Responding to Extreme Violence

This column is dedicated to the 13 killed and 31 wounded at Ft. Hood.

When Islamic terrorist and coward Nidal Hasan armed himself with two handguns and went on a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood he was stopped by hardworking police officer and warrior Sgt. Kimberly Munley. Shooting Hasan four times, Sgt. Munley was wounded herself. Reports have it that the police sergeant exchanged fire with the suspect, shooting and wounding him then moved to a better position. Hasan pursued her shooting her again before being felled by his wounds.

Later reports would indicate that Sgt. Munley was saved by soldiers on scene that applied tourniquets to her wounded legs which stopped a bleed-out from a severed Femoral artery.

We applaud the actions of these heroic police officers and military personnel that day as we mourn the loss of those killed in this attack.

Sgt. Munley was "a pedestrian in Hell" that day as were officers from Pittsburgh and Oakland, California earlier this year. Dealing effectively with extremely violent suspect's means you walk through the gates of Hades and reemerge victorious.

Mindset

All things be ready if our minds be so...
- Shakespeare, Henry V

To prepare to effectively counter extreme violence requires that you change your mental paradigm from public servant to hard-core street warrior. You are not in a self-defense mode or reacting; you're now aggressively taking the fight to the suspect. You are a predator, not the prey. This is not foolhardiness or recklessness; this is violently counterattacking.

Proper mindset means assumption of the risk and assuming personal responsibility for being switched on and ready and able to field your best game now.

Active shooters like Hasan must be dealt with aggressively. We cannot wait but we must have a preplanned response. Columbus, Ohio police officer James Niggemeyer aggressively responded to active shooter Nathan Gale who had killed Pantera guitarist Darrell Abbott and four others before Officer Niggemeyer shot/killed Gale. Like Sgt. Munley at Ft. Hood, Officer Niggemeyer had a proper proactive mindset coupled with sound aggressive training.

Training

In order to mount an effective counter-action, you've got to train properly now. Fights will be fought in the future but preparations must be made in the here and now.

Agencies have tactical teams because it is logistically and financially impossible to train everyone to a SWAT standard. That said, tactical training and safety equipment must filter down to all personnel. I trained one progressive agency in active shooter tactics that issued each and every member a PASGT helmet, entry vest and gave access to shotguns and carbines. All were required to attend the training program where we focused on the individual skills that worked in such scenarios as well as teaming them up with other officers. This Chief and command staff was on the ball with providing realistic, relevant tactical training for active shooter incidents.

Hyper-violent suspects have trained, prepared, armed themselves and have a plan. Take Virginia Tech killer Seung-hui Cho who outfitted himself, worked out in the gym, had a detailed plan in place and fired thousands of rounds in preparation for his attack against helpless students.

Cho like Richard Poplawski in Pittsburgh who gunned down three of that city's finest or Lovelle Mixon of Oakland who killed two motor officers after being stopped for traffic violations and then went barricade in an apartment where he killed two members of an Oakland SWAT entry team, are armed extremely violent psychopaths. To approach and deal with such suspects the same way you deal with everyday suspects is foolhardy in the extreme.

Training forms the foundation for winning against the hyper-violent in society. It is not enough to respond aggressively, you must have intense training that prepares you to be effective - not cannon fodder.

Firearms and suspect control training that is not realistic or relevant will not help prepare officers to win. Training that anticipates light to moderate resistance from a suspect will not work against a committed killer with a gun.

Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

TTPs designed for dealing with standard resisting subjects don't work in intensively violent scenarios. We must look to police tactical and military operations for the answer.

  • Hyper-violent suspects (HVS) are shooters; train to be a good combat shooter yourself with all arms.
  • Use cover and understand what constitutes cover; HVS will frequently barricade and snipe.
  • If there's not active shooting drawing you to the source, slow things down and clear rooms systematically. Be wary of ambushes.
  • Anticipate ambushes. Whether hastily made or planned out, hyper-violent suspects will frequently hide in a small room with only one approach and ambush officers as they enter the "fatal funnel." Body bunkers (portable ballistic shields) are not just for SWAT.
  • Practice working moving/move drills with partners. Only one officer moves while another covers. Also known as bounding or bounding over-watch.
  • If possible, get a police carbine or shotgun; HVS will have police equivalent or greater weaponry. Learn to use and deploy with a long gun.
  • If time allows, don't go up against a HVS by yourself.
  • Hit as hard as you can. Whether with an empty hand, baton or when shooting, hit them hard and put them down - now. This is no time for measured response or "fire two rounds and stop and assess" (the fact this training fallacy still exists is amazing) Keep shooting until they are no longer a threat - period, this is the time to knock them on their butts and take them under control.

We cannot approach the hyper-violent as we do all others. We cannot apply standard police tactics in dealing with such suspects. We must "up-arm" and aggressively pursue while still exercising sound tactics. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Oakland and now Ft. Hood have taught us some lessons. Let's prepare and train our minds and bodies for dealing with extremely violent suspects - it is our responsibility to do so.



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