Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Florida School Board Shooting

This morning, after my Sweetie saw the Florida school board shooting for the umpteenth time, she came to me with a very thoughtful, very intelligent question. She also sits on an occasionally contentious local board, and her question was, "What do I need to learn from this event?" Hell of a question...such a good question that I decided to throw it out the "Usual Suspects," a group pf people who are not just my friends, but skilled, thoughtful trainers, many of whom have been there, done that and gotten a big collection of t-shirts.

I think these responses should be read by everyone, and acccordingly, I'm posting them here. I'll weigh in with my own responses in a different post.

First, here's where to see the video:

The Usual Suspect include Chris Edwards (Glock), Sammy Reese (American Handgunner), Walt Rauch (Founder, USPSA, IDPA, NTI, author, trainer), Mike Seeklander (U.S. Shooting Academy), Rich Grassi (The Tactical Wire), my friend Larry Johns at the local PD, Steve Comus (Safari Club International), Captain Dave Arnold (Founder, USPSA, LEO trainer), Dave Spaulding (Law Enforcement Trainer of the Year), Dave Biggers (XS Sights), Ed Head (Gunsite, Border Patrol), Chris Weare (Gunsite, LEO trainer), Denny Hanson (SWAT Magazine), Paul Markel (PoliceOne columnist, LEO), John Snow (Outdoor Life), Michael Janich (The Best Defense, Martial Blade Zconcepts), Rob Pincus (The Best Defense, I.C.E. Training), Sheriff Jim Wilson (American Rifleman), GenePearcey (Evil Roy Shooting School) and assorted other miscreants...

Here are their responses:

School boards, like other such organizations, can be the focus for high emotions and vindictive actions.  The lesson is to stay in Condition Yellow.  Where are the exits?  Where is the nearest cover?  What do you know about body language, especially the body language of upset, or disturbed, individuals? 
These are things that should be second nature for the defensive individual. 
Jim Wilson
I heard these comments while watching:

One comment from an attendee: "I felt helpless when he pulled that gun out"
Another comment: "If we think there will be a problem, we will have security at these meetings, we did not anticipate a problem at this one"

Key point:  Unarmed men/women are "helpless sheep".  I am to the point where I might consider ignoring a facility rule to stay armed, and prepared.  I recommend the same thing to my students.  I don't advocate breaking the law.....but I place my own safety (and that of my family) higher on a scale when I need to decide between staying armed or bending a rule.  

Second Key point: We have never been able to, or will ever be able to- rely on security, the police, or mommy and daddy protecting us all the time.  Self protection in the simplest form is individual for adults, and each of us has to understand that it is up to us, to protect US!

Until Then, Train Hard!
Mike Seeklander
Director of Training
U.S. Shooting Academy
Michael, we should all remember that "bad things happen to good people in nice places" and should act accordingly. Nothing will ever replace awareness, willingness and the ability to respond without hesitation. This said, let me think on this a bit and I will try to say something more profound. Later! Dave Spaulding
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

I'm humbled by the esteemed names on this list and I will try to be worthy of their company.
The biggest lesson learned from this or similar incidents is that only you can provide for your own safety.  Signs and placards announcing this buidling or that facility as a "Gun Free Zone" do nothing more than disarm the good guys and give the bad guys a target rich environment.    Always be armed.    Attached is a piece that I wrote entitled "School Shootings; You can't sterilize the world."   It explains my stance in detail.
All the best,
Paul Markel

The super did a fairly good job of verbalization. Note how he turns, blading his body toward the shooter. It's a bad idea if you're wearing armor and have guns, but this guy had pens and a 3-ring binder. For him, it makes a smaller target.

Ed Head pointed out that it helps to have an incompetent attacker if it can be arranged. That worked here. Round number one was "clutched" dropping the round into the desk top. Immediately, dimbulb drops the muzzle to the floor and contrives to jerk the trigger again. By then, the guard is inside.

Mike, has her [my Sweetie's] board considered having a non-uniformed guard inside the hearing room? One or more, depending on the crowd, could be "seeded backup," like criminal offenders use in armed robberies.

Finally, the first rule of a gunfight is have a gun. Preferably two, with spare ammo. It's better to be in a "shooting" than a "gunfight," but a gunfight would be preferable to getting under the desk and waiting to die.

