THE ARMED CITIZEN’S RESPONSE TO THE ACTIVE KILLER - Citizen's Guide to Armed Defense (2015)

Citizen's Guide to Armed Defense (2015)


Police officers engage in scenario during active killer response training.

San Ysidro McDonalds; Luby’s Cafeteria; Case Western Reserve; Columbine H.S.; Columbus, Ohio; Trolley Square Mall; Cleveland Success Academy; Virginia Tech; Ft. Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; Sikh Temple, Wisconsin; Sandy Hook Elementary; the Washington D.C. Boatyard shooting and more. Each of these incidents was stopped by a gun. Either the suspect committed suicide or was wounded or killed by police. Only in one case - the Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting - was the gunman apprehended without a shootout or him committing suicide.

Police tactics have changed over the years. As a police SWAT trainer prior to Columbine, I had my team doing active killer response versus locking the building down and waiting. After Columbine, tactics were developed and implemented recommending four officer “Contact” teams. These teams would enter the structure and hunt for the shooter based on dynamic intelligence developed on the fly, such as gunshots and wounded victims who could provide suspect description and direction.

As time went by we modified tactics, understanding that waiting led to more casualties and that when pressed by an armed response the killer often took his own life, thus ending his continued killing.

Critics of an armed citizen response to the active killer have called CCW permit holders “Jack Bauer wannabes” (from the TV show 24). But if we examine these types of incidents we understand that someone with a gun has always stopped the killing - either the suspect with his gun by way of suicide or others. I would submit that when a law abiding citizen or police officer stops the carnage a lot less people get shot and killed.


When Officer Ken Hammond was at the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 12 February 2012, he was not acting as a police officer for the Ogden Police Department. Celebrating an early Valentine’s Day dinner with his wife, he reacted when a suspect armed with a shotgun and handgun entered the mall and started shooting, killing five victims and wounding four others. Hammond’s gunfire pinned down the suspect until on-duty officers could respond and shot and killed the perpetrator.

Compare that incident with the sad testimony, in front of congress, by Suzanna Gratia Hupp about her experiences in Luby’s Cafeteria:


After the suspect drove his truck through the front windows of that restaurant and then started shooting, Ms. Hupp stated that it took her about 45 seconds before she realized that this was not a robbery. Ms. Hupp and her father took cover on the floor behind an overturned table and reached for her purse for a handgun, which she was given for personal protection by a friend and which she had training to use. Unfortunately a couple of months earlier she had decided to take her handgun out of her purse and put it in her car because at that time (1991) it was sometimes a felony to carry a concealed handgun. Ms. Hupp’s father rushed the man and was shot and killed by the suspect. Ms. Hupp took an opportunity to run and grabbed her mother to run away with her but her mother refused to leave. Ms. Hupp’s mother crawled over to her husband and cradled him until the suspect walked back around and shot her in the head, killing her.

Ask Ms. Gratia-Hupp about her feelings on whether an armed citizen could possibly stop an active killer and she might echo her testimony before congress (which you can see on YouTube). By the way, Dr. Suzanna Gratia Hupp went on to have a very successful career in politics representing the State of Texas and the 2nd Amendment. Suzanna Gratia Hupp wrote From Luby’s to the Legislature: One Woman’s Fight Against Gun Control (Privateer Publications; 2009).

Suzanna Gratia Hupp was interviewed on CNN recently and said, “Let me point something out that is so painfully obvious to me. Where do all these mass shootings occur? These creeps go to places where they know they can shoot people like fish in a barrel… Until the cops, bless their hearts, finally arrive.”

Could you or can you make a difference in such a situation? Ken Hammond did. Jeanne Assam did. Suzanna Gratia Hupp believes that, had she been armed on that fateful day in Texas in ’91, she could have.

What can you do? What is your role? Let’s take a look at the threat and then look at response tactics for the armed citizen.


In 2013, J. Pete Blair, Ph.D, from Texas State University, along with M. Hunter Martaindale, published United States Active Shooter Events from 200 to 2010: Training and Equipment Implications through Texas State University. From that report we read some key research findings:

· 84 Active Shooter Events (what the authors refer to as ASEs), occurred between 2000 and 2010.

