The coverage of the Active Shooter Incident (ASI) at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School has focused on how methodically Jaylen Freyberg fired upon 5 people. One girl was killed and four other students, including two of the gunman’s cousins, were seriously wounded. Once Freyberg completed his attack, he took his own life as a teacher attempted to intervene.
Acting without hesitation is the nature of the Active Shooter (AS). An ASI is an act of violence. When an act of violence occurs, the person who goes first wins the confrontation because there is no warning.
An ASI occurs when the AS implements killing his targets without hesitation. The AS previously fantasized, planned, and prepared himself. Freyberg approached the cafeteria and sat among those he was about to slay. This tactic is eerily similar to James Holmes sitting among the theatre audience in Aurora before he acted out against them.
What is most alarming to me is Friday’s ASI reaffirms that there is a growing trend once the AS completes his objective his final action is to take his own life. This reaffirms the police are unlikely to have enough time to respond to an ASI. Intervention is the new methodology to be utilized to stop an ASI before it begins. Intervention permits law enforcement to go first.
Many details will be learned about will Freyberg. The problem is that the information will come forward after two people died, and four were wounded. Lessons will be learned which will teach the value of intervention.
Intervention focuses on working with those closest to a potential shooter before he acts out against others. This concept has proven itself over time, but is yet to be embraced as another tool for law enforcement to use, instead of being limited to response tactics. Each police agency must adopt both a proactive and a response approach to provide the police an opportunity to intervene or respond.
Response is a traditional tactic used to overcome traditional crime. An ASI is not a traditional crime. Traditional tactics do not work in overcoming an AS. The police community uses its personnel as the eyes and ears of the department to address traditional crime, conduct a Stop and Frisk, develop probable cause, information and belief, and establish a case with proof beyond a reasonable doubt. These traditional tactics cannot be used in addressing a potential AS without the assistance of the public.
A community-orientated policing approach must be introduced to the public. This is imperative. The people closest to a potential AS know him the best and are in a position to observe changes in character, behavior, attitude, and the demeanor of a potential AS. A potential AS will write, verbalize and/or post his intentions and feelings on social media sites. Often a manifesto is written as the AS plans and prepares his attack.
For instance, in the Santa Barbara ASI once Elliot Rodger was identified as the AS people he conversed with routinely on a social website “prior” to the ASI had dubbed Elliot Rodger to be an “Active Shooter in the Making.” People on the website tried to provide guidance to Elliot Rodger to no avail.
The police can create a positive change in overcoming an ASI if the community is made to understand that it functions as the eyes and ears of the department in recognizing that a person is developing into a potential AS. If those closest to a potential AS notify the police about their concerns, law enforcement will have time to conduct an investigation. If need be, they can initiate an arrest prior to anybody being killed or injured.
An individual can devolve into the role of an AS for different reasons. Victimization is one reason, which is often associated with revenge. A potential AS may not truly be a victim, but the problem is this person perceives himself to be a victim. This sense of victimization justifies the potential AS in acting out to kill those who in injured him. The mindset of the AS is he is tired of being the victim.
An ASI occurs because an AS is provided an opportunity to kill others. A potential ASI is stopped before it begins when the police eliminate the opportunity by intervention. The best course of action if an ASI occurs is to do as was done Friday as Jaylan Freyberg stalked his prey. Some students ran, some hid, and a teacher fought for Freyberg’s gun. These actions provide time for the police to respond.
I will be addressing the topic of “Stopping the Active Shooter Before the First Shot is Fired” at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Convention in Orlando, FL this Wednesday, October 28, 2014 with Mike Roche the author of Mass Killers.
Intervention stops an ASI before it begins without injury or loss of life.
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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 30 years in varying capacities, culminating with Executive Officer and PIO. He is a member of (ILEETA), (IACP), and the nationally recognized 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