Rich Grassi
A couple of thoughts:
If you're going to be in public you should learn to shoot (fight) and always carry.
An explosive, overwhelmingly violent counter-attack is a good thing.  When the brave lady smacked the bad guy's arm with her purse in an attempt to disarm him, all of the men present should have swarmed the bad guy and beat him senseless.
I'm told the pistol was a S&W 9mm.  I'm betting it was a DA/SA design and the bad guy was incompetent, as he jerked through his first shot (went low into the desk) then had a N.D. into the floor with his second shot when the trigger re-set to the SA mode. 
Ed Head
Sickened and disheartened, but not surprised, that the only person in the room with any "balls" was the lady with the purse.  The board members, instead of using the distraction to rush and subdue the perp instead sit there, apparantly comfortable with the gunman killing the grounded woman. 
Sheep live and die at the whim of the wolves.   Lesson:  Don't be a sheep.

Paul M
To me the most distressing thing in the video, aside from the brave woman armed only with her purse, no one did anything.

When the gunfire started, the members of the school board went to their knees behind the bench. I realize that few would charge the gunman, and in fact that may not have been the wisest course of action, but at least run instead of hiding behind the bench. If the nut job had had another firearm or reloaded before he was shot, he could have executed the members of the school board while they cowered in fear. This is typical of the “I can’t believe this is happening” mentality, shifting the mental transmission into neutral. The massacre at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, TX in 1991 comes to mind...

It would be better to be shot in the back trying to escape, than waiting to be slaughtered. DO SOMETHING!

Stay low and watch your back,

Hi Michael
Chris Weare here. Probably the most expedient thing would be to have an off duty/on duty officer attend the meetings from now on. I'm not sure where the retired officer who shot the bad guy was at first but at least he was there for the finish. Of course you will get the usual if the board members were armed yada yada infinitum. Nice if they are up to date with their shooting skills and ready to shoot if needed.  The last being the most important " the combat mindset".
Just my thoughts use if you want.
Rich Grassi X ringed this; "Finally, the first rule of a gunfight is have a gun. Preferably two, with spare ammo. It's better to be in a "shooting" than a "gunfight," but a gunfight would be preferable to getting under the desk and waiting to die."
Never depend on anyone to defend you. "Disappointed" can easily become "deceased".
Walt R.

There are very few among us who make a worst-case scenario plan every time they enter a new room, situation or setting. I know I don’t. But if you didn’t have a plan before that guy pulled a gun, you better make one now because it is a very short leap at that point from “nut-job talking” to “worst-case happening.”
Whether you’re armed or unarmed the thing that stuck me is that there is abundant opportunity for distraction and action if you keep your head. When the room was being cleared anyone could have pulled a concealed gun and changed the situation. Even a simple swat with the purse took his focus away for several seconds. There was plenty of time to rush him, throw a stapler, run away, conceal yourself behind the desk and crawl toward an exit, whatever.
The only thing that isn’t an option is to sit there and do nothing.
I suppose if you were really forward thinking and sat on a public board like that you would get the members together at one of your first meetings and talk for 10 minutes about what you’d do in a situation like that but I don’t know whether any plan you came up with would stick in folks’ minds when the flag goes up.

John Snow
You folks are all making totally excellent points. About the only observation I can make, aside from agreeing basically across the board, is to note what the actual root of the situation was as it played out. It goes to HOW people process information, how quickly they process it and then, of course, what they do about it once they have processed it. Certainly the lessons of all offensive/defensive training is to take the time ahead of time to consider a wide variety of possible scenarios, come up with solutions, etc. That’s a programmed approach.

As we all know, the real world ain’t always like that. I have long subscribed to the belief that there are basically two kinds of people: predators and grazers. Predators, when pressed, will always do something (usually attack when in doubt). They are simply hard wired that way. Grazers will flee if it occurs to them, or freeze in place until the thought of running comes to mind (they can be paralyzed by sensory overload). And, since school boards tend to be comprised of “social” types of folks, they also tend to fall into the grazer category. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that they did what they did (or didn’t do what they didn’t do). What public groups need, quite frankly, is some hard-ass training.

There is a larger picture, of course, which some have alluded to. This was a school board meeting, but major harm coming head-on and at full speed is not unlikely anywhere or anytime throughout the world’s societies these days. Jim mentioned maintaining a yellow condition, which, of course, is good advice. But I suspect that for most of us, who probably are more predator than grazer, basic instincts probably kick in when needed (helped along by whatever preparations we happen to have made along the way).

