So there you have it. Intervene and deactivate an active killer. Save human life … hmm. The CAN is answerable; the MAY is practically irrelevant; your SHOULD and MUST depend on sheepdog mindset and who is inside desperate to be rescued. After all is said and read, I may not have answered (to your satisfaction) the post question — whether a solo intervention is fantasy or reality. For me, reality is this: I know many active and retired LEOs, former military, competitive shooters, CCW types, parents, spouses, and coworkers who might attempt an intervention of an active killer. To them I say: Godspeed. . . an MSW contributor or reader might just have your back. . . or need your backup.
For NYPD’s compendium of over 200 “active shooter” incidents worldwide, click here.
For information and LEO training see: ALERRT (Paul Howe’s CSAT is in the neighborhood, and it’s Texas, so the drive ain’t that bad). For some historical perspective and lessons on interventions (again, Texas), study a day in August, 1966, where LEO and citizen heroes combined to intervene and successfully deactivate an active killer. The Texas Tower. See here and here. Hat tip Allen Crum et al.