Active Shooter Scenario - Identification Friend or Foe aka How NOT to Get Shot by the Police Mar 09,2018

Event Duration Dimensions ( 3 Hours )

Active Shooter Scenarios – How to NOT Get Shot by the Police (Friendly Fire is not Friendly)

Most people don't think about getting shot by mistake by the police.  Little know fact: on the same day as the Parkland HS shootings in Florida, there was another active shooter incident in Amarillo Texas where a gunman went in a church and was gang tackled by the parishioners and dis-armed.  One church goer held the weapon on the assailant and the police were called.  On arrival they entered the church and saw the citizen with a weapon and yelled for him to drop it.  While complying with the police directives, he was shot twice by the police.  You can read about it here:  Luckily he was not killed but this highlights a very real danger for any citizen in an active shooter situation – you don’t want to get shot by the police.

One of the riskiest operations for the military is called the Passage of Lines, particularly re-entering Friendly lines or linking up with another friendly unit (Link up on the Move).  Units are in or at the edge of the combat area with at least one side that is facing an enemy or uncontrolled terrain, the other unit tries to safely link up or pass through this area.  You can imagine that tensions are high, there is a lot of uncertainty and mistakes can happen.  When I was in Afghanistan I had to ocassionally go outside the FOBs by myself wearing local attire and carrying a concealed weapon.  I made sure that the perimeter security knew what I looked like, knew when and where I would be returning, and established a series of far and near recognition signals so they would NOT shoot me as I attempted to come back on the base.  I had an advantage of being able to coordinate the passage of lines in advance with the people that were going to be on the other side of the wire.   

This is not going to be the case as the police respond to an active shooter scenario.  They don’t know where the threat is or if you are a good guy or a bad guy.  The situation will not be clear to the first responders or the incident commander once he arrives.  Everyone will be amped on andrenaline and you can expect a lot of confusion and nervousness.  There are no prearranged recognition signals or passwords that distinguish good guys from bad guys.  If you are exiting the building with a weapon, you can assume they will think you are a bad guy.  If they see you holding a weapon, they are likely to jump to the conclusion that you are the shooter.  Remember in the military, friendly units are usually wearing recognizeable uniforms, they have pre-established signals or communication.  The police and an armed citizen do not have any of these aids to distinguishing a law abiding citizen from the shooter.

There are three possibilities:  you are exiting the building and passing through a police perimeter or cordon, the police are entering or moving through the building and will establish control as they sweep through it, and the last one is that you are in the room or area with the shooter.  In each of these instances, the scenario may change depending on whether you are armed or not.  Let’s look at each of them in turn.

1a - Exiting the building unarmed: 

If you are exiting the building and attempting to move to saftey and the police are either arriving on the scene or they have a perimeter outside the building, you should expect the police to want to insure that you are not the shooter before they release you.  They will likely be shouting commands and they may push you to the ground or restrain you.  Keep you hands visible at all times to the police and follow their instructions quickly and to the word.  If they direct you to an assembly area, you may be detained until they can question you.

1b - Exiting the building armed: 

Unless you are being fired at by the shooter and attempting to fire back, I recommend you put your weapon back in its concealed carry configuation or disguard it before you exit the building.  Keep your hands visible to the police and since it is required in many states, identify yourself as a CCW to the police as soon as practical.  Comply with their instructions so they can quickly determine that you are not the shooter / not a threat.

2a - Police moving through the building, you are unarmed, the shooter is not in your area:

If the police are entering the building, they will usually be moving in groups of four and trying to secure ever increasing portions of the building (room by room) and neutralize the shooter.  When they are entering a room, they are looking for any threat.  Don’t be threatening.  Avoid quick movements, keep your hands plainly visible (and empty – even an iPhone can be mistaken for a weapon, so drop anything you may have been holding), and comply with their instructions.  Again they may push you down or otherwise restrain you. Do not resist or argue, they are going to be amped up to react to a shooter – you want clearly demonstrate you are not a threat.  Add to the calmness of the situation not the chaos.

2b - Police are moving through the building, you are armed, the shooter is not in your area: 

If you are covering the door with your weapon, this could lead to a very tense situation.  They may be just as nervous as you might be.  Attempt to communicate with the police what the situation is inside the room before they enter so they know what to expect and that they have verified that they are law enforcement.  Comply with their instructions.  Expect that they will initially restrain you while they verify you are not the shooter.

3a - You are in the room with the shooter, you are unarmed: 

I am not going to cover the situation where the shooter is in control or a hostage situation in this article.  If you have already subdued the shooter, you need to communicate with the police where you are located and what they should expect when they enter the room.  Have someone call them if you can, otherwise shout out the situation to the assualt team as they approach the room entrance.  Provide as much detail on who is the shooter versus who is restraining him (or covering him).  Take direction from the police and comply with their instructions.

3b - You are in the room with the shooter, and you are armed: 

Try to position yourself so police entering the room would not be in your line of fire (the shooter should not be between the entrance and you).  As soon as the police enter, place your weapon on the ground and raise your hands with fingers spread to clearly indicate you are no longer armed.  Follow their instructions and let them secure the room.  Again, expect a lot of yelling from the police and they may push you down and restrain you.   

I cannot cover all the possible situations that a person might see in an active shooter situation.  But you should mull these over in your mind before they happen.  Please remember that these are very tense situations, the police lack perfect information and their primary concern is to secure the area / nuetralize the shooter.  Be prepared for the police to be shouting orders and getting physical.  Comply with their instructions and wait for the situation to normalize.  You don't want the police to think that you are threat by misake.  Friendly fire is never very friendly.


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