· The frequency of ASEs appears to be increasing.

· Business locations were the most frequently attacked (37%), followed by schools (34%), and public (outdoor) venues (17%).

· The median number of people killed during ASEs is two. The median number shot is four.

· The most commonly used weapon was a pistol (60%), followed by rifles (27%), and shotguns (10%).

· Attackers carried multiple weapons in 41% of the attacks.

· Body armor was worn in 4% of cases.

· Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were brought to the scene in 2% of cases.

· Some shooters attempted to deny police access to the attack site through the use of barricades.

· The attacks ended before the police arrived 49% of the time. In 56% of the attacks that were still ongoing when the police arrived, the police had to use force to stop the killing.

· EMS entry to the attack site is often delayed because the police must conduct a thorough search of the scene in order to declare it secure.

Key training implications (modified by the author for the armed citizen):

· Expect a fight - Training must not assume that the attacker will be dead or give-up without offering any resistance.

· Medical - Training will allow those present to stabilize victims long enough for either EMS to enter the scene or for officers to transport victims to the EMS casualty collection point.

Other recommendations from the report include: medical equipment for officers, hard body armor, and patrol rifles issued to police officers.

The authors identified 14 incidents out of 84 events studied where solo officers made entry. In six of these 14 events, the killing had stopped before the officer made entry. In four cases the attacker stopped himself (two times of suicide and two incidents where the attacker left the scene). In two cases citizens stopped the attacker. In the other eight incidents after the officer arrived, two suspects then committed suicide, and in the remaining six incidents force was used against the suspect with five shootings and one incident where the solo officer subdued the suspect without shooting. Blair and Martaindale state, “If the numbers are put together (57% of the time the attack is ongoing; in 75% of these ongoing attacks the officer uses force to stop the attacks; and in 33% of these use of force incidents, the officers is shot), there is a 14% chance that an officer will be shot when he or she makes a solo entry into an active shooter attack site.”

These events are certainly extremely dangerous for armed citizens as well, but what are the alternatives? We are not recommending that you respond to a neighborhood school if you hear of an active shooter event, but what if you are on scene outside a school or it happens at your place of business or other public location such as your church where you have been authorized by your minister, priest or rabbi to carry concealed? How should you respond?


Are you expected to be able to hunt down an active killer like a SWAT team member would do? No. But understand that being armed and trained puts you at a distinct advantage to an unarmed citizen in the same circumstances. It gives you a fighting chance. Here are some tactics that might improve your odds:

· Understand that the active killer wants nothing but a high body count. They don’t want money, they don’t want to negotiate, and they don’t want hostages. They want to kill and maim as fast as they can.

· The active killer wants an apocalyptic ending. They want to go out in a blaze of glory with the police or at their own hand after being cornered.

· They are hunting.

· They don’t want a fight. Standing toe to toe with an armed citizen or police officer is not what they want.

· Active killers count on their victims going into shock, curling up in a fetal position and being an easy target.

· The active killer can be detected on approach or during preparations for attack. Most carry handguns because they can more easily conceal them. Those with rifles often hide them in cases or under their coats as they approach their intended target zone.

· If you do not witness the killer’s preparations, the only warning you may have is the presence of an armed man, shooting.

· You must overcome your Sympathetic Nervous System reaction and act aggressively and decisively.

· Draw your firearm and if the threat is close and direct, move off the “X” and neutralize the suspect with accurate gunfire.

· If the threat is at a distance, seek cover. Move your family, friends or companions to a solid covered position and then move away from them to a covered position. Understand that the suspect will begin firing at you and you do not want to draw gunfire toward your family or companions.

· You can bunker and then ambush. Jeanne Assam’s first thought was to take cover in a hallway and wait until the suspect came within view and engage. For an armed citizen, this is a sound strategy.

· If you move toward the suspect to get a shot, move from covered position to another covered position. This could mean a doorway, pillar, tree, car, fountain, the list is endless.

