Armchair Quarterbacks & The Florida School Shooting

Armchair Quarterbacks & The Florida School Shooting

So, you think you know what you would do in a school shooting? You think that Sheriff should have ran into that Florida school without thinking right? Yeah? You’d do some kinda John Mcclane shit from the original Die Hard? Let me tell you why you have no idea what you would do. There’s a lot more to tactically assaulting a building than what you think.

Before I go on, let me tell you, I don’t know shit. The more I learn, the less I feel like I know for sure (see full disclosure at the end of this article). That said, I have learned a few things about guns, and terrorism over time. Also, when the Florida school shooting happened, I happened to be in the middle of reading a book called Terror at Beslan about the Chechen terrorists who took over a school in North Ossetia (part of Russian Federation). It was a shitshow with 1000+ kids taken hostage, 300+ people dead, hundreds of children, and like 800 wounded. A..complete…shit show. Worse, it could happen in America – but I digress.

If you think the Sheriff was a total pussy and should have ran in guns a blazing, let’s start with some background information to frame this question right.

Tactics for Assaulting Buildings with Terrorists and Active Shooters

First, there are two main tactics for assaulting buildings. While in the West, we have these things called civil liberties, the Russians see no need for that. They are a bit more stoic, pragmatic, and nihilistic.

  1. Western special forces and law enforcement generally follow a philosophy which can be summed up with the phrase, “speed, surprise and violence of action” – you will find that this language is common in any discussion of tactics. Generally, it means, train like a mother fucker so that a whole team of law enforcement or special operators can move into a building quickly, organized and overwhelm the enemy. This will minimize casualties for civilians and operators, minimize the time to take control, and maximize casualties of the terrorists.
  2. The Russians generally follow the above philosophy as well, but they add some stuff that doesn’t sit well with Westerners. First, they LOVE gas. They will use paralysis gas, sleep gas, all kinds of gas. Even when terrorists have gas masks, it knocks out all of the hostages so that they can’t be used as human shields, nor get in the way of friendly fire. Second, they will shoot through hostages. The Russians generally consider you “already fucked” once you have been taken hostage. If you survive, great, but if not it’s because you were already dead anyway. Third, they like to take the terrorist’s families hostage and use them as bargaining pieces. Kinda interesting.

What The Sheriff’s Deputy Probably Knew and Didn’t Know

Now let’s move on to some shit the Sheriff might have been thinking. I don’t know for sure, but it’s reasonable to think that almost any law enforcement officer would know this stuff…

  1. An AR15 is loud as fuck. People know when somebody is shooting an AR15 or AK47 (which is even louder). This gives you an indication of what you are facing if you hear one firing in a building.
  2. AR15s are WAY, WAY, WAY more accurate than pistols. They are frighteningly more accurate. The first time I ever fired one, I could hit hard drives (like 3″ X 5″) from like 100 yards away – without my reading glasses on. They are fucking terrifyingly accurate.
  3. AR15s will shoot through anything in a school, ANYTHING. There is nothing that would provide cover, so you have to move, fire, move, which most average cops don’t know how to do very well. Here’s a video of an AR firing through cinder blocks – this isn’t like the movies where you duck around the corner and you are fine.
  4. It’s possible he had no idea who was shooting. Could have been a trained terrorist (yes, they are well trained, read Terror at Beslan and you will never feel safe again)
  5. It’s possible he had no idea how many shooters there were
  6. It’s possible he had no idea if there were hostages
  7. It’s possible he had no idea if there were bombs
  8. It’s possible he had no idea about anything
  9. It’s possible he was following local department policy on SOLO ENTRY AND “CONTACT TEAMS” which are all over the map depending on police force

Facts

  • If he ran in by himself, he would not be following best practice for assaulting a building
  • He waited 4 minutes
  • The investigation still isn’t complete so we don’t know a lot yet
  • If he would have ran in, and shot a kid by mistake he would be fucked
  • If he ran in, and got shot to death, he would be fucked
  • If he ran in and the shooter had a kid hostage, he would be fucked
  • He didn’t received any clear commands that we know of
  • The shooter is responsible for killing the kids – he is not

The Actual Solution

After reading Terror at Beslan, I have realized that nobody in the USA is talking about the real solutions.

