Joseph Leonard

Law Enforcement teaches response to active shooters

The University of South Carolina Division of Law Enforcement and Safety taught professors and staff how to correctly respond to an on-campus active shooter in a workshop Wednesday.   

The program aims to teach professors, staff and students how to prepare for and recognize a potential problem and think safely. The Center For Teaching Excellence at the University of South Carolina put on the event.  

Major T.J. Geary opened the presentation with a graphic scene from the film Zero Day, which depicted a Columbine-like school shooting. The two shooters walked around the high school shooting students and teachers and mocking their victims.

According to Geary, the point of the showing is to allow the audience to understand the mindset of the killers. He said school shooters are often bullied, social outcasts, or write violent or dark themes in their literature or artwork.

Geary pointed to a study titled The Stopwatch Of Death, which gathered data from 44 active shooting incidents in North America from 1966 to 2007. The study claims that, on average, one person is killed every 15 seconds of a mass shooting. Also, shooters have a 50 percent suspect hit ratio and 98 percent of all shooters act alone.

The workshop taught participants the acronym ADD, which means avoid the suspect, deny the suspect entry into your area and defend yourself using whatever means necessary. It also reinforced elements of the university's emergency plan. Participants were informed that each person should have their own plan to escape active shooter situations to perform under high stress. Geary laid out different plans of action as well, depending upon the location of the active shooter.    

Geary highlighted one of his favorite responses to an active shooter, the story of an off-duty police officer at a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

“There was an off-duty police officer there eating dinner, he responded off-duty initially but he had two on-duty officers there within minutes and you know, they put the shooter down as soon as that off-duty officer engaged the shooter,” Geary said.

Geary said the fact that the off-duty officer gained the attention of the shooter allowed the remaining two officers to neutralize the shooter. 

“So it’s not always law enforcement, sometimes, you know, the person who’s there when it starts is the one who intervenes,” Geary said. 

Beth Tilley, student coordinator of International Student Services, appreciated Geary's emphasis on the importance of being aware of your surroundings and utilizing a distraction method.

“I think most people have a very different idea of what they should do versus what they would actually do,” Tilley said.

Lauren Smith, associate director of International Student Services, said she found the ADD acronym very helpful. Smith added that she believes a look at how the country handles mental health in critical to prevent violence. 

“Preventing mental health crises from happening, that’s a really big concern for this current generation,” Smith said.

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