It seems as though we can’t let even a week go by in America before we hear about another school shooting. There are several amazing accounts of extremely heroic police officers engaging said shooters and stopping them from doing further damage.
Case in point occurred at Great Mills High School in Maryland on March 20th of this year. In that incident, the shooter, an enrolled student, approached the victim, 16 year old Jaelynn Willey, and fired one round striking her in the head. The bullet also struck another student in the leg and he was able to take cover in a classroom. Deputy Blaine Gaskill was on campus and was immediately alerted to the shooting.
Deputy Gaskill responded to the scene and immediately engaged the shooter firing one shot, striking the suspect’s weapon, while the shooter also fired simultaneously ending his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot. The gunshot wound to the head eventually proved to be fatal for Jaelynn Willey who had recently ended a relationship with the shooter. Deputy Gaskill’s swift and deliberate response certainly saved lives and prevented further carnage.
Another tremendous example of school resource officers engaging an active shooter threat was in the tragedy at Santa Fe High School in Texas. In that case the shooter concealed a Remington 870 shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver under a large coat and entered the school. As classes began, he opened fire in the art complex where he ultimately killed eight students and two teachers. Officers arrived at the building within minutes and engaged the suspect in a shootout that lasted approximately twenty five minutes. The immediate response by those heroic officers undoubtedly saved countless lives.
Both of these incidents are excellent examples of the tremendous difference a properly trained and committed school resource officer can make in the lives of the students and faculty that they strive to protect every day. They are also tragic examples of the commitment of the shooters to inflict their damage regardless of the presence of a school resource officer as well as their detachment from the value of human life.
In both of these cases as well as the in the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, the shooters KNEW there was an SRO on campus and did not care. These shooters have become so detached at the point of the attack that the thought of being engaged by the SRO does not matter. They typically plan to die as part of the event anyway. Furthermore, the amount of damage they are able to inflict prior to law enforcement arrival is immense and deserves more focus.
In the Great Mills High School incident, the elapsed time from when the first shot was fired to when the shooter was confronted by the on-campus SRO was three minutes and six seconds. In the Parkland massacre, the elapsed time from when the first shot was fired to when Deputy Peterson arrived at the building, albeit never going in, was two minutes and eleven seconds. We also now know that by the time Peterson arrived at the building, twenty four people had been shot and eleven of those were killed. In the Santa Fe High School shooting, we know that the on-campus SRO arrived at the art building, where the gunman had already killed ten people and wounded several others, within about four minutes from the time the first shot was fired. That SRO and at least two other officers engaged the gunman in a lengthy shootout before the gunman surrendered.
All three incidents are excellent examples of heroism, bravery, and determination by law enforcement. However, they are also unfortunate examples of how much damage can be inflicted in a matter of minutes by a determined gunman regardless of the law enforcement presence on campus.
When active shooter events unfold, seconds matter. Properly trained faculty and staff can absolutely respond to an event in seconds and take critical actions that not only save lives but increase survivability among those that have been injured. As a society, we need to place a tremendous amount of focus on the training of all school personnel. As evidenced by these incidents, waiting for the SRO to arrive and stop the threat is not an effective plan. Professionally trained staff can make all the difference because they can be properly equipped with a solid plan of action as well as the knowledge and ability to prevent additional damage and save lives.
When that first shot is fired, what’s your plan?
In every active shooter event, there is undoubtedly a significant time gap from when the shooting begins to the arrival of law enforcement. Our training fills that gap. For more information about our training for your personnel and how we can help your school create a safer environment, give us a call at 615-236-6484 or go to defendsystems.com.