By Sandy Wall

I t was a morning not unlik...
continue down the hall. These officers know                           gymnasium. The suspect, who is preoccupied          ...
I recently had the privilege of attending         ABOUT THE AUTHOR                                     instructor he is ce...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5

First Responder To A Homicide In Progress


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

First Responder To A Homicide In Progress

  1. 1. THE FIRST RESPONDER TO A HOMICIDE IN PROGRESS: DEFINITELY NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL By Sandy Wall I t was a morning not unlike any other morn- ing. Summer-like weather had come early to the area and with only two weeks left in the no time to think, only to react. Luckily, this school school year, the air was filled with anticipation. had done its homework. Seniors, with their whole lives ahead of them, They have trained all of could hardly concentrate on their studies for their employees in thinking of graduation night. Teachers, ready emergency operations. for their well-deserved summer vacations, Even the receptionist, were just trying to wrap up their courses and who took the initial call, call it a year. refers to her training as On this particular morning everything she broadcasts a cam- seemed to be going just as planned. The class- pus-wide code word es were running right on time. The school had over the intercom sys- a full complement of students, faculty and tem. This code word staff. No one, other than the cowardly perpe- automatically starts a trator(s), could have known what was to series of pre-assigned come. The campus police officers had report- responses from every ed to work and gone about their duties just employee throughout First responder confronts trouble in a gymnasium. like any other day. Across town, local law the campus. She then enforcement officers had no idea that this day immediately calls 911 and gets help rolling her unthinkable is happening and everyone has an would be their “test day” – the day that every way. She stays on the phone with the dispatcher important part to play. cop trains for and hopes will never come. Are and continually updates the responding units. they ready? Have they prepared themselves? As they have been trained, all of the teach- Are they as good as they can be? Lives will 1032 HOURS ers with students in their classrooms go into The first line of defense, the campus offi- hang in the balance as we play out this ficti- lockdown mode. They use the intercom sys- tious tale of death, destruction, heroics, and cer, now arrives in the cafeteria only to find the tem not only to report their status, but also as suspect(s) are no longer there and a sight that human sacrifice. a means to receive updated information on will haunt these officers for years to come. The what their next course of action should be. very students they have watched grow into Those teachers who were unfortunate enough young adults have fallen victim to a wrath of 1030 HOURS to be caught near the crisis are doing their best violence that you would not wish on your Loud noises pierce the morning calm, to usher students away from harm. worst enemy. The perpetrator(s) has moved on echoing through the halls near the school’s Building engineers and janitors report to and left a path of destruction in his wake. The cafeteria. The office receptionist receives a call pre-assigned locations to assist the responding sound of distance gunshots push the level of from a teacher in the cafeteria who is yelling, units with information about the school stress even higher as these officers race toward “Get the police in here right now!” Multiple buildings and whatever logistical support they the threat. They want to help the pleading vic- gunshots can be heard in the background and can provide. All other available staff report to tims they pass in the hall but the sound of the the teacher is now silent. The phone line is still the parking lot to help direct responding units continuing carnage drives them on. They open and the receptionist can hear students toward the crisis and direct buses into position must stop the killing and stop it now. screaming and more gunshots. She immedi- for evacuation. These are just some of the ately uses the school hand held radio system to tasks that are taking place simultaneously. It notify campus officers who begin responding has only been seconds since the first shots were 1034 HOURS directly the cafeteria. heard, but due to the pre-planning, training, Their advance is suddenly stopped when With minds racing, the campus officers and testing of these procedures, a coordinated they are engaged with gunfire. A lone try to imagine what could be wrong. The response is developing. It was a system that assailant, barricaded at the end of the hallway, closest officer can hear distant gunshots as he everyone seemed to take lightly at the time but has spotted them and has them pinned down. runs across campus. He can only rely on his rehearsed nevertheless. Now those precious The suspect’s assault rifle provides him with instincts and training at this point. There is few rehearsals are cherished like gold. The superior firepower and it would be suicide to 38 THE TACTICAL EDGE • SPRING 2001
