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Orlando: The Problems Police Responders Face with Active Shooters and How People can Help

We know that it took about six minutes for police to mount an effective armed response to the Orlando Islamic murderer.  The off duty officer/armed door security had been factored in by the jihadi, and had been driven off or otherwise neutralized outside the bar at the beginning of the incident.  The Jihadi was a trained security professional.

There is growing criticism of the responding officers’ actions.  It is easy to make heroic decisions after the fact, when weeks have passed and we have a better idea of what happened.  Officers arriving at the scene did not have that information.  Responding officers almost always face numerous profound difficulties.

Consider what the officers do not know when they arrive on the scene of an active shooter.

They do not know how many shooters they may be facing.

They do not know how many have been killed or wounded.

They do not know the motivation of the shooter.

They do not know the location of the shooter.

After the fact, hours or weeks or months later, we know all those things, or have a pretty good idea about them.  Officers responding in the first few minutes do not.

In the Orlando case, officers arrived very quickly, in about 2 minutes.  They formed up, broke a window, and entered the Pulse four minutes after that. Shooting was still going on.  They searched the main dance floor and secured it.  There were lots of bodies and people down.  It was pretty dark.  They determined that the murderer was in the bathroom area.  The shooting stopped.   This was before there was any communication with the murderer.

Here is the timeline up to the time the murderer called 911.  From dailymail.co.uk:

2:02am – Sunday, June 12 – Suspect Omar Mateen tries to enter Pulse nightclub armed with assault rifle and and handgun and is spotted by a security guard.

The two exchange fire outside the club – but Mateen manages to enter the nightclub, holding 320 people, while still firing.
First 911 call received by Orlando Police Department.

2:04am – First police officers, including Brandon Cornwell, arrive at the scene.

2:08am – FBI says officers entered the club and ‘engaged’ the shooter.

2:09am – Pulse nightclub posts a message to their Facebook desperately telling those inside ‘Everyone get out of pulse and keep running’.

2:35am – Mateen calls 911 and pledges allegiance to ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Police officer Brandon Cornwell has stated that the officers did not fire at the murderer, or he at them, up to that point.From washingtonpost.com:

Officer Brandon Cornwell, 25, said the ad-hoc team spent the first seconds in the dimly lit club “trying to locate exactly where the shooter was — we kept hearing people scream and shots fired.”

He and the other officers followed the sounds to the bathroom area, where Mateen was now holed up. But instead of entering the bathroom, the officers aimed their assault rifles toward the area and were told by commanders to hold their position as the sounds of gunfire stopped, according to Cornwell. And so they waited “15 or 20 minutes — could’ve been longer” — until the SWAT team arrived, he said. Cornwell never saw Mateen.

The officers contacted their superiors. They were told to wait for SWAT. They had isolated the shooter and had contained the situation. They did not know if the shooter was alive or dead. They did not know if there were victims in the bathrooms or not. They did not know if there were hostages. They did not know if the murderer had booby trapped the bathrooms.
It is easy for people to say they would have pushed on into the bathrooms and confronted and stopped the murderer.  It is easy for people to say things like that when they were not there, in the confusion, uncertainty and terror of the moment.

We see, again and again, the difficulty of relying on a police response to stop these sort of events.  In Orlando, the police responded very quickly.  But there was no effective armed response for six minutes.  Most of the casualties probably happened in those first minutes.

What was needed was someone inside the situation. Someone who could respond quicker.  Someone who was armed. Many people had time to access their cell phones and contact people outside. It may take seconds for a person in the situation to determine what is happening. It usually takes less than a minute. A defensive gun is easier to access and operate than a cell phone.

The murderers who plan these attacks go to considerable trouble to insure that their victims are unarmed.  When there is an armed person inside the event, the body count seldom reaches the levels to be counted as a mass killing.

The New Life Church shooting has a number of similarities to the Orlando shooting.  The shooting started outside, as it did in Orlando.  The shooter was armed with a rifle and pistol, as was the Orlando murderer.  He had already started shooting at people, as had the Orlando killer. Both events were religiously motivated. There were numerous unarmed people inside the church, as there were in the Orlando Pulse.

But the church had people with concealed carry permits inside, acting as volunteer security.  One of them was Jeanne  Assam. She ran toward the gunman and shot him, stopping the killing very early.  Yes, Jeanne Assam had training.  She was not an “ordinary citizen”.  But people who go to the trouble to legally carry firearms for defense of self and others are generally not “ordinary citizens”.  They are more responsible and more trained.  They are less likely to commit crimes than police officers.

An armed potential victim means a much reduced body count. It means that a mass murderer’s chance of failure is much higher.  Armed victims can and have stopped mass shooting attacks.  But most mass killing attacks are planned to happen where there are unarmed victims.

In 1999, there was an attempted mass killing at a gun shop in Santa Clara California.  The attempted murderer chose poorly.  He was shot by a gun shop employee who was carrying a .45 caliber pistol concealed on his person.  The would be mass murderer was the only person shot.  A list of other people he intended to kill was found in his vehicle.

Unarmed victims can and have stopped armed killers, but they have a more difficult task.

The Pulse club did not have any armed people inside the Club.  They did not have any volunteer security.  The primary purpose of the paid armed security was to insure that people entering the club paid, and were unarmed.  The paid security accomplished the assigned duties, until confronted with a planned attack and a determined attacker.

“Gun Free Zones” are disarmed victim zones.  The Pulse club became a trap for the hundred that were shot and killed.

Before we blame the responding police, remember, they were working under the limitations listed.  They were not there when it started.  They had to figure out what was happening from the outside. Interpol Secretary General, Ronald Noble, has recognized that reality.  From abcnews.go.com:

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said today the U.S. and the rest of the democratic world is at a security crossroads in the wake of last month’s deadly al-Shabab attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya – and suggested an answer could be in arming civilians.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Noble said there are really only two choices for protecting open societies from attacks like the one on Westgate mall where so-called “soft targets” are hit: either create secure perimeters around the locations or allow civilians to carry their own guns to protect themselves.

“Societies have to think about how they’re going to approach the problem,” Noble said. “One is to say we want an armed citizenry; you can see the reason for that. Another is to say the enclaves are so secure that in order to get into the soft target you’re going to have to pass through extraordinary security.”

Only a small number of people are willing to accept the responsibility of legally carrying firearms for defense of self and others.  Those numbers seldom reach as high as 10% of eligible adults.  That 10% can be critical in defending the other 90%.  Police are only three tenths of one percent of the population.  The 10% that are willing and capable of legally carrying weapons provide a rapid response before the police arrive. It already happens fairly frequently, whether it be a home invasion, car jacking, or attempted mass homicide.  In Florida the current number is 1,488,028 permit holders, about 9% and growing.

Legal gun carriers already stop illegal killings, they could do much more if the political class would allow them to do so.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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