Army Veteran Saves Children in California Synagogue Shooting

Story Details

Just before noon on April 27th, a 19-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle stormed the Chabad of Poway Synagogue and opened fire on worshipers. Tragically, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye was shot and killed as she placed herself between the shooter and his intended target, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein. Rabbi Goldstein was then shot in both hands as he rushed to help a large group of children playing in a nearby banquet hall. Almog Peretz and his 8-year-old niece were both struck and injured by shrapnel as they fled from the banquet hall. 

Meanwhile, Oscar Stewart, a worshiper in the synagogue, rushed the shooter aggressively while shouting expletives at him. Unnerved, the shooter dropped his rifle so that it was suspended by its sling, and then ran from the synagogue to his car. Stewart chased after him, shouting at him loudly and threatening to kill him. The shooter locked himself in his car, at which point Stewart began punching the window, attempting to break it. Seconds later, an off-duty Border Patrol agent attending service in the synagogue used his pistol to shoot at the suspect’s vehicle. The suspect was not struck, and he was able to flee the scene in his car. He was apprehended a short time later on a nearby interstate.

It was later discovered the shooter was motivated by anti-Semitic and other extremists, discriminatory ideologies. The shooter prepared a manifesto attributing his attack to the recent mosque shootings in New Zealand.

Key Learning Points:

  • Oscar Stewart aggressively overcame the shooter, stopping him in his tracks and saving countless lives.
  • The shooter was inspired to commit his attacks by the recent mosque shootings in New Zealand. It was later discovered the shooter committed an act of arson at a nearby mosque prior to engaging in his attack at Chabad of Poway.
  • Be aware of “copycat” attacks that often occur within the weeks and months after an attack receiving intense media attention. Copycat attacks also occur frequently on the anniversary of other attacks.
  • The attack occurred on the last day of Passover. Active assailants often choose to carry out their attacks on dates of religious, societal, or institutional significance. Be vigilant during significant dates or events and ensure extra security measures are in place.
  • Survivors described the chaos that ensued when the shooter open fire near a group of children in the synagogue. All houses of worship should have a plan in place for active assailant incidents and ensure that children are familiar with the plan and know how to react.

Federal Safety Grant Applications Due May 31st

The STOP School Violence Act has allocated $25 million in school safety grant awards for the upcoming year. Grant awards will be issued by the BJA (Bureau of Justice Assistance) and are for use in evidence-based safety programs in K-12 schools. Funding must be used for violence prevention and safety programs described as the following:

  • Training for school personnel and educating students on preventing violence against others and themselves
  • Development and operation of anonymous reporting systems
  • Hiring and training of school threat assessment teams, including specialized training for school officials responding to mental health crisis
  • Any other measures determined by the BJA that provide a “significant improvement” in training, threat assessments, reporting, and violence prevention

Note: The H.E.R.O. Program is evidence-based and qualifies for STOP School Violence grant funding.

The BJA will provide funds for 75% of an approved initiative and will require a 25% match on funds from an applicant. The deadline to apply for this grant is May 31st, 2019. To learn more about this grant opportunity, click here.

Sixth Graders Arrested for Plotting Elementary School Shooting

Story Details

Two Tennessee 6th graders were arrested and charged after plotting a shooting at their elementary school. A school resource officer received a report that the students had prepared a “hit list”, prompting an investigation. Searches of the students’ homes revealed a written plan to bring guns to school, hide them in the locker room, shoot faculty and students, then commit suicide. Although no weapons were found in the students’ homes, their statements and plans led prosecutors to charge them with conspiracy to commit murder.

Key Learning Points:

  • Both students spoke about their plot with other students.
  • Students and faculty appropriately reported the threat to law enforcement.
  • Law enforcement acted quickly and located evidence of a viable threat.
  • The suspects displayed two concerning behaviors common to potential active assailants: venting or “leaking” their intent and planning their attack in great detail.