03 Oct If You Saw Something, Would You Say Something?
Hindsight being 20/20, it is indicative of every Active Shooter event for people to come forward after the fact and report the behavior of the shooter as being suspicious.
Virginia Tech – The shooter had gone to the gun range, laid targets out on the ground, and practiced shooting while standing over them. He had walked the halls of the school, counting paces between the classrooms. He measured the distance around the door handles, which during his attack he chained shut.
Moore, OK – Employees of Vaughan Foods admitted that the man who beheaded one woman and attempted to behead a second had displayed suspicious and even hostile behavior before the attack. The FBI found his Facebook page was covered in links to ISIS and Al-Qaida sites and videos of beheadings.
San Bernardino, CA – Neighbors of the couple who killed 14 and wounded 22 at a holiday party, reported to police that they had witnessed the couple receiving crates at odd hours. They hadn’t wanted to report it because they feared being labeled racist (the shooters were Muslim).
Every one of these was a nationally publicized event. It is easy to see the connection after the fact. It is easy to see the behavior as suspicious and even tie it to the attack. But what if just one person had come forward and reported the behavior before the event? What if one person had listened to that report? Could any of these horrific events be averted?
Weseca, MN – A teenage girl watched from her kitchen window as 17-year-old John LaDue cut through her yard to a set of storage units that bordered her property. The young man opened the garage-style door, walked in, and shut it behind him. The girl, who had witnessed many people come and go from the storage units, was not accustomed to them cutting through her property or closing the storage door behind them. She called the police and reported it.
LaDue was still on site when the police arrived. What they found was an arsenal of weapons as well as a significant amount of bomb-making supplies. At his home, they found a 180-page journal and even more weapons. LaDue had been planning to kill his family, drive to a rural area, and set a large fire. While first responders were attending to the fire, LaDue would drive to his high school and using pressure cooker bombs, Molotov cocktails, and firearms, he would kill as many people as possible. His goal was to die in a shootout with SWAT. LaDue idolized the shooters of Columbine High School.
It took just one call from a girl who felt his behavior, which only slightly deviated from what she was accustomed to seeing, warranted the attention of police.
LaDue’s behavior, to anyone not accustomed to watching people come and go from the storage units, could have easily been dismissed. In your place of business, you know what is normal. You know what is out of the ordinary; whether that be a co-worker’s behavior or a stranger hanging around or something out of place. Sure you can ignore it and continue working. If it was really an issue, wouldn’t someone else have already reported it? It might very well be nothing but do you want to take that chance?
In law enforcement, we use the term “reasonable person” as a standard. It is something you should be asking yourself. “Would a reasonable person in this situation behave similarly?” This question does not take into consideration race or religion. Neither should you. Reporting behavior because of skin color is wrong but refusing to report suspicious behavior for the same reason is also wrong.
If you could prevent an Active Shooter event, wouldn’t you do everything you could to? Is it not your duty to do so? After all, the life you save may be yours or someone you love.
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