· Don’t challenge the suspect. Remember, they have no plan to surrender, they want to kill. Challenging the suspect will only expose you to incoming fire. If you go down, others will die as well. If they have presented a deadly threat, shoot.

· If you have the chance to shoot them in the back or side or snipe them from an unseen position, then the tactics gods have smiled down on you. You do not need to face them or have them point or shoot at you to present a deadly threat.

· If you have fired, do not approach them. They could be only wounded and playing opossum or lying in wait for your approach. If you are not behind cover then get behind some.

· Be careful of multiple suspects. Remember there were two shooters at Columbine and two in Las Vegas. Maintain your 360-degree awareness including looking for responding police officers.

· Start identifying yourself, “I am an innocent armed citizen! Someone please call 911!” Repeat it several times. If you have a “Don’t Shoot Me Banner” then this would be an excellent time to deploy it.

· Follow the recommendations given earlier regarding responding officers. Remember the police are coming hot and heavy, and anyone with a gun who appears in any way to be a threat may get shot.

We haven’t talked yet about first-aid, but many armed citizens are now carrying combat first-aid items such as an Israeli battlefield dressing, Quick Clot or other hemostatic agent, and a CAT - Combat Applications tourniquet. Consider these items for family and friends who may be wounded, innocent citizens, and yourself. My friend Eric Dickinson has written a book, The Street Officer’s Guide to Emergency Medical Tactics (Looseleaf Law Publications; 2013), which gives valuable insights into dealing with gunshot wounds and other injuries the armed citizen might encounter.


Colonel Dave Grossman, author of On Killing and On Combat is also an international lecturer to police and armed citizens on hyper-violent suspects. According to Grossman, the children in our schools represent America’s greatest vulnerability to domestic and international terrorists as well as to demented individuals. Yet, we as a nation refuse to accept this threat and continue to fail to secure out schools accordingly.

Unfortunately even off-duty police officers may be restricted in some states from carrying concealed in “school safety zones.” This was true in my state until a couple of years ago when the law was changed, but CCW permit holders are still forbidden by state law from carrying concealed into a school. Fortunately state law in Ohio allows teachers authorized by their school district to carry concealed. Many districts cannot afford to provide “school resource officers” or uniformed officers to work at each school. Even those districts that provide officers to work at high schools cannot provide officers for middle or elementary schools. Some districts provide security guards but most of these guards are unarmed, many don’t even carry pepper spray, and those who may be armed have marginal training (I know, I played the “security” game while in college).

A law enforcement officer of my acquaintance has testified at the state level against the armed teacher or school staff program. What’s his plan? To allow retired officers in marked polo shirts to carry concealed on school property. Now, I’m not too far from retirement as I write these words, but let me state that some - certainly not all - retired LEOs are capable of securing schools. At this point most officers who retire continue to work until in their 60s. Having worked off-duty in a school for a few years, I can tell you that it is not the type of job I would want to do in retirement. Further, as we age and the further we get from the street, we certainly don’t have the abilities we once did. It is also faulty logic based on this police supervisor’s opinion that armed staff members don’t have the same skills and abilities as retired police officers.

Some training programs recommend “bunkering” i.e. to conduct a lockdown of the school and await police response. As a member of a county-wide school violence committee, I pointed out that in many school shootings, the killer heads to the largest concentration of potential targets present - cafeterias, libraries, etc. to maximize body count. In these environments, hiding or bunkering makes no sense. We therefore recommended a lockdown or evacuation plan depending on where you were. Locking down and piling furniture by the door and throwing books at the armed suspect may be a plan, but it is far from ideal. Oftentimes school districts want to portray that they are doing something, but sometimes it’s just feel-good training. It is also true that many schools have “policies,” but most teachers are unaware of what they are and there is little to no actual training. In addition, few schools conduct drills. Colonel Grossman points out that schools do fire drills and tornado drills each year and have for decades, but the actual incidence of school fires is virtually nonexistent. Yet, schools don’t want to drill in their response to an active killer.

