SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University was created shortly after the 1999 Columbine school shooting. From that, police response to mass shootings changed.
“The protocol at that time was for officers to stay outside and wait for SWAT teams to arrive,” said Pete Blair with ALERRT.
One day after the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Blair said police on the scene had to make a decision whether to storm the building, possibly putting more lives in danger, or waiting on the outside of the building while the killer remained inside with innocent people.
“We train officers on the scene to go in and stop the killing,” he said while emphasizing there is still a lot of details and about the shooting and police response.
The initial information from the shooting indicates police fired at the shooter before he retreated into the building and a three-hour standoff ensued. Blair said that decision was likely made based on what police believe was going on inside. He does not believe police would have waited had they thought people were still being killed inside.
“Rifle fire is loud. There is a good chance if he was firing in the building, officers would be able to hear that.”
Reports of what club-goers and victims did once the gunfire started are also becoming public. One mother said she was texting her son who informed her he was hiding in a bathroom and texted “I am gonna die.”
ALERRT has always practiced the ADD method: Avoid, Deny, Defend.
Avoiding means getting as far away as possible from the shooter according to Blair. If avoiding is not possible, the next step would be to “deny” access to the shooter which would be locking a door or finding isolation much like those people hiding in the bathroom may have done. But Blair says “deny” does not mean you stop attempting to “avoid.”
“I heard some story about people in the bathroom and that is problematic because you have few options,” he said. In an ideal situation, a person would be able to isolate themselves from a shooter, but still find a route out of the building of area where the shooting is happening.
Lastly, defending yourself
“It is not a first choice and not something you would do if you did not have to, but as a last resort, it is an option we encourage people to think about.”
Blair says roughly 1 out of every 5 mass shooting events ends because a civilian at the scene takes actions to stop the shooter. Even after one might “deny” access, he says you can position yourself in a defensive position or posture to stop the shooter if he is able to make entry.
“The worst thing you can do if someone is about to murder you is cower or play dead.”