Saturday, July 21, 2012

More on the Colorado Shooting

Fox News seems to have a fairly complete and succinct report on what is known (without the speculation on some other pages):
Authorities plan to enter the booby- trapped apartment of the suspect in the deadly shooting spree at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater Saturday.

The suspect, James Holmes is accused of going on a shooting rampage at the movie theater during Friday’s midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” He was packing as many as 6,000 rounds of ammunition with the ability to shoot up to 50 a minute, police said.

Holmes’ apartment is believed to be loaded with explosives. Attempts to enter the apartment Friday were unsuccessful and police postponed efforts until Saturday. The FBI, ATF and local authorities are working together to enter the apartment.

Sgt. Cassidy Carlson of the Aurora Police Dept. said that authorities have broken the mission down into three phases and plan to carry them out throughout Saturday.

"There are still unknowns, we're not exactly sure of everything that's in there," Sgt. Carlson said. The unknown includes jars that are believed to contain accelerates.

The first phase will be to render the area safe and address the immediate threat of the wire trip booby trap, which may include a controlled detonation. The public has been warned that parts of these phases may cause loud booms and have planned for reverse 911 calls for the area so that the public may remain informed.

Authorities say they will send a robot into the apartment.

The second phase will be to dispose of the aerial shells which will include placing the devices into sand trucks and taken to a disposal site for a controlled detonation. Authorities believe there may be up to as many as 30 shells.

The third phase will be the investigation of the apartment itself.

"There is no timeline, I can't give you an end time," Sgt. Carlson said. "We don't need to rush anything," she said.

Relatives of two of the twelve dead confirmed late Friday that their loved ones were killed during the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

The family of Alex Sullivan issued a statement confirming his death. He died on his 27th birthday.

Twenty-three-year-old Micayla Medek was also among the dead.

Her father's cousin, Anita Busch, says the sad news at least brought peace to the family.

The brother of Jessica Ghawi previously confirmed his sister's death.

"He looked like an assassin ready to go to war," said Jordan Crofter, a moviegoer who was unhurt in the attack early Friday, about a half-hour after the special midnight opening of "The Dark Knight Rises."

Holmes, used a military-style semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, stopping only to reload.

The suspect marched up the aisle in the stadium-style theater, picking off those who tried to flee, witnesses said. Authorities said he hit scores of people, with a few of the 70 victims suffering their injuries not by gunfire but in the ensuing chaos. At least one person was struck in an adjacent theater by gunfire that went through the wall.

"He would reload and shoot and anyone who would try to leave would just get killed," said Jennifer Seeger, adding that bullet casings landed on her head and burned her forehead.

Within minutes, frantic emergency services calls brought some 200 police officers, ambulances and emergency crews to the theater. Holmes was captured in the parking lot and remains in police custody. Police said they later found that his nearby apartment was booby-trapped.

Authorities gave no motive for the attack. The FBI said there was no indication of ties to any terrorist groups.

* * *

The attack began shortly after midnight at the multiplex in Aurora. Audience members said they thought it was part of the movie, or some kind of stunt associated with it.

The film has several scenes of public mayhem -- a hallmark of superhero movies. In one scene, Bane leads an attack on a stock exchange, and in another he leads a shooting and bombing rampage on a packed football stadium.

A federal law enforcement official said Holmes bought a ticket to the show, went into the theater as part of the crowd and propped open an exit door as the movie was playing. The suspect then donned protective ballistic gear and opened fire, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation.

At some point, the gunman appeared to have stepped outside because several witnesses saw him come through the door.

"All I saw is the door swinging open and the street lights behind, and you could see a silhouette," said Crofter, who was sitting on the left side of the theater and toward the front.

Sylvana Guillen said the gunman, clad in dark clothing, appeared at the front of the theater as the character Catwoman appeared in the movie. Then they heard gunshots and smelled smoke from a canister he was carrying.

As she and her friend, Misha Mostashiry, ran to the exit, Guillen said, they saw a man slip in the blood of a wounded woman he was trying to help.

