Lessons Learned from the Roswell School Shooting

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: News and Tactical Advice

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Written by: Greg Ellifritz

 

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Did you see the news about last week’s shooting at a Roswell, New Mexico middle school?  It didn’t get wide media coverage (likely because of a small body count).  A student entered the school before classes began with a shotgun in a duffel bag.  He fired three rounds, injuring two people before a teacher commanded him to drop the gun.  He was apprehended by an off duty police officer who had been dropping his kids off at the school.  Read more about it at the link below:

 

2 youths wounded by student in Roswell school shooting

 

 

Even though there hasn’t been an in-depth analysis released by the school or police, there are a couple very important points to discuss:

 

1) Timing- The shooter targeted a group of students who were waiting in the gym before school started. Numerous previous school shooters have employed an identical strategy, targeting victims in the chaos that occurs when fellow students haven’t yet made it to class in the morning.

 

The main problem here is twofold…

– Schools rarely practice lockdown drills or shooting responses in the pre-school hours. Responses during this time are always more chaotic and less practiced.

– Access control is limited. Everyone expects lots of people to be entering the school, doors are rarely monitored, and students carrying large bags are not suspicious.

 

School personnel should be stationed at every door as students arrive and be trained to look for suspicious students who might be carrying weapons, extra ammunition, and/or restraints in large bags. Administrators should make sure lock down drills are practiced before and after school as well as the during the school day.

 

2) Long guns- The trend with active shooters in general and school shooters in particular has been to use rifles and shotguns more often than not. If you anticipate responding to an active shooter event, you will most likely be engaging in a gunfight against an opponent with superior weaponry. You should consider developing a set of personal tactics that will allow you to more effectively neutralize a long gun or minimize its advantages.

 

3) School security officers did not play a role in stopping the shooter. I don’t know if the security guards were armed or not here, but the shooter was stopped by a courageous unarmed school teacher.  A large number of these shooters are stopped by unarmed citizens, not security guards or cops.   If your school employs unarmed security guards, it isn’t really “security.” Urge your school board to employ armed security, hire school resource officers, or allow armed teachers. The most effective response to a school shooting is an armed “good guy.”

 

 

4) An off -duty police officer (dropping off his children) took control of the event after the shooter surrendered. If you are a police officer, do your kids’ teachers know it? Would the recognize you if you responded in an off duty capacity? If you regularly pick up or drop off your children at a school, it would be a good idea to introduce yourself to school staff so that they will recognize you in an emergency and will allow you to assist if necessary.

 

 

That goes for non-cop parents as well. If you are armed when dropping off your kids at school and find yourself in the middle of a school shooting, what would you do? The school staff will likely immediately lock all outside doors. You may not be able to get in unless the school staff recognizes you.  Have you made the effort to get to know any of the school staff?

 

 

Another point for my cop readers, if you are on duty and responding to a school shooting, you may encounter an off duty cop or armed citizen. You have to consider their presence in your response plan.

 

 

As more details are released, I will update this article.  Until then, if you have any additional information to share, please do so in the comments below.

 

 

 

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19 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Frank says:

    It is my understanding that federal law permits only on duty police officers to legally carry on school property. Off duty and concealed permit holders are barred from doing so.
    How can we drop off our kids anywhere but at the curb to avoid being a felon? Unless you park in the street and disarm yourself you can’t meet the staff.
    Better to be a felon than burry a child!

    • Ursavus Elemensis says:

      No. A concealed carry license holder can not go on school property with a gun. A couple things to consider: 1. You go onto the property because of an active shooter situation, you are a civilian or an off duty police officer in street clothes, and then the real police show up. Now, you’re walking around with a handgun in “low ready” or whatever and the police are there to stop a bad guy with a gun. Guess who they shoot first? You. Right. 2. You go onto the property because someone alerts you that there’s an active shooter. But, unknown to you and the someone who alerted you, Mrs. McGillicuddy, the librarian, has already convinced junior to drop the gun, and she is holding him down with her foot on his neck while she comforts the other scared kids and awaits the arrival of the police. When they get there, you are wandering around looking for the shooter, who is no longer shooting, and hence your presence was not needed, except now you are an adult non-employee walking around a school that has had an active shooter. You will be stopped, and you will be searched, and now you a forever forbidden to ever have a gun, ever again, forever. Now, it turns out that instead of being the hero who dashes onto the property to save the day, you are just a criminal. The nice lady who recognized you as a (formerly) legally-armed parent and implored you to “help” just kind of says, “oh, sorry about the trouble you are in.” 3. You dash onto the property and find the active shooter. Taking careful aim you fire a duty-ammo hollow point right between his eyes. Unfortunately, your 9 mm +P bullet still has enough energy after passing into and out of his skull and it continues flying until it hits the kid who was scared, panicking, and running behind the active shooter at just the moment that you took your shot. Talk about burying kids…wow.

      No, I am not a police officer and I am not going to go onto a school property to play active shooter combat games.

      • John says:

        “No. A concealed carry license holder can not go on school property with a gun.”

        This is not a universally true statement. It depends on the state. You might be prohibited from being on the property at all with a weapon, prohibited from having the weapon accessible, prohibited from exiting the vehicle armed, prohibited from entering the building, or not prohibited from any of these actions. Always know the local laws.

    • Phil Wong says:

      Just so we’re all on the same sheet of music:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun-Free_School_Zones_Act_of_1990

      The Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 (18 U.S.C. § 922(q)) states:

      (A) It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.

      Definitions:

      Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(25) the term “school zone” means—

      (A) in, or on the grounds of, a public, parochial or private school; or

      (B) within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school.

      Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(26) the term “school” means a school which provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under State law.

      (B) Subparagraph (A) does not apply to the possession of a firearm—

      (i) on private property not part of school grounds;

      (ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license;

      (iii) that is— (I) not loaded; and (II) in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle;

      Depending upon your individual jurisdiction, there can be an “interesting” interaction between municipal/county/state law and Federal law in this area – for example, an AZ CCW permit meets the standard described in Subparagraph (B)(ii) for a “state-issued firearms license” allowing an individual to possess a firearm in a school zone.

      However,under AZ Revised Statutes Title 13(Criminal Code), Chapter 31(Misconduct Involving Weapons)(http://azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/13/03102.htm&Title=13&DocType=ARS):

      13-3102. Misconduct involving weapons; defenses; classification; definitions

      A. A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly:

      12. Possessing a deadly weapon on school grounds;

      H. Subsection A, paragraph 12 of this section shall not apply to the possession of a:

      1. Firearm that is not loaded and that is carried within a means of transportation under the control of an adult provided that if the adult leaves the means of transportation the firearm shall not be visible from the outside of the means of transportation and the means of transportation shall be locked.

      2. Firearm for use on the school grounds in a program approved by a school.

      3. Firearm by a person who possesses a certificate of firearms proficiency pursuant to section 13-3112, subsection T and who is authorized to carry a concealed firearm pursuant to the law enforcement officers safety act of 2004 (P.L. 108-277; 118 Stat. 865; 18 United States Code sections 926B and 926C).

      • Ursavus.elemensis says:

        The 1,000 foot rule was thrown out by the United States Supreme Court.

        • JMD says:

          Do you have a source for that? Everything I can find indicates that the 1,000 foot rule is in full effect. I’m particularly interested because I olive right next to my daughter’s elementary school and my entire neighborhood is within the 1,000 foot envelope.

          • Jagger says:

            You can still own your gun, if you are on private property in the school area the law doesn’t apply to you. To be safe, when transferring it outside your house keep it in a locked container.

          • JMD says:

            I get that. I was just wondering if Ursavus.elemensis had a source for the assertion that the 1,000 foot rule is no longer in effect. While I know I can (and do) own guns on my own property, it’s annoying knowing that I have to take special precautions every time I leave the house with them, and I can’t ever walk off my property armed because the whole neighborhood is a school zone.

  2. Attila says:

    1. Chances of training someone to recognize stripped 20 gauge (the weapon used) in a dufflebag while there is a mass of 1,000 students flowing through an 8 feet wide corridor is slim to none.
    2. Interesting on the long guns. Like to see how many brought pistol/revolver yet still used long gun. I vaguely recall this to be the case in several incidents.
    3. Security guards in schools are often teachers and janitors. I have seen this dual role in several MD and DE districts. Since there is lack of concern (it won’t happen here), they feel a “real” guard is too much, or there is really no budget allocated.
    4. Appreciate the off-duty LEO making the right decision. I would not have recognized him, and probably pulled on him getting into a dangerous situation. It is a catch 22. He violated all kinds of security rules, policies, acts, ordinances, regulations and some other nonsense by entering the school without permission, with a weapon, presumably in civvies, yet he followed the right path.

