A deadly active shooter situation typically lasts about 10 to15 minutes. In most cases, the attacker acts alone. And the assailant is likely suicidal and possibly suffering from some sort of mental illness.
These are some of the highlights Lt. Bryant Arrington in charge of special operations for the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office shared with folks attending Tuesday’s Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office’s Violence in the Workplace Active Shooter training.
With more than 30 years of law enforcement experience in Northern Virginia, Arrington spent about three hours communicating his knowledge to local dispatchers at the Culpeper County Public Safety Communications Center about how first responders should react to varying emergencies.
A few weeks ago, Arrington started holding seminars for area school officials, local law enforcement and county personnel, informing them about how first responders handle color codes, incident scene management and dispatch signals.
“God forbid an active shooter enters any business or school, [if so] we want the public to know that we are prepared and we have a plan in place to deal with that threat,” Arrington promised.
He also gave the dispatchers a few pointers if they ever encounter an active shooter.
“I don’t want you to run. You’re a target if you do,” Arrington warned. “If you can go into a fetal position or curl up into a ball then you are no threat to them. Make yourself small. They have specific people in mind and everybody else is collateral damage. So make yourselves invisible.”
Arrington also noted that the attacker probably won’t take any hostages and won’t want to negotiate with law enforcement.
“These people have a mission and they are coming in for a purpose,” cautioned Arrington.
To help prevent future school tragedies, Arrington recommends installing buzzer systems and security cameras at all entryways.
“I [also] want those doors locked. This is something that has to happen,” Arrington asserted, referring to classroom doors. “If we go by a door and it is closed then it’s locked. Imagine if we had to go in and clear every single room…it would take us forever. We are going to clear bathrooms and closets because we know those are not secured.”
Arrington said the locked classroom doors ‘buys time’ for the victims until law enforcement arrives.
Also during Tuesday’s lengthy training session, Arrington also showed disturbing surveillance footage of the deadly Columbine High School shooting in Colorado where two students killed 12 peers, a teacher and wounded 24 other students before committing suicide on April 20, 1999.
“Although the police department there was really beat up over the way they responded, it taught us so much,” Arrington said. “They had five SWAT teams, so they had to wait and wait and wait because that was protocol because the first responders as far as the patrol officers wasn’t trained. The public thinks that they are trained in all different kinds of tactics but they are not. So that’s what we are trying to do now.”
Referring to the latest school tragedy in Newtown, Conn. at Sandy Hook Elementary School where a lone gunman shot and killed 20 elementary school students and six adults on Dec. 14, a visibly emotional Arrington said, “Kids are my kryptonite.”
“That’s probably all of our weak spot right there when we have to go to a call dealing with kids,” said the longtime law enforcement officer, who displayed a tough exterior during the majority of his presentation until he mentioned children. “It’s very, very difficult.”
First line of defense
Once dispatchers receive an emergency call, Arrington said first responders rely heavily on the information they provide, describing it as dynamic intelligence.
“Dynamic intelligence is real time information such as the location of gunfire or screaming in a certain part of a building,” Arrington explained. “It’s what is happening right then and there.
For first responders, Arrington suggested that, “When communications gives you the call start thinking about the approach. Think tactics as you’re driving there.”
A snippet of school shootings:
July 26, 1764 – earliest known U.S. school shooting near Greencastle, Pa. where four Lenape American Indians entered a school and shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown and nine or 10 students
Nov. 2, 1853 – a student shoots schoolmaster in Louisville, Ky. as revenge for what he believed was excessive punishment against his brother
June 23, 1871 – A rejected suitor shoots and kills teacher Anna Dwight in front of her students in Lagrange, Ind.
March 9, 1873 – A schoolmaster shoots teacher Miss Shockey in Salisbury, Md. and commits suicide
Oct. 10, 1906 – Harry Smith shoots and kills a teacher in front of 60 students in Cleveland, Ohio
May 18, 1927 – school treasurer Andrew Kehoe kills his wife before setting off a bomb in the school’s basement, killing 38 people mainly children. Kehoe then detonates a bomb in his vehicle killing himself and four others. This is possibly the first school suicide bombing
Jan. 5, 1972 – a fifth-grade teacher was shot and killed by her estranged husband in front of her students
Dec. 16, 1988 – a student opens fire at Atlantic Shores Christian School, killing a teacher and wounding another
Source: Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bryant Arrington