Last Friday, Karl Pierson, 18, entered Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado with a shotgun. Pierson legally purchased a pump-action shotgun from a local retailer on December 6. The shotgun was purchased approximately 3 months after Pierson was disciplined for threatening his debate coach, Tracy Murphy. Pierson waited to purchase ammunition for the shotgun until Friday, the 13th. His plan was in place with the purchase. Pierson was armed, dangerous, and prepared to kill.
Pierson’s conduct made it clear his first target was Tracy Murphy in retaliation for the disciplinary action. Pierson implemented his plan the day before the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook, although there are no indications that the actions taken are not related to the Sandy Hook massacre. Pierson chose Friday the 13th to seek revenge for being wronged.
An Active Shooter Incident (ASI) is always planned. Society considers Friday the 13th a day of bad luck. It is unlikely it is a mere coincidence Pierson implemented his plan of attack on this day. Pierson waited one week after the purchase of the shotgun to bring the worst of luck to Arapahoe High School.
Pierson was also armed with a machete, an ammunition belt; he wore “Rambo” style, and carried 3 Molotov cocktails in his backpack. He clearly intended to kill others. More death would follow with the execution of Murphy, who is a school librarian.
Pierson first stalked his debate coach like prey calling out to him by name. Pierson never located Murphy, Murphy fled the school. This action taken by Murphy not only saved his life, it saved the lives of others. Pierson was preoccupied with killing Murphy.
This provided time for law enforcement officers to respond as the school was placed in lock down. The preoccupation with killing Murphy provided time for people to run, hide, and escape from Pierson except for one fellow student.
Claire Davis, a 17-year-old senior was shot at close range as Pierson approached the library. Davis is hospitalized and remains in critical condition. Sheriff Grayson Robinson stated that she appeared to be a random target. He further added, it is evident Pierson intended to hurt others.
After wounding Davis. Pierson fired several rounds as he entered and remained in the library where he detonated one Molotov cocktail. Pierson’s plan fell apart when Murphy was not at the library. An ASI does not last a long period of time. It is estimated that an ASI is over within an average of 12 minutes.
On this day, at Arapahoe High School, this ASI ended 80 seconds after the first shot was fired by Pierson. Once Murphy could not be located, the school was in lock down, and the first responders arrived Pierson did as other Active Shooters have done. He took his own life knowing law enforcement officers were present. Due to the coordination between the school and law enforcement officers, many lives were saved on this day.
The circumstances which led to this ASI occurring are now subject to review. An investigation into Pierson’s activities is ongoing. An ASI is a senseless act except in the mind of the shooter. Pierson believed he had a right to kill Murphy and others. He believed that he had the right to use his shotgun and machete as well as detonate Molotov cocktails.
It is likely that the investigation will locate a manifesto. Pierson most likely will self-justify his actions in writing. His plan may be uncovered as well regarding how he prepared for his attack against Murphy and the school. The spark to Pierson’s actions has to do with being disciplined by Murphy. It is yet to be learned if Pierson had other targets aside from Murphy
The disciplinary action taken against Pierson by Murphy in September haven’t been disclosed. According to Sheriff Robinson, the unspecified disciplinary action in September against Pierson “related to the debate team” in response to verbal threats other students reported Pierson directed at the debate coach.
Robinson did not believe the punishment was “overly harsh,” and he denied Pierson had been suspended or ejected from the debate team. Robinson did not detail the nature of the verbal threat attributed to Pierson that got him in trouble.
An ASI must be stopped before it begins. This is the new initiative. Across the USA, law enforcement responds to terminate an ASI when called upon. Response alone is not the answer to overcome an ASI. Once an ASI begins, people are being injured and killed. It is time for law enforcement to intervene before the shooting begins. This task cannot be accomplished by the law enforcement alone.
The assistance of the schools, workplace, mental health experts, guidance counselors, teachers, family members, friends, and government agencies all are active role players in stopping an ASI before it begins. An Active Shooter (AS) will make his intentions known to individuals he interacts with at home, in school, the workplace, on the computer, and social gatherings.
Terminating an ASI before it begins will not be accepted in states, such as Colorado, where 2nd Amendment advocates refuse to recognize legally registered firearms are being used in ASIs. It is amazing although Colorado has been victimized by the Columbine High School, Aurora Century theatre, and now the Arapahoe High School ASIs this state remains led by 2nd Amendment advocates. In each of the ASIs in Colorado, the potential AS made their intentions known to others. Intervention never occurred at Columbine or Aurora. The Arapahoe ASI is under investigation.
Although two high schools, and one crowded movie theatre in Aurora fell victim to gunfire the citizenry of Colorado, in 2013 two Democrats were recalled from office over gun control issues. The Democrats were removed from office for voting in support of gun-control legislation. A third Democrat resigned to avoid being recalled.
Gabby Giffords is retired from Congress due to the severe injuries she sustained at the hands of a mentally-ill Active Shooter. Gabby has experienced the victimization of those injured and killed by her side, along with the victimization experienced throughout this country. Gabby insists that controls of the purchase and sale of firearms can exist without circumventing the 2nd Amendment.
Gabby supports logic be used to introduce legislation to protect the rights of all people. Hopefully, she is the individual who can balance protecting one’s right pursuant the 2nd Amendment and reducing the gun violence.
Last January Gabby Gifford spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee on gun violence. She addressed the committee as follows:
Thank you for inviting me here today.
This is an important conversation.
For our children. For our communities.
For Democrats and Republicans.
Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something.
Gun violence is a big problem.
Too many people are dying.
Too many children.
We must do something.
It will be hard.
But the time is now.
You must act.
Be bold. Be courageous.
Americans are counting on you.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) in the past emphasized guns don’t kill, people do! That saying is no longer an NRA slogan. The reality is an ASI tends to be completed with a legally registered firearm or rifle. One needs to look no further than the actions of Karl Pierson. The more one reviews ASIs it cannot be denied legally owned firearms are being used in a manner not protected by the 2nd Amendment.
A person does not have the right to bear arms to commit murder. ASIs have tripled in the last five years.
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Jim Gaffney, MPA is Law Enforcement Today’s risk management /police administration contributor. He has served with a metro-New York police department for over 25 years in varying capacities, culminating with Executive Officer and PIO. He is a member of ILEETA, IACP, IACSP, and FBI – LEEDA. Jim is a Certified Force Science Analyst. He mentors law enforcement’s next generation as an adjunct criminal justice professor in the New York City area. Jim brings the street into the classroom to prepare students today for their roles as police officers tomorrow. He is CEO of Bright Line Consulting and can be reached via www.brightlinepoliceconsulting.com