ASR Part 3: Navistar International
Updated: Feb 19, 2019
Active shooter situations don’t normally just happen. Something prompts it, or there were signs of aggression beforehand. People (and I may be taking liberties here) tend to be fairly rational creatures. This is why the movement towards awareness of active shooters is zeroing in on counseling. Life happens, and sometimes it isn’t pretty, but how someone deals with those ugly situations makes all the difference, most of the time. Let me state here that I know there are a few people out there who are so mentally unstable that counseling will not do much, but the majority of people do not fall into that category. This is the story of a man whose life fell apart and who handled his pain in the absolute wrong way.
*For purposes of not honoring a murderer, I will not mention the name of the shooter in these blogs. Many times, shooters are out for recognition, and using their names, even posthumously, grants them exactly what they want. I will refer to all shooters as simply the shooter or the future shooter.
Navistar’s future shooter had a series of rough years, which he handled incorrectly. In 1994, he was fired from his job at Navistar under accusations of stealing from the company. In 1997, he was convicted of having sex with an underage girl, and was registered as a sex offender. His wife divorced him, and people began to subtely distance themselves from him when they realized he was a registered sex offender. He pled guilty to charges concerning the theft from Navistar, and he was set to begin his five-month sentence in federal prison on February 6.
How did he handle his chaotic life? Instead of going to counseling or seeking psychiatric help, he decided to go back to the place that it all started. On February 5, 2001, he walked into the same room he had worked in at Navistar with the guard he had forced into letting him in the building and began shooting people. He killed four and wounded four others before committing suicide in his 10-15-minute rampage.
Aside from the fact that the shooter handled his pain by murdering his former colleagues, let’s analyze the employee response.
When the shooter walked in the room and started shooting, people in other departments ran outside. While the shooter did not end up going into those other areas, aside from a corner office, whose occupant was killed, their response was the right one. They had no way of knowing that the shooter would not come into their office area. They made the choice to get out while they could, and it potentially saved their lives. However, this does bring up another point. There was report that as people were rushing out of the few exits in the buildings, they were getting jammed up at the door. This makes you sitting ducks. The shooter’s objective is normally to take as much life as possible in as few minutes as possible. Dozens of people forcibly standing still at one location is a sweet spot for an active shooter. Know where the exits are and the fastest route to get to them… also, think outside the box. Doors are not the only exit points. Windows and some walls also work.
There was a report from one man, that as the shooter opened fire in the room he was working in, he dropped down to protect himself. His coworker standing near him was shot and killed, but he survived. As I analyze these active shooter reports, it is amazing to me the simplicity of the tactics used to survive. While this may just be a case that the shooter chose not to shoot him, we will never know. Regardless, something as simple as ducking down saved this man’s life. Think quick, think simple.
The reports state that the shooter was walking around and fired only about 30 shots in 8-10 minutes. While not an ideal fight situation, if one cannot run or hide, it is better to take the shooter out than to allow further loss of life. There were windows- there are almost always windows- to allow for the fight response.
1. Run- Know where the exits are before an active shooter situation and know the fastest way to get there. People in this situation are acting on adrenaline, so their brain is hardly engaged except to survive. Having a plan beforehand calms that adrenaline and helps you to make rational decisions in a crisis moment. HAVE A PLAN BEFORE YOU NEED IT!
2. Keep it SIMPLE- Sometimes it is the simple things that keep you alive. Do not freeze. Doing something in an active shooter situation is always better than doing nothing (except in a traditional bank robbery, but more on that later).
3. Always look for the window to take out the shooter. There are windows; you just have to know where- reloading a weapon, turning his back on someone. The shooter is blinded by his focus many times and the element of surprise takes him off-guard.
*FBI active shooter incidents report 2000-2017- https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-2000-2017.pdf/view