Oates said the gunman wore a gas mask and a ballistic helmet and vest, as well as leg, groin and throat protectors. He said he bought four guns from local gun shops in the last 60 days and 6,000 rounds of ammunition, including a drum magazine that could fire 50 to 60 rounds per minute.

"My understanding is that all the weapons that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the clips that he possessed, he possessed legally. And all the ammunition that he possessed, he possessed legally," Oates said at a press conference Friday.

Seeger said she thought it was showmanship.

"I didn't think it was real," Seeger said. She said she was in the second row, about four feet from the gunman, when he pointed a gun at her face. "I was just a deer in headlights. I didn't know what to do," she said.

Then she ducked to the ground as the gunman shot people seated behind her.

Seeger said she began crawling toward an exit when she saw a girl of about 14 "lying lifeless on the stairs." She saw a man with a bullet wound in his back and tried to check his pulse, but "I had to go. I was going to get shot."

Later, police began entering the theater, asking people to hold their hands up as they evacuated the building.

Some of the victims were treated for chemical exposure apparently related to canisters thrown by the gunman. Those hurt included a 4-month-old baby, who was treated at a hospital and released.

Authorities started to remove the bodies from the theater on Friday afternoon. Officials wheeled a black bag on a stretcher out of the front entrance, placing it in the back of a minivan. Ten people died in the theater, while two others died from their injuries later.

Oates said officers planned receive a list of those confirmed dead and meet with the family members of the deceased Friday night to tell them the fate of their loved ones.

Those who knew Holmes described him as a shy, intelligent person raised in California by parents who were active in their well-to-do suburban neighborhood in San Diego. Holmes played soccer at Westview High School and ran cross-country before going to college.

On Friday morning, police escorted Holmes' father, a manager of a software company, from their home while his mother, a nurse, stayed inside, receiving visitors who came to offer support.

Holmes also has a younger sister.

"As you can understand, the Holmes family is very upset about all of this," Lt. Andra Brown, the San Diego police spokeswoman, told reporters in the driveway of the family home. "It's a tragic event and it's taken everyone by surprise. They are definitely trying to work through this."

Police released a statement from his family that said: "Our hearts go out to those who were involved in this tragedy and to the families and friends of those involved."

There have been no indications so far that Holmes had any run-ins with the law before Friday.
Tom Mai, a retired electrical engineer, said Holmes was a "shy guy" who came from a "very, very nice family."

Holmes graduated from University of California, Riverside, in the spring of 2010 a bachelor's degree in neuroscience, a school spokesman said. Mai said the mother told him Holmes couldn't find a job after earning a master's degree and returned to school.
He enrolled in the Ph.D. neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver in June 2011 but left the program last month, according to the university.

Holmes lived in an apartment in Aurora, and FBI agents and police who went there discovered it was booby-trapped when they used a camera at the end of a 12-foot pole to look inside.

Authorities evacuated surrounding residences, and about two dozen people headed to a shelter set up by the Red Cross at a local school.

Police were not able to enter the apartment Friday night and Oates said they will again on Saturday.

"It is a very vexing problem how to enter that apartment safely," he said.
I've read in other stories that the shooter, Holmes, was using an AR-15, an 870 Shotgun, and two Glock .40 handguns. In the Fox News story cited above (and others), police indicate that Holmes was carrying 6,000 rounds of ammunition. If so, he must have had the strength of the Hulk. However, I can't tell if the police were simply lying or if what they meant to say was that he had that much ammo in his car.

The Daily Mail has posted personal, background information on Holmes. Although his neighbors described his as a recluse, he doesn't really come across as this from people that actually knew him. They describe someone that had participated in track in High School, and a neighbor that had met him at a local bar described him as a fairly normal guy.

The media reaction was fairly typical in this situation. As described in this op-ed at the Washington Times:
It happened in a flash. The media blame game began in record time following the horror of the shooting at a movie premiere for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Call it 12, 14 hours tops. The array of organizations, cultural influences, moral failings, and political policies pinpointed as the so-called cause of the shootings was headspinning to say the least. Even in the current 24-hour news cycle on steroids universe we live in, pundits (or rather, people who play pundits on TV) didn’t let a lack of any facts get in the way of their theories.

