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Regardless of whether we classify terrorists as anarchists, Islamist jihadists, nationalists or American right-wing extremists, their logic always contains a common thread. They believe the government is violating their rights and brutalizing them. Their always twisted and tortured logic calls for murder and injury to innocents, regardless of age or gender, to make the point. They believe that the more innocents they hurt, the more the government will be responsive to their demands.
The April 15 bombing at the Boston Marathon's finish line will likely start a new wave of terrorism in the U.S. Although the explosion and resulting casualties didn't reach the magnitude of the Oklahoma City bombing, the desired effect was realized. The Boston metropolitan area lived in fear for nearly a week until the suspects were killed or captured. Remember the terrorist mantra, "kill one man, and terrorize a thousand."
For some time, many in law enforcement have expected an increase in bombing incidents in this country. Europe, the Middle East, southwest Asia, and Africa have been subjected to terrorist IEDs for years. It seems to be a matter of time before it comes to our shores with a greater frequency than we have experienced.
Patrol and SWAT units will be the first responders that will meet this threat head on. With this in mind, here's a scenario for you to consider. Read it and add a comment below about how you would handle it. Here it is:
Two active shooters have attacked a middle school in your city. They are using firearms and there are reports of small explosions in the school. Calls to 911 indicate multiple casualties. The school resource officer (SRO) is among those down. You are the commander of a four-officer contact team. Your team assembles at the main door on the north side of the school. As you start to enter, radio advises that the suspect vehicle is a 20-foot box truck parked on the east side of the school.
Students and teachers are fleeing past you. Several of them tell you that the shooters are killing with their guns, described as handguns, and throwing explosives with fuses. They also tell you that the focal point of the attack is in the library, 100 feet down a hallway, and to the right.
You and your team start moving fast in that direction. The hallway is full of backpacks and several dead students. The double doors to the library are open. A wounded student runs out and tells you the suspects are still shooting at survivors of the initial attack and lighting small grenade-type explosives and throwing them. He believes there are still six students in the library.
You hear more shots and an explosion. As you cross the threshold into the library, your left flanker sees a pressure cooker with wires sitting on the library checkout desk. He shouts out a warning about a possible IED, just as one of the suspects comes out from behind a bookshelf and starts to engage your team.
What would you do now? Think out your priorities and dangers, and then decide on your course of action with the information provided. We'll give you the best way to handle this scenario in a follow-up blog.
Bob Parker is the Patrol Section chair for the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA).