2002 Active Shooters in Review

TimBray at en.wikipedia

On the Fourth of July in 2002, a mere ten months after 9/11 shook the nation, an Egyptian Islamic national on a green card in the US walked into the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and approached the El Al Israeli airline with two pistols and a hunting knife. Two were killed and two were injured.

There are several challenges with this shooting

· American Independence Day

· Egyptian National

· Israeli Airline

The ultimate question here was whether or not this was a terrorist attack. The circumstances seemed too coincidental. The FBI opened the investigation and determined in September of 2002 that it indeed was a terrorist attack. Granted, its status as terrorism does not necessarily change much. The attack was more targeted, since it focused on that one airline, but the victims themselves were still rather random. The response however, stayed the same. When the shooter began his attack, the 90 or so customers in line dropped to the ground. An armed El Al Israeli Airline security guard shot and killed the perpetrator and several people tackled and restrained the shooter before he could hurt anyone else. The death toll from this shooting could have been substantially higher, but because of the quick responses, there were only two deaths and two injuries, tragic as they were.

On October 26, 2002, in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, an 18-year-old young man was reprimanded for driving recklessly in an area where children played. His response was to find his father’s shotgun and begin shooting neighbors. Among them was a two-year-old girl who miraculously survived. He then continued down the road in his truck where he shot a couple shopping and then began randomly firing at cars on the road. His rampage killed two people and wounded eight, including the toddler. Of course, per the usual, no one expected this. He had a history of depression and he was a bit of a loner, but it was out of character.

This shooter situation is such a challenge. How could you ever prepare for something like this? How do I give advice for preparedness with something so completely random? In all the active shooter situations I have studied, I have never run across one like this before. The neighbors tried to do the right thing and persuade the young man to calm down before he crossed a line. His response was to shoot them, killing one of them and wounding the other three.

The backstory here is so common, however. A young man with depression or just isolated from everyone. He had friends, but he was not in the “in” group in any way. No one ever expected him to snap, especially at a father trying to protect his children. Certainly, no one expected him to randomly shoot mothers and couples and fathers and children as he drove on his rampage. And certainly no one expected that this young man would reportedly have no remorse after he committed the acts. This is a strange case, indeed. But there is, believe it or not, something we can learn from this. Active shooters are made over time through many circumstances built upon one another. They NEVER just snap. This young man was reportedly a gamer. No, I am not about to give you the cliché, and in my opinion, incorrect theory about the connection between gaming and active shooter violence. What I will say though is that the isolation of this young man is clear. Isolation leads to depression, as the body, removed from community, shuts down and moves into survival mode. Depression is in a sense, survival. It is possible that the young man used video games to isolate himself from people and community both at school and at work and within his general community. Doing so would have led to depressive states, which can be mind-numbing, as anyone who has experienced depression would understand. Those mind-numbing states could have been the trigger for the act of violence. No, gaming is not the cause. It could however, be part of the problem.

Parents, this is not a call to take the video games away from your kids so they won’t become active shooters. That is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying is that video games contribute to the problem of isolation just as Netflix and social media and even constant reading do. These things are not necessarily bad. To say so would be absurd. The lesson here is that ALL things must be taken in balance. There is a fundamental human need for human connection. Not Skype or Facetime. A soccer team or dinner with friends or family. These are the types of things that give us community, and it is community that gives us joy. It is about living life in balance.

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