If you add it up, shooter James Holmes is a unChristian, chronically depressed, bullied, Tea Party dark-Trekkie type who played too many video games and was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course. Duh!

Whoops, throw out the Tea Party part. We’ve already had a retraction and apology for this. On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” reporter Brian Ross claimed "There's a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year... Now, we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes. But it's Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado." Uh, when I was trained as a journalist, we were taught to report facts, not rumors. Certainly not raw guesses.

ABC later issued this retraction: “An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect.” [See also here].

CNN joined right in playing the blame game. At least this time it wasn’t a reporter. Profiler Pat Brown blamed violent video games, saying “teenaged psychopaths get inspired by video games and want to make it real.” Never mind that the suspect is 24, hardly a teenager.

Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said on MSNBC that the shooter could be a “dark, Trekkie-like person.” Whoa. Then how come we haven’t had a bunch of shootings at Comic-Con from those dangerous Star Trek fans? Or maybe he meant Borgs or Klingons. Everyone knows they are dangerous and shouldn’t be allowed to walk the streets. Wait a minute. Isn't President Obama a Star Trek fan, AKA a Trekkie? (Many thanks to for pointing out this one).
* * *

Naturally, sure as night follows day, the calls for reforming gun laws in the United States are flowing fast and furious (no pun intended), led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, CNN host Piers Morgan, film critic Roger Ebert, and that all-knowing pundit, actor John Leguizamo.

People continue to look for clues in Holmes’ upbringing. He lived in San Diego not much more than walking distance from my own home, in the neighborhood my own brother and his family live in. It’s shockingly suburban and mighty white. He came from a family with both parents in the home and seemingly no drama. He participated in sports. He was a good student. He went to a Presbyterian church, hardly “unchristian.”

It’s not unreasonable for good and decent people to want to try and make sense of what happened in Aurora, Colorado. But all of these theories completely miss the point. It seems the last person ever blamed for shootings of this nature is the person who committed them. The one and only person or movement responsible for this shooting is the person who did it.
But Travis Bickle did not shoot President Ronald Reagan. John Hinckley did. Batman, Bane, or the Joker did not shoot anyone in Colorado.

There is no denying that we have many other societal ills and issues to address. But none of them ever forces an individual to arm himself, get into a movie theater or school or political rally, and shoot innocent people. An individual makes the choice. An individual pulls the trigger. An individual is responsible. No one else.

In this case, we believe that person to be the man arrested by Aurora Police, 24-year-old James Holmes. The buck stops with Mr. Holmes.
For those who blame violent video games (which is, in itself odd since the rates of violent crimes have declined even as the games have become more violent), there is this added embarrassment: Holmes was an ardent fan (or addicted, if you prefer) to Guitar Hero. (Also, here).

We may find out more once the police get in his apartment, booby-trapped  a'la Conspiracy Theory and Speed.

To me, one of the most telling statements made about this whole situation came from President Obama. In his statement, he said:
I’m sure that many of you who are parents here had the same reaction that I did when I heard this news. My daughters go to the movies. What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater, as so many of our kids do every day? Michelle and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight, and I’m sure you will do the same with your children. But for those parents who may not be so lucky, we have to embrace them and let them know we will be there for them as a nation.
(Emphasis added). Well, I can answer that question. Obama's children have bodyguards 24/7 in the form of the Secret Service. If they had been there, the shooting would have been terminated in a matter of seconds by a hail of bullets from the Secret Service agents accompanying them. 

As we well know, mass shooters tend to pick locations that are safe--for them--because they prohibit firearms. No different here. Cinemark, the owner of the theater, banned firearms.

Could an armed citizen have stopped this? Sure. It happens frequently enough. I don't know if anyone attending the theater normally carried a firearm, but didn't because of the prohibition. But if there was someone like that, Cinemark bears culpability for the shooting by preventing that person from protecting him/herself and others. Even absent that, Cinemark bears culpability because they made it a gun-free zone that was, therefore, a mass-shooter friendly zone. (There is also culpability on its part for not monitoring the status of the exit doors).

