Police say vigilance is difficult in random shooting incidents

The shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and the Empire State Building in New York City can be reminders that any place can turn into a kill zone without a moment’s notice.

Police refer to the person pulling the trigger as an "active shooter," defined as a person attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area with no pattern or method to selecting victims.

"There is no way to predict when an active shooter event will occur because their actions are typically driven by emotion," said Chrissie Coon, spokeswoman for the North Las Vegas Police Department. "And people in a very volatile, emotional state of mind will make a rash decision, and that’s what typically results in an active shooter situation. So it would be almost impossible for people to predict where that might happen."

Due to immediate police response, such situations are typically over within 10 to 15 minutes, according to the Department of Homeland Security, but knowing how to survive requires a cool head to quickly identify one’s options.

The city of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security created a video titled "Run Hide Fight: Surviving an Active Shooter Event." Geared for the line-level employee, it addresses how a civilian should respond in a shooting situation. The video runs about six minutes and can be accessed at tinyurl.com/9k3glqq.

Keith Paul, Henderson Police Department spokesman, said an active shooter will put planning into his attack and that such people often feel wronged by a particular group or an employer.

If it’s a workplace shooter, and it’s known he has a beef with one particular co-worker, other employees are still at risk of being shot, he said.

"In any type of violent situation, you can never assume that you’ll be safe," Paul said. "If it’s a person shooting up a workplace … we encourage people to view the video. It provides pretty good guidance on what to do: call police, run, hide and the very last thing to do, if your life is on the line, then you need to fight."

Bella Yourgules-Scholes, crime prevention specialist for the Metropolitan Police Department, said the public has a role to play in stopping such events.

She referenced the 15-year-old who opened fire Aug. 27 in a Perry Hall, Md., school cafeteria and injured a classmate, the Colorado movie theater tragedy in July and the Aug. 13 shooting near Texas A&M University in which three people were killed.

"These lone ones (killers), we’re missing a lot of the signs, like the active shooter that happened in the movie theater … they were aware that something was really, really wrong," she said. "He was seeing a psychiatrist there. The active shooter that we had in Tucson that shot the congresswoman, the same thing. We knew something was wrong. If there are people who know what’s happening and they’re not coming forward and saying something, it’s coming down to see something, say something.

"The 15-year-old boy (in Maryland) that went to school and decided to start shooting wrote on his Facebook before he left, ‘The first day of school and the last day of my life.’ How many people saw that? But nobody said anything … you could have called law enforcement or somebody and said, ‘Hey, look, this kid just posted this.’ The worst thing that can happen is that it was false, that they were joking."

She said people need to speak up if they see something amiss, and they need to do it in a way that doesn’t endanger themselves.

"Essentially, what it comes down to is that we need the public to be our eyes and our ears," Yourgules-Scholes said.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 387-2949.

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