ASR: Hindsight is 20/20
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
On the morning of December 6, 2001, in Goshen, Indiana, a middle-aged employee went to his job at the Nu-Wood Decorative Mill Plant, a manufacturing facility for plastic, wood-looking decorative moldings. It was like any other December day in Indiana, until a confrontation broke out between the employee and his boss. During the course of the conflict, The employee threatened his boss with a challenge to “take it outside.” The FBI report states that this employee was fired.
The employee left the building, visibly angry. The remaining thirty-five employees were gathered together and warned that their coworker was not in his right mind. One employee reports that they were on pins and needles all day. In addition, the manager’s wife reported that he had called the police, and that they had done nothing. The manager locked down the building except for the front entrance. That was his fatal mistake.
Around 2:30 that afternoon, a group of five employees were clocking out at the end of their shift, when the unstable employee returned with a shotgun. They turned and ran, as the employee lowered his weapon and began firing at no one in particular. One other employee ran to a room at the back of the factory, where he or she hid to call police. During his spree, the shooter shot and killed his boss and wounded six others. Then he turned the gun on himself.
When SWAT arrived at 4:30pm, it was determined that the shooter had died of a self-inflicted gunshot through the head. Several of his wounded victims were in critical condition.
This is a heartbreaking story of a deranged man with a score to settle. Yet, there are several things we can learn from this cautionary tale. The manager did several things right, and though he lost his life, he potentially saved the lives of 35 others. Let’s analyze this shooting through the lens of Run, Hide, Fight.
First, I was impressed during my research that there were no reports of anyone saying they were shocked or that they never saw this coming. They knew. In fact, one employee reported that they were on pins and needles all day. Why? Because their general manager made a point of making sure that all employees were aware of the situation with their coworker. They knew the man was unstable. And they were not shocked when he returned later that afternoon with a shotgun. Michael McIntyre, professor of industrial psychology at University Tennessee Knoxville says that shooters generally are not normal people- they are people who have had flare-ups in the past- not just normal people who got pushed over the edge. This is a crucial fact to realize. And its realization potentially saved many lives that day.
Second, they RAN. If you recall from the story, five employees were in the process of punching out of their shift at 2:30pm, when the coworker returned with a shotgun. Instead of freezing, they ran away from the shooter. Why? One, because they halfway expected him to show up. It was not a total surprise because they had already taken their minds there, hoping their bodies did not have to follow. Imagine for a second if they had not expected it, like has been the case in so many other shootings. Odds are, their response times would not have been so quick. All five of those employees survived. One of them even said that he felt lucky, because “he could’ve picked us off easy if we hadn’t started running” (NYTimes).
Third, someone hid and immediately called the police. This is the correct response in several ways. Do not stop running to call the police until you are safe. Do not just stand there and pray you can remember how to dial 911. Run, get away from the shooter. Find a safe place to hide, and then make the call. Yes, the faster response time will save lives, but so will prioritizing getting away from the shooter.
Again, active shooter cases are heartbreaking. This one happened long enough ago that we can look back almost 20 years in retrospect. Some are still reeling from the pain of that day. Many are scarred both physically and mentally. We mourn the life that was lost, but we rejoice in the dozens of lives that were saved that day, and we learn from the situation going forward.
“On December 6, 2001 at 2:31 p.m., Robert L. Wissman, 36, armed with a shotgun, began shooting in the Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork plant in Goshen, Indiana. He had been fired from his job that morning and returned in the afternoon to begin shooting. One person was killed; six were wounded. The shooter committed suicide before police arrived.”
NY Times: December 7, 2001
Washington Post: December 7, 2001