So what to do in an active-shooter situation? Warrior-Talk News offers some thoughts on the matter following the IHOP shooting of last year, the shooting in Norway, and the shooting in Tuscon. Here are some tips on an active shooter situation from The Truth About Firearms. I'll try and boil these down to a few practical tips:

First, and always, be armed if you can. I don't know what the laws are like in your location, so you will have to make the decision of whether to ignore the "no firearms" signs at malls, stores, and similar private locations. Even without a firearm, you may be able to carry a knife, collapsible baton, can of pepper-spray, taser, etc.

Second, get into the OODA Loop. That is: observe--orient--decide--act--observe--and so on. One decision you will have to make is whether to attempt to engage the perp or to try to escape or hide.

Third, if you should decide to engage the target, if you aren't reloading, you should be moving, preferably to areas of cover or, at the least, concealment.

Fourth, don't draw your weapon until you are ready to shoot. You don't want to be mistaken for the shooter by another armed citizen or, worse, the police (who are less careful about who they shoot). Once the target is down, immediately reholster your weapon.

Fifth, if you have been injured, get medical attention. Remember, the police are not your friends--lawyer up.

In this case, the police responded quickly and, fortunately for the people attending the movie, caught the shooter outside (either leaving to get some reloads or to drive to another location). If you find yourself in this situation, you may not be so lucky. Although police training has supposedly been changed, at the time of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings, police procedure was to first secure a perimeter, then gather intelligence, and then act, which tragically lead to many more deaths (including a teacher that bled to death because police didn't want to enter the building).

Here are some tips from around different organizations on how you should respond (they assume you are unarmed). From Texas A&M. From  Chicago State University. From the Air Force:


· Be aware of the exits. Familiarize yourself with multiple escape plans, not just one. Multiple exits mean you're never trapped in a building without a way out.

· Leave your belongings behind and get out as fast as possible. Your life is more valuable than anything you own, so protect it.

· When you exit, be sure that your hands are visible. In an active shooter situation, law enforcement is going to be the first on the scene. Make it clear to them that you are not carrying a weapon.

Unfortunately, there may be a time when evacuating from a building is not feasible. You may need to hide from the shooter.

Shelter in place

· Hide in an area that is out of the way and view of the shooter.

· Block the entry point into your shelter and lock the doors. Use desks, chairs, furniture or anything you can to secure the door.

When neither evacuating nor hiding out are feasible options and you're face-to-face with your attacker, attempt to defend yourself.

Take action

· Only take action as a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.

· Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter.

· Act with physical aggression and throw items at the shooter. Try to attack vital areas of the body such as eyes, throat and groin.

When law enforcement arrives on the scene of an active shooter situation, it is important to do what they say, when they say it. According to Mr. Johnson, you should take the following steps when evacuating from an active shooter situation:

· Remain calm, and follow the law enforcement officials' instructions.

· Immediately raise your hands and spread your fingers.

· Keep your hands visible at all times.

· Avoid making quick movements toward law enforcement officials, such as attempting to hold onto them for safety.

· Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling.

· Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

If by chance you see the shooter, try to remember information that could be useful to law enforcement.

According to Mr. Johnson, witnesses to an active shooter situation should provide law enforcement with the following information:

· Location of the active shooter.

· Number of shooters, if more than one.

· Physical description of shooter.

· Number and type of weapons held by the shooter.

· Number of potential victims at the location.
 FEMA also has similar instructions:

If there is an accessible escape path, attempt to evacuate the premises. Be sure to:
--Warn individuals not to enter an area where the active shooter may be.
--Have an escape route and plan in mind.
--Evacuate regardless of whether others agree to follow.
--Leave your belongings behind.
--Help others escape, if possible.
--Prevent individuals from entering an area where the active shooter may be.
--Keep your hands visible.
--Follow the instructions of any police officers.
--Do not attempt to move wounded people.
--Call 911 when it is safe to do so.

Hide Out

If safe evacuation is not possible, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.

Your hiding place should:
--Be out of the active shooter’s view.
--Provide protection if shots are fired in your direction (i.e., an office with a closed and locked door).
--Not trap you or restrict your options for movement.