Teachers train in the F.A.S.T.E.R. program designed by John Benner and implemented by the Buckeye Firearms Association.

The F.A.S.T.E.R. program as implemented in Ohio provides excellent instruction - in the classroom, on the range and in dynamic confrontation simulation - to teachers and school staff members. As a prerequisite, all of the applicants must already have their CCW permit. In my state this requires both classroom and range activities. This is not to say that these programs are the end-all, just that this is the minimum standard for entrance into FASTER training.

Having conducted several of these programs, I can state that I did not teach these educators and school support personnel any differently than officers and SWAT personnel. They learned the skills in a repetitive fashion and then were tested in multiple scenarios.

I found that these teacher/staff students were extremely motivated and hardworking, dedicated professional educators from colleges, high schools, school boards, elementary schools, even private academies. I would certainly feel more relaxed knowing that an armed citizen educator was walking the halls of my child’s school, than training my child, to “run away from the sound of the guns!”


Some FASTER students complete the Ohio Peace Officers pistol qualification at a higher score than police officers.

As these incidents have occurred during my police career, I have seen the evolution of police tactics to deal with them. We have gone from a lockdown and SWAT Team deployment to a four-man rapid deployment philosophy. Time being the crucial issue, my friend and law enforcement trainer Ron Borsch refers to this as “The Stopwatch of Death®”. Law enforcement has modified its approach to the active killer even more with the recommendation that a solo officer should make entry if back-up is not present. One officer aggressively attacking the threat can make a difference and save lives.


In Columbus, Ohio, the heavy metal band Damageplan featuring guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was playing at a local nightspot when a lone gunman open fired, killing Abbott, security man Jeff Thompson, employee Erin Halk and audience member Nathan Bray. A band support team member, John Brooks, was taken hostage after he attempted to disarm the assailant. Columbus PD Officer James Niggemeyer entered through a back door armed with a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun and killed the suspect with one shot to the head.

Of course, this is dependent on training and competency. General George Patton said, “Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.” Sadly, police agencies across the U.S. have cut staff and are operating below authorized manpower levels due to the economy.

I have also seen the widespread issuance of concealed carry permits throughout the United States. Sadly, but maybe fortuitously, these two will meet.

There are no magic tactics in dealing with an active killer. You just need to apply the basics and fundamentals, aggressively, to solve the problem.

This is not about being a “Jack Bauer” wannabe. It is about contemplating, planning and preparing for the unthinkable to occur and saving your family, friends or your own life. This is not just a police problem. Ron Borsch’s “Stopwatch of Death” concept clearly indicates that as seconds tick away an armed hyper-violent active killer is going about his business. He will not be talked to, negotiated with, cajoled, or rationalized with. He may find perverse pleasure in the pleadings of his intended victims as they beg for their lives only to execute them with headshots while laughing. Someone who is capable of such an evil and unfathomable act as shooting their way into an elementary school classroom and slaughtering five-year-olds is incapable of negotiation. Law enforcement has learned that, the armed citizen must come to accept and understand it as well.


On 16 April 2007, Professor Liviu Lebrescu, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, was shot and killed as he barred the door to a classroom from the active killer attempting to enter. While holding the door with his body, he shouted to his students to hurry as they escaped through the windows. Though shot through the door and killed, his actions saved a reported 20 innocent lives that day.

We can only imagine how many lives might have been saved had one trained CCW permit holder in class or on staff been in that area on that day. Yet colleges, universities, elementary schools and malls don’t see the logic that survivor Suzanna Gratia Hupp has said “is so painfully obvious to her,” that these active killers seek gun-free zones with many “fish in a barrel” to shoot. Let us hope that things change and common sense finds its way before other innocent lives are lost.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

- Edmund Burke

This chapter is dedicated to Professor Librescu and all those who have stood up to active killers while empty-handed.

Note - I have intentionally avoided using the names of the perpetrators involved in these atrocities. They have gained enough attention in their infamy. Let us hope we can cleanse their names and the memories of their acts from history as we prepare for and stop those yet to come.