Any­where could be site of next at­tack

Ex­perts urge pre­pared­ness, aware­ness

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gary Martin Re­view-Jour­nal Wash­ing­ton Bureau

SUTHER­LAND SPRINGS, Texas — An alarm­ing num­ber of deaths caused by mass shoot­ings has spurred the na­tional de­bate over guns, with some ar­gu­ing for reg­u­la­tion and oth­ers point­ing to the armed good Sa­mar­i­tan who helped stop the car­nage here.

De­spite the dif­fer­ences of opin­ion, every­one agrees that the num­ber of mass shoot­ings and deaths from those in­ci­dents is up. Fur-

ther, all agree that the like­li­hood some­thing tragic could hap­pen any­where means peo­ple need to be aware and pre­pare.

Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence this week in Suther­land Springs, site of the lat­est mass shoot­ing, Christo­pher Combs, the FBI special agent in charge in San An­to­nio, said the num­ber of “ac­tive shooter” cases across the coun­try is ris­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice, a pub­lic mass shoot­ing is one in which four or more peo­ple se­lected in­dis­crim­i­nately are killed, mir­ror­ing the FBI def­i­ni­tion of mass mur­der.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity de­fines an ac­tive shooter as a per­son at­tempt­ing to kill peo­ple with no pat­tern or method to his se­lec­tion of vic­tims.

Emer­gency calls to law en­force­ment here were broad­cast on po­lice ra­dios as an ac­tive shooter sit­u­a­tion, as Devin P. Kel­ley, 26, be­gan shoot­ing out­side the First Bap­tist Church and then en­tered, me­thod­i­cally shoot­ing con­gre­gants in the house of wor­ship.

Kel­ley then was en­gaged in a shootout with a Suther­land Springs res­i­dent armed with a semi-au­to­matic ri­fle. Kel­ley dropped his weapon af­ter he was shot by the good Sa­mar­i­tan and fled as two res­i­dents gave chase in a high-speed pur­suit. Kel­ley was later found dead of an ap­par­ently self-in­flicted gun­shot wound.

His death ended the vi­o­lent or­deal, which left 26 dead and shat­tered this small South Texas com­mu­nity. It was an event that lo­cal res­i­dents said they were not pre­pared for, or even thought was pos­si­ble.

Las Ve­gas mas­sacre

The church shoot­ing oc­curred barely a month af­ter a lone gun­man with 23 ri­fles — 12 equipped to make those guns mimic fully au­to­matic weapons — used his Man­dalay Bay suite perch above to fire into a crowd of con­cert­go­ers on the Strip, killing 58 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 500.

The vic­tims were out­doors, en­joy­ing the Route 91 Har­vest coun­try western fes­ti­val, when bul­lets rained down, caus­ing con­fu­sion, fear and death.

Be­cause of the in­crease in these hor­rific mas­sacres, Combs said every­one needs to pre­pare them­selves for the even­tu­al­ity that he or she may be in­volved in one at some point.

Suther­land Springs and Las Ve­gas have noth­ing in com­mon ge­o­graph­i­cally or de­mo­graph­i­cally. One’s a small, ru­ral un­in­cor­po­rated town, and the other is an ur­ban des­ti­na­tion point for in­ter­na­tional tourism.

The ap­par­ent ran­dom­ness of other re­cent mass shoot­ings highlights the dif­fi­culty in pre­par­ing for an in­dis­crim­i­nate at­tack.

In 2016, a gun­man opened fire on a night­club in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 peo­ple in what was then the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern U.S. his­tory. The 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, shoot­ing took place in an el­e­men­tary school, and the 2012 theater shoot­ing in Aurora, Colorado, hap­pened when a mad­man opened fire dur­ing a mid­night screen­ing.

The 2007 Vir­ginia Tech mas­sacre took place on a col­lege cam­pus, where 32 peo­ple died in sev­eral lo­ca­tions.

“I think everybody, no mat­ter where you are, needs to think about this,” Combs said. “If you’re in a school, if you go to col­lege, if you’re at the movies, we should all be think­ing about ‘What are we go­ing to do if a cri­sis breaks out right here?’”

Marathon se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions

Las Ve­gas will have in­creased po­lice se­cu­rity Sun­day for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon on the Strip.

Metropoli­tan Po­lice Depart­ment Capt. Andy Walsh said the ex­tra se­cu­rity is in light of the Oct. 1 shoot­ing, as well as the truck at­tack on pedes­tri­ans in New York on Oct. 31. The num­ber of po­lice as­signed to the event is up to 350 of­fi­cers, with he­li­copter sur­veil­lance and tac­ti­cal shoot­ers.

Other se­cu­rity mea­sures have been in place in Las Ve­gas, which is ex­pe­ri­enced at stag­ing large-scale events.

Keith Tol­hurst, a re­tired FBI special special agent in Phoenix, said that, in ad­di­tion to prepa­ra­tion, pub­lic aware­ness is needed. Peo­ple need to un­der­stand “we don’t live in Kansas any­more.”

“A free so­ci­ety is vul­ner­a­ble. A pre­pared so­ci­ety knows the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and hopes for the best but pre­pares for the worst,” said Tol­hurst, a con­sul­tant and ex­pert on vi­o­lent crime, snipers and special weapons and tac­tics.

Of all the re­cent mass shoot­ings, the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre stood out to Tol­hurst be­cause the gun­man used a 32nd-floor sniper’s nest to kill his vic­tims at long range. He was not up close with his vic­tims.

The gun­man died of an ap­par­ently self-in­flicted gun­shot wound.

Tol­hurst was part of the FBI tac­ti­cal team that was called in af­ter Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, in a gro­cery store park­ing lot while meet­ing with con­stituents near Tuc­son.

Gif­fords re­cov­ered from the head wound, but six oth­ers were killed, in­clud­ing a fed­eral judge, in the mass shoot­ing. That gun­man is serv­ing a life sen­tence in prison.

In ad­di­tion to pub­lic aware­ness, events and or­ga­ni­za­tions need to estab­lish a cri­sis plan.

Once or­ga­ni­za­tions or events estab­lish a cri­sis plan, they can de­ter­mine what phys­i­cal se­cu­rity needs im­prove­ment, Tol­hurst said, “and fix what you can, then train your peo­ple.”

‘ If you’re in a school, if you go to col­lege, if you’re at the movies, we should all be think­ing about ‘What are we go­ing to do if a cri­sis breaks out right here?’ ’ Christo­pher Combs FBI special agent in charge in San An­to­nio

David J. Phillip The As­so­ci­ated Press

Crosses show vic­tims’ names near the First Bap­tist Church in Suther­land Springs, Texas, on Thurs­day. A gun­man killed more than two dozen peo­ple inside the church last week.

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