To prevent an active shooter from entering your hiding place:
--Lock the door.
--Blockade the door with heavy furniture.
--Close, cover, and move away from windows.

Keeping Yourself Safe While Hiding

If the active shooter is nearby:
--Lock the door.
--Silence your cell phone and/or pager. (Even the vibration setting can give away a hiding position.)
--Hide behind large items (i.e., cabinets, desks).
--Remain quiet.

Consider the difference between cover and concealment. Cover will protect from gunfire and concealment will merely hide you from the view of the shooter. Choose the best space that is available quickly.

When Evacuation and Hiding Are Not Possible

When possible, provide the following information to law enforcement officers or 911 operators:
--Location of the active shooter.
--Number of shooters, if more than one.
--Physical description of the shooter(s).
--Number and type of weapons held by the shooter(s).
--Number of potential victims at the location.

Take Action

As an absolute last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter:
--Act as aggressively as possible against him/her.
--Throw items and improvise weapons.
--Commit to your actions.

Reactions of Managers or Uniformed Personnel

When an emergency occurs, customers and visitors will look to employees to direct them to safety, as they are familiar with the building and workspace. Employees and customers are likely to follow the lead of managers or uniformed officials during an emergency situation.

During an emergency, managers should be prepared to:
--Take immediate action.
--Remain calm, professional, and prepared to lead.
--Lock and barricade doors.
--Evacuate employees and customers via a viable, preplanned evacuation route to a safe area.

When pre-selecting shelter-in-place locations, consider any safe areas within the facility.

When Law Inforcement Arrives

The primary goal of law enforcement is to eliminate the threat and stop the active shooter as soon as possible.

As the first responders’ primary responsibility is to eliminate the threat, they will not be able to stop to help injured persons until the environment is safe.

Officers may arrive in teams with tactical equipment such as vests, helmets, and rifles.

Officers will need to take command of the situation. Expect to experience officers shouting orders and even pushing individuals to the ground for their safety.

When law enforcement officials arrive, it is important that you:
--Remain calm and follow instructions.
--Put down any items and immediately raise your hands while spreading your fingers.
--Avoid making any sudden movements
and keep your hands visible at all times.

Do not ask officers for help while you are being evacuated from the scene. Rescue personnel will be in a safe area to provide assistance.

After you reach a safe location or assembly point, you’ll be asked to cooperate by providing information to investigators.

Knowing what to expect will help you assist law enforcement officials as they work to stop an active shooter and eliminate the threat.

Law Enforcement’s Role

Let’s review what to expect when law enforcement officials arrive at an active shooter scene.

Law enforcement’s immediate purpose is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible. Officers will proceed directly to the area in which the last shots were heard.

The first officers to arrive at the scene will not stop to help injured persons because their first priority is life safety, so they will need to secure the scene first.

When there is an emergency such as an active shooter incident, it is important to remember that officers arriving on scene may be coming from many different duty assignments and will likely be in various types of uniforms and even in street clothes. Do not be surprised by the variances in appearance, as law enforcement officials are trained to react quickly and work together.

Additional Officers and Rescue Teams

Additional officers may arrive in teams. These teams may:
--Wear regular patrol uniforms or external bulletproof vests, Kevlar helmets, and other tactical equipment.
--Be armed with rifles, shotguns, and/or handguns.
--Use pepper spray or tear gas to control the situation.
--Shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety.

Emergency medical personnel will also arrive at the scene. Rescue teams will treat and remove any injured persons. These teams may also request able-bodied individuals to assist in removing the wounded from the premises.

How To React

When law enforcement arrives:
--Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions.
--Put down any items in your hands (i.e., bags, jackets).
--Immediately raise hands and spread fingers.
--Keep hands visible at all times.
--Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as attempting to hold on to them for safety.
--Avoid pointing, screaming, and/or yelling.
--Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating—just proceed in the direction from which officers are entering the premises.

Information and Assembly Points

After you have reached a safe location or assembly point, you will likely be held in that area by law enforcement until the situation is under control, and all witnesses have been identified and questioned.

Do not leave the safe location or assembly point until law enforcement authorities have instructed you to do so.

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