In August 1, 1966, a heavily armed and mentally disturbed individual perched himself atop the University of Texas clock tower. The time was 11:35 a.m., which coincided with the beginning of the lunch hour. Over the next 96 minutes, he fired at anyone in his sights, hitting 46 and killing 17. One hour and 36 minutes of uncoordinated police response was ended by two brave street officers who engaged the suspect and brought an end to the killing spree. The officers climbed into the tower and forced the surrender decision. At that time, the suspect still had several rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition left.
Thirty-two years later, two heavily armed, mentally disturbed young men walked into a school in Colorado. The time was 11:22 a.m. on April 20, 1999, which coincided with the lunch hour at Columbine High, on cookie day. Within the next 43 minutes, they had killed 12 students, one teacher and themselves. SWAT officers entered the building at 12 p.m. and the suspects committed suicide five minutes later. Officers requested EMS assistance in the library — 3 1/2 hours after making entry.
On April 16, 2007, a mentally disturbed individual shot and killed two college students in a Virginia Tech dormitory. The time was 7:15 a.m. The suspect then spent 2 hours preparing a rambling manifesto and sending it to NBC. At 9:42 a.m., police received the first 911 call from Norris Hall. Since many officers were on campus investigating the dormitory homicides, they reached Norris Hall within 3 minutes. The suspect had chain-locked the doors, so it took officers five minutes to breach. Realizing that the officers were closing in, the suspect committed suicide. Thirty-two people died, but more could have been killed if it wasn't for the quick and heroic actions of the first responding officers.
Hundreds of active shooter scenarios have taken place over the past 42 years, and the act has evolved in a dramatic and devastating manner. These incidents outline the absolute need for establishing a comprehensive plan for active shooter situations.
It must be understood that the officers who responded in each of these situations reacted at the time as any others would have. In 1966, law enforcement had not yet created command post procedures, and there was little if any training for first responders to critical incidents. SWAT teams had not even been considered at this time and first responders were forced to wing it. In 1999, the response to active shooter and hostage situations was handled by SWAT teams. First responders at Columbine acted in the same manner as any law enforcement officer at that point in time would have. By 2007, most agencies had adopted the philosophical change to law enforcement's active shooter response. While many were still working without a plan and had not conducted much training, they understood the absolute need to respond quickly to reduce the number of casualties.
So, what has law enforcement learned from these situations, and the hundreds of others that have occurred since 1966? We know that active shooter situations have been occurring for many years, and in recent years their frequency has increased. We know that shooters plan to randomly kill as many people as possible, before police officers interfere. Their plans are well thought-out and they pick target-rich environments, at specific times, to maximize the casualty rate. They know police response will be rapid, so their tactics have evolved to include door barricades. In recent years, active shooters have explored and discussed their plans with like-minded individuals on the Internet. They encourage and feed off of each other. Their goal is to create the highest body count and their elaborate plans reflect that desire. Law enforcement has a moral obligation to create an effective controlled response to counter these horrendous situations.Preparing for acts of violence