For the others, about the best we can do is advise. But what we cannot do to any great degree is trigger the one, single most important thing for the grazers: Force them to be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times. The thing we also cannot do for them is to convert them from linear thinkers to global thinkers. Hence, whatever level they may be able to achieve will always be limited by the speed with which they can process sensory input while going through all of the logical steps to get from Point A to Point Z. Global thinkers have the advantage of being able to skip all kinds of steps when necessary and deliver the ultimate answer instantly by going directly from A to Z. Which, I guess, is just another way of saying that the whole of society needs some good training so that even the linear thinkers can build-in the most advantage they can. Certainly such training would make sense in regular schools for all students, but I doubt it will ever happen because a lot of folks out there would rather surrender preemptively. Whatever, those are just some of my observations.

Steve Comus
And don't count on sheep.
Dave Biggers
V.P. Sales & Marketing
XS Sight Systems, Inc.
Several things jumped out at me after watching the video.
In our society women seem to be the ones with balls not men.  The lady with the purse is a great example.
If you are going to kill a lot of people with a firearm you might want to practice a little first.
If an authority says you may not have a gun in a certain place that is the exact place you will need it.
If a person threaten a person's well being and that person or others have the means to stop the attack it would be a good plan to do so at the first opportunity. Talking my way out would be my second choice if I had a weapon.  Shooting this guy at the first sign of his gun seems the best plan if someone in the room were armed. 
There is no better way to prevent injury to innocent persons by an armed bad guy than armed good guys at the scene.  It is the only thing that stands a good chance of succeeding most of the time.
This was a tough situation for a room full of people with no means of self defense.
The lady with the purse was brave but foolish.  She could have gotten everyone shot before help could get there.  Only one person was close enough and there was a very short window of time. Not good odds.
I think the board members did well in keeping calm and trying to calm the gunman.   Their best chance of survival was to try to keep things calm and the guy talking until help arrived from someone notified by one of the people who got to leave the room early which is exactly what happened.  The guy who offered himself to let the others go is a hero.  After the shooting started their best chance was for everyone to run like hell. Many would have survived.  
The best hope for all the board members would have been for one or more citizens to have been armed including a board member or two.
The argument for armed guards is without merit.  They can't be at every possible situation and if they were they would be the first to get shot.  As an example bank guards are not very effective. 
Also it makes you think about your choice of a defensive firearm.  It would have been difficult for anyone to get much closer than 10 to 20 feet to the gunman.  Aimed shots from a serious caliber weapon would have been called for for a quick stop.  Not the place for your two shot .22 derringer.  Take the same situation and add one more bad guy and even a 5 shot revolver looks bad.  Add darkness or low light and you have an even more likely situation. Now think about what you carry.
Gene Pearcey aka "Evil Roy" 
Good points.  I would say that you don't constantly make specific plans for every activity but what we need to do is to be alert, first and foremost and to make generalized plans (what if?).  You do that by first accepting there may be bad people in the world, you may have to deal with them, and it could happen today, right now.  You stay in yellow any time you are not in an entirely secure environment and are thus ready to move quickly into orange and red if need be. 
Ed Head
Diligentia Vis
The probability of a school board member being armed is off the scale.  They attempted a negotiation for a time and that served as a slight de-escalation of the gunman’s initial hostility.  The gunman went from complete control of the situation to letting board members talk.  However, they should have realized his refusal to answer them was a negative sign and that the fuse was getting short. 
The attempt at negotiation did allow security to move into a position to respond.  I’m sure security was notified by some of the people allowed to leave.  If the gunman made the decision to secure the room and retain all of those attending the meeting the alert may have taken much longer to get out.
Any public meeting can become contentious be it city council or school board.  The current economy moves people to desperate actions.  The responsibility for protection still devolves to the individual, as we have stated for years.  If you’re not willing to shoulder the burden yourself you  become prey to actions like this case.
Captain Dave Arnold
Director of Personnel and Training
Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail
I have to say my buddies pretty much nailed it. I have two things: First one is I use to do lot of EP (Executive Protection) Work.  I stayed away from anyone "famous" or who wanted a body guard because it looked cool. (I'm way to small for the tight tee shirt body guard type job) My handler is a retired DEA guy who got me some really good jobs covering the board of directors at one Fortune 50 company and one was a local hospital board that had a crazy woman elected and she caused all kinds of problems.  In my years of working with the higher end clients I made it very clear to them I would be rarely seen and never heard from UNLESS I thought something wasn't right and I required them to follow my every word. 

