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Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.

Suicidal Active Shooter: What Would You Do?

Tell us how would you would handle this situation.

September 12, 2013  |  by Bob Parker - Also by this author

Photo via Israel/Flickr.
Photo via Israel/Flickr.
With this SWAT blog, we're presenting a scenario for your consideration. We'd like to know how you would handle it, so please add your comments below. In the next post, we'll give you the outcome. Here's the set up:

The call came in from the administration office of the local high school. They reported that a student was in the hallway in front of the main office waving around a handgun. The caller states the issue might be a bad breakup with a girlfriend. A friend of the male with the gun was heard to say, "Put the gun away, it's not worth it." Officers have heard no reports of shots fired or injured people.

The school staff evacuated some of the students. There's still a crowd of students in the area that seem to be friends and acquaintances of the suspect. It's not known whether the female, who is the object of his affection, is in the area.

The school's administrative area is located on the first floor immediately to the right of the main lobby. There's also a large group of students who are reluctant to leave the lobby, apparently hoping to see the scenario play out.

You're part of a team of three officers arriving together at the school. You park your cruisers by the side of the building.

Using a back entrance door held open by a helpful custodian, your team advances to the lobby area. From concealment, you can see a white male, approximately 17 years old. He's dressed in blue jeans, blue running shoes and a black T-shirt. He's holding what appears to be a large, black semi-automatic pistol. The weapon is at his right side, pointed at the floor.

This suspect matches the description that the caller gave in the initial 911 call. He appears to be arguing with some of the students standing around him. His voice is loud and he is cursing. Your team hears him say, "Just a couple of things left to do."

One of the bystanders then tells the others, "The cops are here." Most of the crowd scatters. A few remain. Your hand has been forced and the three of you, with weapons on the suspect, move within 30 feet. One team member takes some hard cover behind a large pillar. Two of you are out in the open. In a loud commanding voice, you order the suspect to drop the weapon and the others to leave the area.

The suspect moves the pistol up and points it at his head. Some of the others tell you to leave and yell, "We can handle this." You shout commands at them again. They move into the lobby but not leaving the area. You again command the suspect to drop his weapon. He replies, "It's OK, I'm going to do myself. I loved her so much. I don't want anyone else to get hurt."

Comments (14)

Displaying 1 - 14 of 14

Jenann @ 9/13/2013 7:01 AM

Use his name: John, if you truly don't want to hurt anyone, don't hurt yourself this way. Put the weapon down, this decision will hurt your friends, and devastate your parents; all who seem to truly care about you! Tell me more about the girl. (pause for response) Even though it seems hard right now, it will get better. High school romances don't always workout the 1st time. Sometimes you need to give new romances a chance to start.(pause for response) So please, put the weapon down and let's see if we can discuss this in a more quiet place without all the others around. (pause for response) You have so much more of lifes' experiences to look forward to, it just seems hard right now, but it will get better, I promise you. (After a little more conversation, if all this fails, tazer the love sick pup just enough to stop him! - Sorry!)

Jim B. @ 9/13/2013 9:40 AM

I wouldn't be out in the open and I wouldn't let my team members be out in the open either. We'd all be behind cover, even if it's just a corner. Tazing might be a good idea since we still have two of us with lethal force options but it assumes we are within range (21' to 25') of the probes and that the kid doesn't have his finger on the trigger (otherwise he's likely to fire when hit with the juice). We can try and talk the guy down as Jenann suggests but we all know it takes a fraction of a second for him to move that pistol from his temple onto a bystander or one of us and fire, much faster than we can respond. Are the other kids still in the danger zone? It says they move into the lobby but is that still in view of the gunman where he could take a shot at them? If they are out of the picture and me and my guys have some sort of cover (even if it's not the best), I'm probably going to try and talk the kid down. (continued)

Jim B. @ 9/13/2013 9:49 AM

It's real easy to just say the kids got a gun, he's a threat, I'm going to go home tonight, I'd pull the trigger and put him down. But as I said, if the bystanders are out of the way and we've got some cover, I would probably take some time to try and talk him down. After all, he had the opportunity to kill a bunch of kids if that's really what he wanted to do and he didn't do it. I'd take that into account along with his reactions to our presence and my words. Now, if there are other kids milling around where he could take them out in a split second or for some reason, me or my team are exposed with no cover available, I'm still going to give him two or three commands to drop the gun but if the taser is not an option for the reasons mentioned, I'm pulling the trigger.

Eric @ 9/13/2013 1:26 PM

We are going to speak with the subject and have negotiators or CIT officers responding. Hopefully the officers and citizens are behind cover/evacuated. If not, he will be neutralized when determined to be an uncontrollable threat.

R G Montgomery @ 9/13/2013 4:10 PM

Sorry, but this is rather futile.

One can - with some degree of practice and a certain amount of humanity - interact with a human being, one cannot interact with a printed scenario.

Dealing with suicidal or hostile people is closer to an art form than a science. It needs be done with a great deal of on-the-spot observation and the ability to change course instantly.

Sorry to be a wet blanket.

warren obrien @ 9/15/2013 5:28 AM

Unfortunately, in this situation the officers must neutralize the threat. With imminent danger to civilians and officers, there is no other choice. Given the circumstances presented here, there is no time for negotiations. The officers MUST take action.
This is a LETHAL force situation. The use an ECW (Taser) is not an option.

JRM @ 9/25/2013 5:37 PM

With the camera shot shown I would think that there may have been a very last resort and a possible shot at the gun or gun arm.
May be the only option.

TRC @ 9/25/2013 5:40 PM

I too was considering that JRM but we don't want to put anyone else in any danger

CPol57 @ 9/25/2013 9:15 PM

The kid said, ""It's OK, I'm going to "DO myself". I loved her so much. "I don't want anyone else to get hurt."" His actions matched his words. I'd attempt that 30 foot shot at a non-lethal part of the body, if I could do it without hitting an innocent. If I couldn't make that shot, he'd probably "DO himself." If he changed his words or actions in a manner that threatened anyone else, then make a body shot. The other students refused to obey a lawful order; they asked for a reality check.

JM @ 9/26/2013 6:02 AM

I have never been a fan of shooting someone before they had a chance to shoot themselves. Talk to him as long as he is pointing the gun at himself. He either shoots himself, moves the gun and you shoot him or talk him down.

Jfk @ 9/26/2013 6:49 AM

Talk to him as all the commenters would, distract him in any calm way possible. Then use a bean bag shot x2 placed into his upper thighs or abdomen when the gun isn't up to his head. Pain and some psychiatric evaluation time might do some good. Just my thoughts so far.

David Davis @ 9/26/2013 7:35 AM

Not fond of table talk stuff either, but. We will stay behind cover. We will be ready to take him down if it goes that way. By now we have help. Get teachers to remove other students. Right now it's a negotiation thing. Unless you've done some test on how many missiles are created when you shoot a pistol held to the head you might want to rethink that option. Here in Texas we can not use deadly force to stop a sucide so we do have to let him do that part if he wants. Shooting him in leg will/may start him shooting somewhere. Bean bags are fun, but when hit he's going to flinch and pull the trigger. If room is clear and everyong else is out I'd try the taser. Anyway it goes we'll still feel sorry for the guy.

NTM @ 10/18/2013 3:40 PM

JFK...did you really just bring a bean bag to an active shooter scene?

DD @ 2/26/2016 3:54 PM

It's not an active shooter- it's a sucidsl student. He is actively negotiating and your behind cover- all is good, to bring a LLP option. Just have lethal force on stand by.

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