  2. 2. continue down the hall. These officers know gymnasium. The suspect, who is preoccupied moment. What would you do? You have that it would accomplish nothing to become with keeping the campus police at bay, does the luxury of thinking it through in a calm victims themselves. not notice their approach. and controlled environment. These offi- cers did not. Would you respond correct- ly? Are you prepared for such an event? As 1035 HOURS 1037 HOURS with the Columbine responders, your The office receptionist radios the campus As the local police officers close on the actions will be critiqued and criticized. officers and advises them that local police offi- location of the suspect, the sounds of gunfire Many of your critics will not have enough cers are arriving. The campus officer has no confirm what they believe to be happening. information to formulate an educated way of communicating directly to responding Normally, the sounds of gunfire at a school opinion, but they will, nonetheless. Most police so he must relay his message through would be frightening, but in a twisted irony of them would not have performed as well the secretary. “Tell them we have the suspect these officers can use it to their advantage. The as you would, but they will still make judg- located in the hallway near the science wing! He gunshots tell them many things, such as it ments. has us pinned down! Tell them to approach from sounds like an assault rifle, the suspect’s the gymnasium side! He has an assault rifle!” In approximate location, and that he is obviously This fictional tale that we have just expe- the background the secretary can hear the preoccupied, therefore not waiting in ambush. rienced, if only in our imagination, is very gunshots. In a panic-stricken voice she tells possible. It is not a matter of if, but rather the police dispatcher, who is still on the when. We could stick our heads in the sand phone, to advise their officers of the latest HAVE THEY ASSUMED TOO and hope that it doesn’t happen here, but that information. MUCH? would be sacrificing our most precious • Is there another suspect? resource – our children. Our role as parents, police officers and community leaders man- • If there is a second suspect, is he waiting in 1036 HOURS ambush? date that we take any and all measures to be Luckily these responding local officers prepared. Have you taken these measures? have conducted training operations at this • If there is only one suspect, should the Are you prepared? Is your department pre- school in the past and they are very familiar responding officers turn their attention pared? If your answers were not a resounding with the campus layout. They have immedi- toward evacuating the wounded, now that YES to each of these questions, then maybe ately orientated themselves with the latest he is pinned down? you should consider some of the training pro- information and start running toward the • Put yourself in their shoes for just a grams that are available. WHEN THE SITUATION IS HIGH RISK, CHOOSE THE SOLUTIONS THAT AREN ’ T. Defense Technology and Federal Laboratories have come together to offer a full group of products offering specialized solutions for situations ranging from indoor chemical deployment to dynamic energy. And each one is the most proven product of its kind. So choose the company that so many tactical teams rely upon. Depend on Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories. TA C T I C A L D E P L O Y M E N T Th e se spe ci a l i zed devi ces and mu n i tions are d e s i gn ed to be dep oyed by tactical teams d r- l u TOLL-FREE: (800) 428-0588 • FAX: (800) 432-7019 Proud sponsor of ing high - risk wa rra n t s ,h o s t a ge re scues and ba rri c a d ed - su bje ct situ a ti o n s . w w w. defen s e - tech n o l ogy. com w w w. federa ll a bora tori e s . com CIRCLE 13 THE TACTICAL EDGE • SPRING 2001 39
  3. 3. I recently had the privilege of attending ABOUT THE AUTHOR instructor he is certified in most tactical fields and one of Col. Dave Grossman’s courses. He is a Sandy Wall is a 24-year vet- has instructed throughout Texas for the TTPOA, gifted speaker and a recognized authority on eran of the Houston PD. He has as well as across the nation and in Europe. this subject. He points out that in most of served 16 years as a member of He is a two-term past president of the Texas these incidents, perpetrators have proven to be the SWAT team. He has been Tactical Police Officers Association and currently cowards. In almost every documented case the an entry team leader for the past serves on the training advisory board. In 1999 he shooter, when confronted by police or an 10 years. He has received three won the TTPOA’s statewide “Super SWAT” authority figure, has surrendered or commit- chief commendations, one competition. In January 2000, he was awarded ted suicide. They are rarely prepared to shoot mayor’s service award, and received the 1993 the TTPOA’s first annual “Excellence Award.” it out to the end. Houston Police “Officer of the Year” award. As an To my knowledge, American public schools have not suffered a student death due to fire in modern times, yet we still have regu- larly scheduled fire drills in every school. In contrast, we have had numerous deaths to “active shooter” incidents in recent years but many schools have little or no training in this subject. I am not suggesting that we conduct “force on force” scenarios with our school chil- dren, but the time has come to face our prob- lems. We must be bold, proactive, and pre- pared for whatever lies ahead. I have had the privilege of instructing many of the Texas Tactical Police Officers Association’s courses on “first responder training.” I urge you to compare your training to just some of the issues that our curriculum covers. • Force on force “realistic” scenarios • Cover and concealment skills • Evacuation procedures and victim rescue techniques • Tactical communications skills • Team movement and direct to threat tech- niques • Weapons manipulations and searching techniques As an instructor I have seen alarming inad- equacies throughout our state. In most cases, I have found very capable officers with little or no training. Our course critiques are a testa- ment to this. If your training measures up, bully for you. If it doesn’t, don’t wait, do it now, revamp your training program and get it up to speed. If you do not have the expertise within your department, don’t be afraid to ask for help, but make sure your instructors have practical experience in the field. All of our instructors have been on the front lines and most still are. In the dawn of the new millennium what will happen next? Was Columbine a fluke? Or was it an omen of what is to come. Only time will tell. However, we do know that we must be prepared to protect and serve, no matter what the threat. s 40 THE TACTICAL EDGE • SPRING 2001