  • More guns is not the answer. Arming teachers is retarded. The average cop qualifies once a year and fires like 60 rounds. That’s not enough, and they don’t do more because it’s expensive. No teacher is going to have the time/money to train enough. Furthermore, it’s tactically useless in like 99.9% of all scenarios. In Terror at Beslan, there was an armed guard, and an armed police officer. Both were taken hostage by terrorists, gave up their weapons, and were summarily executed because they could be a danger later. If you are telling me that a teacher wouldn’t give up in a heartbeat if given the “hostage” choice, you are crazy. As an aside, never take the hostage option, it’s a ruse. Always fight to the death. My two cents.
  • Less guns is not the answer either. Banning guns only takes them away from normal people. The Charlie Hebdo Attack and the Bataclan Attack happened in France where people can’t easily have guns. Taking guns away does not stop terrorists or crazy people (who are almost always smart). Technically, we could probably stop stupid, crazy people by taking guns away, but I don’t think it would help enough that it’s worth the political battle.
  • The Russians learned from the Beslan attack. The citizens had a shitload of weapons, including rocket launchers and machine guns, but they still didn’t assault the school (but armchair quarterbacks think the Sheriff’s Deputy should have with a 9mm pistol). The terrorists did, however, gather intelligence on the school for weeks, maybe months.
  • So, the main thing we can do is wake the fuck up, and keep our eyes open. Terrorist typically build intelligence, just like special forces. This is just like child molesters, so when you see the crazy looking dude in the white van sitting outside the school, say something!!!
  • Active shooters are similar but different. But, they usually post stuff on social media, so again if you see something, say something!!!
  • I think the gun restraining order is a good happy medium, it adheres to every fact we know about active shooters and terrorists. Terrorists probably don’t buy all of their weapons, but they will often give away telltale signs while gathering intelligence. Also, following the money stream is useful, which the FBI already does.

Enough Armchair Quarterbacking

I get that people think things should be a certain way, but they’re not. They’re just not. There are practical constraints to the possible solutions.

  • Cops ought to train to fire while moving, have body armor, practice with ARs, and be physically fit.
  • In reality, they qualify once a year, firing 60ish rounds and many are overweight and out of shape
  • We always want what ought to be vs. what is
  • We need to live in reality vs. fantasy
  • We need to think about how to fix things vs. get mad and rant

Full Disclosure on My Background

  • 42 year old, white male – 168 lbs 5’9″
  • College degree in Four Field Anthropology. Minor in Computer Science. Took a special topics 300/400 level sociology class on terrorism after 9/11.
  • Market and sell free software for a living
  • Have shot AR15s and plenty of handguns, semi-automatic and revolvers
  • Train at gun range once per quarter – typically fire 200 rounds – do drills like a martial art
  • Train 4-7 times per week – weight training, jump rope, rowing, running in weight vests, basically nutty
  • Personal records: 360 lbs X 3 deadlift, 315 lbs X 4 squat, 205 lbs X 2 bench, 130 lbs X 1 overhead press. No other exercises matter.
  • Grew up very poor, have been in plenty of physical fights
  • Trained in high school in a private fight club – fought every day – every day – boxing gloves, no kicking in the privates, no gouging eyes, no other rules – lost plenty – won plenty
  • Have been kicked in the head – three times to be exact – same fight – it sucked
  • I don’t believe more guns are the answer, I don’t believe less guns are the answer either
  • Radically neutral politically, always looking for the logical fallacies on both sides (I hate Libertarians too)
  • I have never been in the military, been a law enforcement officer, or shot at anybody, but I have empathy for these jobs….

2 Comments

  1. This is an interesting analysis of the overall topic, and I applaud you for taking the time to put this down in words and out to the public for review. However, I think some clarification on the police tactics can shed some light on what has become the universally accepted active-shooter/mass killer response – and how only part of the Florida response was consistent.

    A concept that has not been identified here is the Priority of Life. In law enforcement there is a hierarchy on who to protect:
    1. Hostages/Victims in proximity to criminal (in the highest level of danger)
    2. Innocent bystanders (also in danger, but not as high as #1)
    3. Police and other first responders
    4. Suspects/Subjects (Criminals/Mentally ill posing danger to self or others).

    The “Speed, Surprise, and Violence of Action” training philosophy was (emphasis on “was”) primarily taught in conjunction with high-risk, no-knock search warrants. Those actions were well planned in advance, ensured an adequate number of police personnel (SWAT), and were based upon the belief police could surprise criminals long enough with a dynamic entry to enter, flood a structure, and control the occupants. Sometimes this worked very well. Other times it failed miserably (check out Phoenix SWAT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQvDn9MEtNo&t=8s). The National Tactical Officers Association, IACP, and many other law enforcement groups have not recommended dynamic entry methods (except for hostage rescue) for almost 20 years. Interestingly about the time no-knock search warrants almost completely went away.

