Suicidal Active Shooter: The Answer

You've only got two options with the information you've received. Shoot the suspect or get him to place his weapon on the floor and submit to arrest.

Bob Parker Bio Headshot

Photo via Israel/Flickr.Photo via Israel/Flickr.

With this SWAT blog, we're providing the answer presented in "Suicidal Active Shooter: What Would You Do?We asked how you would handle it, and you gave some great answers. Here's the outcome:

You've only got two options with the information you've received. Shoot the suspect or conduct some ad hoc negotiations in the hallway and attempt to get the suspect to place his weapon on the floor and submit to arrest.  Regardless of your decision, you have to be conscious of the students that are still in the lobby, or unknown numbers that may still be in adjacent rooms. 

Innocents can be harmed with gunfire directed at the suspect or fired from the suspect's weapon. It can be a danger to those down range to your rear. And the "plus one rule" must be observed. You know where the primary suspect, the focus of the call is, but is there another armed second potential shooter, regardless of what this scenario appears to be?

If You Don't Shoot

Decide not to shoot and talk him into surrender? The upside, of course, is you don't have to take a life. Fewer reports, no grand jury proceedings, no administrative duty while your actions are investigated. And your face(s) and name(s) stay off the front page and the 11 o'clock news.

The suspect may have been full of false bravado in front of his classmates.  He may have been attempting to get attention and sympathy from his ex-girlfriend. Now, when confronted with armed professionals, he may be having a change of heart. And he may be looking for anyone who will listen to his troubles. Good street cops know that empathy with a victim or suspect can go a long way in seeking a peaceful resolution.

If You Shoot

Decide to shoot him when he failed to comply after numerous commands to drop the weapon and follow your instructions? Be ready to articulate the steps and rationale that led to your decision.

Is the weapon a real weapon? Is it loaded? You don't know and can't be expected to know. But, the suspect had the pistol pointed at his own head.  He never pointed it at innocents or law enforcement officers. He even stated that he didn't want to hurt anyone else. And all of those classmates that are in line of sight when you fire are not going to be witnesses for you. 

With all of this information, keep in mind what you know and civilians don't ever recognize: Action always beats reaction. That pistol may be pointed at the subject's head, but he can point it in your direction faster than you can react and shoot him. In dry fire drills, of which I've conducted many, I've never seen an outcome better than a tie.

And even if you did pull your trigger faster, a suspect can still get off a round or more. No, the shots may not be aimed but they can still be deadly, for both you and innocents down range.

And just because you heard about a similar incident where the cops didn't shoot doesn't make your decision making any easier. What worked yesterday may not be the answer today. There are too many variables involved. In its own way every call is different. 

Your Choice

Either option you chose was correct for this exercise. I've conducted this scenario around the country for over 10 years. It breaks down close to 50-50 from the teams I've run through this.

About the Author
Bob Parker Bio Headshot
Lieutenant (Ret.)
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