 Simply, my job was to see potential problems and make sure my client  was long gone before it happened. Granted most of my jobs we worked in pairs or or more depending on the venue or movement.  We as a team always had plans for every contingency we could think of. We all were in agreement that the guns we carried were to save our lives and those in need of protecting. We are not the secret service guys who wear vests and jump in front of bullets. The pay was good, but not that good.  

I think it was Rich who suggested  having plain clothes guys who are armed work the room. The hard part is fining "qualified" people. I've run into some crazy ass fuckers who think the one tour in the sandbox makes them qualified to do EP work. Also most retired LE guys are just a guy with a gun. A visible armed force is also a deterrent for potential guys like we saw in the video.

My second thought was this. What if every member of the board and those in attendance were lawfully carrying concealed weapons.... The nut job made his intentions clear by drawing his gun. The armed citizens respond by drawing their weapons and asking for compliance — "drop  your weapon".. When he doesn't and those who believe if they don't act he will kill or severely injure someone...(in fear for their safety and others) Use their weapons to gain compliance through accurate gunfire.... It might look like a firing squad, but they would all be justified... My question is this, would the "MEDIA" give it proper coverage or would they all be deemed gun crazy folks who shot the poor mentally disturbed ex-con who couldn't legally possess the firearm in the first place...

I don't leave the house with out at least one gun on me at all times.. Most times I have two...Paranoid — nope... I'm a prepared sheep dog.
Sammy Reese
Editor, FMG Special Editions
Carry Options Editor, American Handgunner
One other thing this incident highlights is the need for hardcore, practical empty-hand and improvised-weapon skills. Although the woman with the purse was courageous in her efforts, had she applied the same spirIt with better weapons and tactics, she could have been successful. We also need to train to "take the cheap shot" and not fight fair. Grabbing his head from behind, fingers deep in the eyes, while stomping the back of the knee would turn the tables quickly. "Tackling" and "subduing," as so often quoted in the press, are poor tactics.

Stay safe,

Mike Janich
Somewhere I heard the term "When Then Thinking." Basically it means the time to act is when the first chance comes into play or when you first think of it. The men saw the female coming, they saw what she was going to do, they had a split second to act when she acted. The closest male may have got shot but it looks like they could have over powered him and saved the rest of their lives.

Thanks for sending the video, I was going to go in search of it.

Larry Johns NPD


Anonymous said...

Great comments from knowledgeable people.

I briefly looked at the video, but reading some of the text online shows this is another failure of gun control. The perpetrator, as I read it, was a felon on probation. If the "system" worked, he should not have been able to get a gun.

This points out exactly what many said -you need to have your own means of protection.

Hope to see you at SHOT.

Take care.


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Not Available said...

I noticed the security man (John?) was at the ready. The super told him to stay out. John then ask, "is that a real gun".

Should he have obeyed the super's command or taken a shot at the guy?

Gunmart said...

I left a full comment over at the DRTV post, but this was a great read.

nj_larry said...

This is an article today about the other side of the coin. Where a town that was fed up with dealing with a mad man took up arms in furtherance of real justice. Both the school board shooter and this town broke the law. Just goes to show that right and wrong don't necessarily align with the law. But you decide.

Lawrence said...

This shooter wanted to be killed. that is clear.

Anonymous said...

when he was spraying the V on the wall would have been the time that almost subconciously I would have heard:

"Are you ready?!"


and then when he produced the gun:


Kansas Scout said...

Thank God the guy was a complete incompetent jackass. First thing to mind is, Darwin was right.
Having once been attacked at a mental health center by a drunk off the street while being in a completely unprepared mental state, I have experienced the passive response these folks displayed. Of course that was 25 yrs ago and I moved well beyond that but it does happen.
Keeping a defensive state of mind is the only realistic answer. Carrying a gun onto school property carries a heavy penalty that I am not ready to bear.

Anonymous said...

How about OC SPRAY.

Heck, you can even tote that legally in most pseudo-"gun free" zones!

I don't recall any of MB's thoughtful respondents mentioning OC.

Against an only semi-motivated aggressor like this freak, wouldn't it have had a decent chance of success? Let's imagine the purse-smack lady had one of these in her purse:


Anonymous said...

was the shooter guy on some type of medication or otherwise drugged up?

it seemed to me that his affect was addition to being a lousy shot.

RVN11B said...

I was going to enter some comments yesterday but did not do so. Damned near every comment I read echoed my sentiments concerning this situation.

I have just finished reading your cap on the shooting scenario and cannot for the life of me add anything to it.

In short I totally agree with your conclusions.

Good job.

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