El Paso Walmart Shooting Shocks the Nation
A lone male gunman attacked a Walmart in El Paso, TX on August 3rd, shifting the national conversation back to the threat of targeted mass violence and its effects on our communities. The gunman, armed with an AK-47-style rifle, began his shooting spree in the parking lot of the Walmart. Here, he shot and killed several victims before proceeding into the store. The gunman was in possession of multiple high-capacity magazines, was dressed in dark tactical attire, and wore hearing protection.
At the time, the store was occupied by more than 1,000 shoppers and approximately 100 employees. Unfortunately, a children’s soccer and baseball team were holding fundraisers in the store at the time of the shooting. The shooter moved throughout the store and fired at multiple victims. According to one witness, the gunman cornered several victims and shot them at near point-blank range. Law enforcement arrived approximately six minutes after the shooting began and took the shooter into custody after he surrendered at the front of the store. In total, 22 victims were killed, and 26 were injured. Three of the victims were children – ages 2, 9, and 15.
Key Learning Points:
- Investigators determined the suspect’s actions were motivated by a grievance toward Hispanic immigrants. We know that every active shooter has a grievance, and the majority of them make their grievance known prior to an attack.
- One victim threw soda bottles at the shooter, distracting him from shooting other victims.
- Adults and children must be comfortable with the concept of OVERCOME – using any means necessary to physically defend against an armed assailant. This is typically a last-resort strategy, and should only be utilized when “cornered” by an assailant. You don’t have to be a victim! You can OVERCOME!
- Many victims fled from the store through fire exits. It’s important to familiarize yourself with exits in large, heavily populated areas in case of an emergency (a fire, a shooting, or any other disaster).
- As mass shootings in public spaces increase in frequency, it’s more important than ever to properly equip children with age-appropriate response strategies. Children should discuss these strategies with their parents and have an emergency plan in place prior to an actual incident. Click here to access our free, age-appropriate discussion guides and emergency planning tools for your family.
Dayton Shooter had Hit List in High School
Only 14 hours after the above-mentioned shooting in El Paso, a lone male gunman in Dayton, OH opened fire on crowds and bar patrons in a busy nightlife district of the city. The shooter was armed with an AR-15-style rifle loaded with a 100-round drum magazine. The gunman was wearing a mask, body armor, dark tactical gear, and hearing protection during the shooting. Tragically, the suspect was able to shoot 26 victims in 32 seconds, killing a total of 9 victims. Police officers patrolling the area on foot ran to the scene and shot and killed the shooter. The officers engaged the shooter just as he was about to enter an occupied bar with approximately 59 rounds left in the magazine of his rifle.
Investigators later discovered that the shooter had a long history of violent ideations prior to the shooting. According to former high school classmates, the shooter was temporarily removed from school after it was discovered he had written a “hit” list. The list consisted of two columns; one column listing students he intended to kill, the other listing students he intended to rape and/or kill. Other classmates reported the suspect was obsessed with violence and often used derogatory terms when referring to female students. Others reported that the suspect practiced firing guns at a local shooting range and that he owned “several” guns. It is unknown if the shooter was subjected to a threat assessment at the time, but it is confirmed that he was allowed to return to school approximately one year later and graduate in 2013.
Key Learning Points
- The shooter exhibited multiple pre-violence behavioral indicators, including a grievance, planning (going to the shooting range), venting (writing down a “hit” list and telling other students), an obsession with violence, and a commando complex (acquiring tactical equipment and weaponry). Ensure that your school has a qualified, pre-determined threat assessment process in place.
- This shooting occurred only hours after the El Paso shooting and can likely be classified as a “copycat” shooting. It should be noted the Dayton shooter was dressed very similarly to the El Paso shooter, including his use of hearing protection (this particular piece of equipment has not been used in previous mass shootings). Understand the “copycat” shooting phenomenon and consider implementing extra safety precautions in the wake of an act of mass violence.
- Occupants of the bar the suspect was approaching as he was neutralized by police had barricaded the door and were prepared to OVERCOME the shooter with a fire extinguisher and various other items.
Odessa Shooting is 38th Mass Killing of the Year
On Saturday morning, August 31st, a 36-year-old male initiated a mobile shooting spree in West Texas. This incident represents the 38th mass killing in our country this year; defined as incidents where 3 or more victims were killed.
Preceding the shooting, the suspect was fired from his job at an oil company. A short time later, he was pulled over by state troopers for a minor traffic violation. The suspect exited his car and fired at the troopers with an AR-15-style rifle, critically wounding one of the troopers. He then fled the scene in his vehicle and began shooting at random motorists as he drove down the highway.
The shooter reached the city of Odessa and began firing at random motorists and victims walking down the street. He then carjacked a postal worker, shooting and killing her before fleeing the scene in her USPS van. The suspect continued driving through the city, shooting randomly at motorists and passersby. Nearly two hours after his rampage began, the shooter was spotted by law enforcement officers, who initiated a high-speed pursuit. The suspect crashed into a police SUV and was simultaneously rammed by another police SUV. Officers then shot and killed the suspect, bringing his rampage to an end.
In total, 7 victims were killed and 22 were shot. Among the victims were a 17-month-old girl who was shot and seriously wounded, and a 15-year-old who perished.
Key Learning Points
- Both the shooter and his employer called 911 shortly after he was terminated. Although the shooter never acted out violently against his employer, it’s clear he was on the brink at the time of his termination. Take necessary security precautions (e.g. threat assessments) when disciplining or terminating potentially-violent employees. Law enforcement can always be requested to “keep the peace” during high-risk termination proceedings.
- One of the victims killed in the shooting was a student of the Ector County School District. The district immediately offered messaging and emotional support services for students in their district and the surrounding community. Consider implementing crisis protocols that include appropriate messaging and trauma support teams before tragedy strikes. If your school or district has limited resources, contact your local municipal government to be connected with chaplain programs through police and fire departments.
- Several bystanders filmed the shooter with their cellphones as he was carrying out his attacks. Other potential victims used their cell phones to film the shootout between the suspect and law enforcement officers. Remember, during a crisis, you DO NOT want to divide your attention. You should be 100% focused on survival, not capturing video on your cellphone. And if you can see the suspect or law enforcement through your camera lens, you are in the line of fire.