Neighborhood Watch meeting warns of gunman situation

Sarah Dunkel was one of only a handful of people to attend Tuesday’s county-wide Neighborhood Watch meeting, but she came with serious intent, as an employee in a “very prominent” public-service location.

She plans to be a handful, if necessary, if she ever must put into practice the advice she learned Tuesday from presenter Rob Archey on dealing with a “mass casualty assailant” in the kind of situation that occurred at Columbine, Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech.

“Exit, hide or attack and defend,” she said after the session, reciting with only a minor adjustment of phrasing Archey’s recommended sequence of options for those finding themselves in the company of a mad murderer in a public place.

“I think I would do it,” she said. “Absolutely.”

Mass attacks in public places are uncommon – 16 occurred last year and about the same number the previous year in the U.S., said Archey, a sergeant in the Blair County Sheriff’s Department.

And they don’t kill many – fewer than 250 people since 1996, which contrasts to the 25,000 DUI-related deaths every year, he said.

“But we can’t pretend it can’t happen here,” he said. “Denial kills.”

Before giving the crisis option sequence that Dunkel recited – evacuate, then if you can’t evacuate, hide, then if you can’t hide, fight – Archey offered a sequence from a broader, societal perspective.

“Detect, deter, defeat.”

We should be alert for “red flags” in the form of aberrant behavior, obsession with violent imagery, a gnawing grievance, raving manifestos, perhaps surfacing on social media, Archey said.

Eighty percent of the time someone else knew they were thinking of doing something like they did, Archey said.

Those red flags ought to result in calls for help for the person who’s causing concern, he said.

He showed pictures of the two boys who shot and killed four students and one teacher at a middle school in Jonesboro, Ark. They looked like innocent boys.

Wouldn’t you have liked to get them help, he asked.

But if red flags don’t lead to prevention, and you find yourself in the middle of attempted slaughter, you need to defeat the perpetrator, Archey said.

You first try to get out, if you can, helping others do the same, he said.

You stay low, hug a wall, keep your hands visible in case police arrive, tell police what they may need to know – like where the shooter is and how many potential victims are in danger, according to Archey.

And when you get to safety, you keep other potential victims from going unwittingly into danger – and if no one has done it already, call 911.

If you can’t get out, you hide.

“You try to get big things between you and the assailant” – maybe a door backed up with furniture, he said.

You silence your cellphone.

If you can’t hide, and you’re in imminent danger, you fight.

“Attack the shooter,” Archey said. “Get an angle. Use an improvised weapon.”

You need to commit to the fight and commit to win – “like a mama bear,” he said.

“Use your fingernails, your knees. Beat that person down until they can’t move,” he said.

Most mass murderers are “little wimps with big guns,” he added.

If you have a gun yourself, use it, he said.

A gym teacher stopped a school shooting in Minnesota, and an assistant principal stopped a knife-wielding assailant at Franklin Regional High School, Archey said.

“You have to do what you have to do,” he said.

Sixty percent of incidents end before police arrive, he said.

Half of would-be mass murderers have schizophrenia or some serious mental disorder, he said.

They’re in society because of deinstitutionalization, which began several decades ago, he said.

They need the inpatient treatment deinstitutionalization took away, he said.

But that may not happen until psychiatry and law enforcement bridge the professional “disconnect” between them, he said.

“Until they get it figured out, we need to protect ourselves,” Archey said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.