    Dovetail – read Arapahoe gym teacher/security guard recount of that school’s incident – https://www.facebook.com/ilike9news/posts/10152080340956077?stream_ref=10

  3. Joe K says:

    Could you elaborate on point 2 about personal tactics against a superior armed opponent.

    Thanks.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      Come on Joe! I want YOU to think about that! I left it purposely vague to inspire some out of the box thinking. You don’t want me just to spoon feed you everything!

      • Ursavus Elemensis says:

        Well, if it seems that bad guy is using a pump shotgun, you can probably get bad guy to jam it up by waiting for him to fire a shot, then immediately engaging with your pistol, which should make him flinch, move, hesitate just enough to screw up the pump cycling. In any circumstance, cover would help the good guy by obscuring the bad guy’s aim. That is particularly important if bad guy is using iron sights that have to be lined up on you. A diversion tactic, such as throwing a bottle of soda, chair, etc to distract a bad guy who has to swing his body and two-hands-required-rifle/shotgun might buy the extra moment a good guy needs to get a shot or two or ten at him with a handgun that only requires one hand to operate. Good guy staying in motion would make it harder for the bad guy to hit the good guy, because he’d need to be fairly experienced (military, hunting, etc) to track the good guy and lead with his shots, and if good guy is moving enough it will make the bad guy with the rifle/shotgun move too, and thus make his bad work harder to do accurately.

  4. Mark says:

    Just an aside, if there is an active school shooting, the teachers won’t be letting you in even if they know you. Most likely they’ll immediately be huddled up in their rooms texting/FB’ing like crazy.

    • Greg Ellifritz says:

      Good point. But there may be a staff member assigned to open the door for the cops/EMS. That person might let you in if you are well known and trusted.

  5. Greg Ellifritz says:

    Federal law doesn’t distinguish any difference between “on duty” and “off duty” law enforcement status. An off duty cop would not be violating federal law by carrying into a school.

    State’s have different rules with regards to firearms on school property. In my state (Ohio), there is a specific allowance in the law for CCW licensees to carry when dropping their kids off or picking them up on school property. They are not allowed to enter a school building with a gun but they are allowed to drive onto school property when carrying.

    What would you do if you were lawfully picking up your child and heard gunfire inside the school? It may violate the law, but I’m willing to bet that many of you would enter and try to save some children. I know I would.

    It’s “big boy rules.” I understand the consequences of my actions and I’m willing to live with going to jail. I’m not willing to live with the idea that I could have saved innocent kids and did not.

    That’s my choice. And I respect any of you who have made the decision to leave this job for the police. I’m ok with that too.

    One thing to consider is that your conduct would likely be judged under the legal doctrine “of competing harms”. Yes, it’s bad to break the law about carrying a gun in a school, but a jury could see that as a reasonable decision in that it is “more bad” to let innocent children be killed.

  6. Ursavus Elemensis says:

    Greg said, “…(Ohio), there is a specific allowance in the law for CCW licensees to carry when dropping their kids off or picking them up on school property…”

    In PA, the law says no guns on school grounds except for lawful purposes. Nobody knows what “lawful purposes” means, and it’s not been settled by the courts, and no on wants to be the challenge case. Some say it means that a holder of a license-to-carry-firearms who is carrying for self-defense is a lawful purpose. Some say the high school rifle team is a lawful purpose. Some say stopping an active shooter is a lawful purpose. None of the people saying that stuff have a title of “Judge ____ of the ____ Court of PA” I’m not going to test the law. The kids will get help when the Police arrive. I’m not the Police.

  7. Ron says:

    It’s ironic that you make point #2 “facing an opponent armed with superior weaponry”. Just recently I have begun suggesting to some of my students that they strongly consider learning how to be more effective at longer ranges with handgun,,, especially a basic, carry gun.

    While a handgun wouldn’t be my first choice for such an encounter,,, if it’s all you have, you gotta make the best of it. Good thought inspiring topic in my opinion.

  8. Kevin says:

    Additionally here in Ohio, while few have publicly admitted or permitted it yet, a local school Board of Education has the right to override the “guns on/in school property” and allow its employees who are (properly?) trained to carry on the job, CHL. Unfortunately, in my mind, few have done so fearing litigation and/or insurability issues, public outcry…as if they wouldn’t cry out if a shooting incident took place…and overall weakness to do what’s needed.

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