In 2014, the FBI conducted a study titled, “A study of Active Shooter Incidents in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2013.” The report revealed many valuable facts. It kept the scope of the study in context to better understand the active killer and these types of incidents.
During an active killer incident there is one characteristic that is certain, and that is somebody is actively killing or attempting to kill. One of the questions I am repeatedly asked during our active shooter training is, “How are we able to fight back against someone armed with a gun or other weapon?”
Before we address any ways to physically and mentally prepare, it is important to identify what kind of person we are traditionally up against.
First Identify How To Recognize An Active Killer
During an attack or ambush nobody should ever underestimate their adversary(s). However, active killer incidents have revealed many similar patterns when it comes to the mindset of these individuals.
Whether speaking about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold from Columbine, Sung Hei-Cho from Virginia Tech, or Adam Lanza from Sandy Hook elementary School, these killers did not have an extensive history or experiences into a life of crime and violence. Please note that the subjects just listed were amongst some of the deadliest school attackers in U.S. history. In fact, the only time the majority of these subjects ever committed criminal activity was during the planning stage where one stole supplies in preparation for their attack. These killers don’t necessarily have the experience of committing violent acts, but they have the mindset.
How School Killers Plan Their BIG Day
When school killers plan for their “big day,” their motivation is strictly revenge and power.
The Columbine killers intended to target the popular athletes because they were bullies, yet their selection of victims did not yield those results. They killed those victims who were accessible to them.
The revenge moved from isolated victims to involving everyone in their way. The power the killers feel during the incident could be described as a “high” and feeling of “immortality.”
In their mind, they control who lives, who dies, and when the killing is over.
Active Killers Prepare An Incident Long Term
They have mentally prepared for this day for over a year, if not years.
On this day they are extremely dangerous because they are willing to take lives and die for whatever cause they believe in.
- Active killers seek a location to target that provides as little risk for them and as minimal pain as possible.
- They have done their own surveillance, and research is conducted over time to ensure their route, approach, and implementation occurs with no risk to being stopped or challenged.
- These type of people seek to avoid any pain while carrying out their attack and do not want to encounter any resistance from staff, teachers, and law enforcement until they are done killing.
- These individuals are also trying to “out score” their idols and predecessors to become the next top new headline.
Through this intensive preparation processes these subjects develop a plan, but what happens if their plan gets interrupted and somebody, armed or unarmed, fights back?
It is suggested that any form of resistance can trigger the attacker to give up, flee, or commit suicide.
The 2014 FBI study also highlights that out of the 160 active shooter cases studied, “69 percent ended in five minutes or less, and nearly half ended in two minutes or less. 60 percent of the incidents ended before police arrived.” These statistics imply that these killers are potentially submitting when they hear police sirens arriving on scene. Police sirens are without a question a line of resistance and portrays the end of the incident is near for the attacker.
How You Can Apply This Concept to a Threat at Your School or Workplace
Take this same concept and apply it to a teacher, staff member, security guard, business professional, administrator or any other ordinary every day person.
On April 9, 2014, a mass stabbing incident occurred at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania where 21 people sustained injuries. The violence came to a halt when the attacker was tackled and detained by the assistant principal and another student.
This incident is one of many examples of resistance interrupting the attacker’s plan and stopping the threat.
What to Do in an Active Killer Situation
If you are involved in an active killer situation and the attacker is coming into your room, office, or area it should empower you to know that with a good plan to fight back you will win and survive because the attacker is already conditioned to submit under any resistance.
Learn in our active shooter training for schools or in our active threat response program for businesses how to prepare. Then take this new understanding of these individuals to know they are dangerous, but weak and you can beat them when you meet their violence head on with just as much or more aggression!
In conclusion, after having a clear understanding of the mental strength of the active killer and identifying the weaknesses they portray when it comes to facing resistance, people must no longer feel an incident like this is a sinking ship.
There are ways to defeat an armed assailant.
A victim who is preyed upon by these cowards should feel empowered that they created a plan that prepared them for the last resort option of fighting back.
Note: Once an individual has created a response plan and it is finalized, I suggest putting the plan into practice through continuous drilling. Frequent drills and updates to plans will lead to confidence and the feeling that one can handle this type of crisis. Please read our article on lockdown drill procedures for administrators here.
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