    Speed, surprise, and violence of action in someways does carry over to active-shooter/mass killer incidents. Ever since Columbine in 1999 the standard procedure is for the first officer(s) on scene to go immediately into the shooting area, hunt for the shooters, and isolate/eliminate the threat. This training philosophy recognizes seconds count, and responders cannot wait for back-up or SWAT teams to respond. The SRO in Florida had no business waiting outside and failed his sworn duty and mission. Even with reports the staff ordered deputies to stay outside if they didn’t have body cameras, their failure to act cost lives – and is unacceptable in the police profession. Sadly, those deputies thought about jobs (firing for not obeying commands) over children’s lives. The Sheriff and his command staff should be held accountable and removed from office.

    Directly to your points on the Deputy’s lack of action:

    1. Yes AR-15’s are loud – still have to stop the killing.
    2. Yes AR-15’s are more accurate than pistols – still have to stop the killing.
    3. Yes an AR-15 “can” penetrate cinder blocks and other material, but most shooters only shoot at what they see/know – still have to stop the killing.
    4. DOES NOT MATTER. If hostages or innocent civilians are being killed law enforcement goes in and does their best to stop it.
    5. Might not have known how many shooters – DOES NOT MATTER. Law enforcement goes towards the threat to isolate/eliminate the threat regardless of number. Proper tactics play a part in the ability to be successful in this area.
    6. Did not know if hostages – DOES NOT MATTER. Point is to get in and stop the killing. If you run into a hostage situation you work that problem (but save the others who are able to get away now because of your actions).
    7. Didn’t know if bombs – never do, go in and stop the killing.
    8. No idea about anything – not a chance, like you said AR-15 rifle fire is loud, followed by screaming and panic, he knew and failed to act.
    9. Following local orders – sounds accurate, but against nationally accepted practices. Hearing shots, hearing screams, and not acting … should not be in law enforcement.

    On the FACTS you mention:
    1. If he ran in he’d be violating best practices on assaulting a building – WRONG, active-shooter/mass killer training for decades has been for first officer to go in and try to stop the threat. If more than 1 officer arrive about the same time, then sure go in with 2 (or more guns), but do not wait – stop the killing.
    2. If he ran in and shot the wrong kid – officers are taught to identify the threat, if he shot a kid bearing no action/resemblance to a threat that is on him. 4 Cardinal Rules of Firearm Safety – know your target and beyond.
    3. If he ran in and got shot to death – a very real possibility, but historical events show the first encounter with actively hunting armed law enforcement most often results in the killer fleeing or committing suicide.
    4. If he ran in and found a kid hostage – very real possibility, and possibly one that ends in that child’s tragic death. However, stopping all of the other killings would be universally praised, and there is a chance the isolation of the killer could bring about a negotiation that ends better.
    5. He didn’t receive any clear commands – ancient thought-process. Modern law enforcement is trained to act upon events in their presence, especially threats to the public or the officer. No time to wait for commands, should have been trained and mentally prepared way before that day.
    6. The shooter is responsible for the killing, not the deputy – ABSOLUTELY CORRECT! and sadly, partially wrong. The killer is the killer and should face justice. However, the deputy had a sworn duty to act, and did not, and more people died because of that inaction. The deputy (and other deputies it appears) that did not move in to engage, must bear the terrible responsibility for his (their) inaction. Thankfully, the Coral Springs Police (on and off-duty) did not fail at their sworn duties.

    Your comment, “Cops ought to train to fire while moving, have body armor, practice with ARs, and be physically fit,” is 100% spot on and I applaud you for calling for this level or preparation. Sadly, budgets and range availability effect most departments. I wish more administrators would realize dry fire, and practice (even without shooting) is cheap and tremendously effective.

    21 year police officer/supervisor, 16 year SWAT officer/team leader.

  2. Aaron, thanks for the feedback. I genuinely appreciate it – and thank you for your service. I genuinely appreciate it. Coincidentally, I did end up finding the best practices guide for active shooter situations after I wrote this article. I am going to post the link here for others. I have come around “a bit” and your arguments are fairly compelling – but, I still hold to my premise that people whine a lot about what “ought” to be vs. “what is”…

    That said, I have a question for you, because you will know better than me. In the “The Police Response to Active Shooter Incidents” (link above) document from the Police Executive Research Forum, it is my understanding that each police force has their own default rules on active shoot situations. I get your argument though – no matter what that document says – there is an “unspoken” rule that you go in.

    I am really torn – here’s why. I just finished a pretty good book called Terror at Beslan about the 1000+ child hostages that were taken at a Russian school. It ended up that like 250ish kids died, 85 terrorists died, and 17 Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) died. Long story short – it was a shit show. I had tears at multiple times while reading it. Super sad story – and worse – John Gidduck thinks it could happen here, in the US. And, I don’t see a single piece of evidence suggesting that he is wrong.

    That’s what was going through my mind while the media was going nuts on that Sheriff’s deputy…. Would love your thoughts…

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