What you really need to do is prevent something like this from happening," says Tom Turner, director of campus safety at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, of the April 16th Virginia Tech massacre.
Lt. Dan Marcou, a retired officer from the Lacrosse (Wisconsin) Police Department, agrees. He describes five opportunities for law enforcement to intervene before shots are fired in "Five phases of the of the 'Active Shooter' " found at www.patc.com.
- Fantasy stage. The suspect fantasizes about the act and the prestige it will bring. He may discuss his desires with others. If news of the fantasy reaches law enforcement, police may intervene before the gunman takes his first shot.
- Planning stage. The shooter decides "who, what, when, where and how." He may put his plans in writing or discuss them with others. If police are tipped at this time, intervention can be made prior to a shooting spree.
- Preparation stage. The suspect gathers weapons and ammo for the event. He may let friends know to steer clear of the area that day. If friends contact police, officers may be able to take action.
- Approach stage. The suspect has made his plans and has decided to act. He will be moving toward his intended location armed with the tools of death. Law enforcement contact at this point may arise in a traffic stop, citizen call or "Terry Stop." Thorough investigation can lead the gunman to jail before he squeezes the trigger.
- Implementation. Here, the shooter opens fire and this is where immediate action on law enforcement's part is required.
We can do more to prevent this final stage, Turner asserts, by identifying troubled individuals and providing them with the help they need. "We need to raise awareness that if somebody has a tendency to engage in violence, you must let law enforcement know," he stresses. Because once bullets start flying, it's too late and people will die.Editorial Advisory Board
Chief Frank Sleeter
Sun Prairie (Wisconsin) Police Department
Chief Donna Waters
Raleigh-Durham Airport Police
Chief Felix Moran
Stillanguamish Tribal Police
Chief Tom Casady
Lincoln (Nebraska) Police Department Armorer and Weapons Trainer
Sonoma County (California) Sheriff's Department
Sgt. Alan Green
Los Angeles Police Department
Sgt. Randy McPherron
Anchorage Unit of the Alaska Bureau of Investigations
Warden Evelyn Seifert
Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility (West Virginia)