Written by: Greg Ellifritz
Early Sunday morning on June 12, a murderer (who won’t be named here) pledging fealty to the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, entered an Orlando gay nightclub and shot more than 100 people. Preliminary accounts indicate that 49 innocent victims were killed and an additional 54 victims were hospitalized with injuries. It is likely that countless more were injured but did not seek immediate medical treatment.
The police have been very reluctant to release many details on this shooting as the investigation is still ongoing. We know that the killer made entry armed with both a rifle and a handgun shortly after “last call” at 2 am. An off-duty Orlando police officer working security in the club’s parking lot saw the man trying to enter the club carrying a rifle. The cop and the killer exchanged gunfire, apparently with neither getting hits. The cop reported the shooting. Within a minute, the first police cruiser arrived on scene. Details are sketchy, but it appears that the two Orlando PD officers who arrived in the cruiser made entry into the club and also exchanged gunfire with the killer. Police reports state that these two officers facilitated the evacuation of “dozens and dozens” of club patrons before retreating. No one reported why these men retreated or whether they were ordered by superiors to exit the building.
The man continued killing club goers without further police intervention for more than 20 minutes. At 2:22 am. the terrorist contacted police and stated he wanted to negotiate. In this call and several others he spoke Arabic and made reference to Islamic terrorism. After speaking to police, the killer also made a 67-second long phone call to a local TV news producer. During his communication with police he claimed to have numerous hostages and an explosive device.
Police spoke to the man by phone on and off for more than two hours as he continued to murder people in the club. At 5 am, fearing that the terrorist would detonate the explosive device and kill the remaining hostages, Orlando PD SWAT breached a wall with an armored vehicle and made entry. The terrorist fired on police officers through the hole the officers made in the wall. Officers returned fire, killing the man. All in all 1/3 of the total number of club patrons was either killed or injured in the shooting.
As I wrote earlier, we aren’t even close to knowing all of the details about this event. But given the facts we know, I would like to provide some guidance for my readers based on the “lessons learned” from this particular event. Undoubtedly, we will learn much more as the investigation progresses, but until then, here are a few tips to help you prevail should you encounter a similar scenario.
1) No one is coming to save you. I’m sorry. Did you think that ever since the police learned their lessons at Columbine they would be making immediate entry to save your life in an active killer event? Sometimes, but not always. It took cops almost three hours to make entry with enough people and equipment to neutralize the killer.
If you are caught up in one of these shootings, you must be able to take care of yourself. There’s no telling when the cops will make their rescue attempt. You MUST think for yourself. Don’t depend on ANYONE to save you! Escape, improve your position, find cover, attack the killer, do something! Waiting for a rescue attempt is not a successful alternative.
This advice goes for medical care as well. You need to know how to stop severe bleeding and prevent a tension pneumothorax from a sucking chest wound. If you get hit, the medics might not be allowed in until it’s too late. Just like you have to be ready to take care of yourself and your loved ones with a gun, you should also be ready to save their lives with a tourniquet as well.
2) You had better bring your “A-game.” Active killers have a tendency of carrying multiple weapons, lots of ammo, and long guns. This killer didn’t disappoint in that regard. He had a .223 Sig MCX (no it wasn’t a true AR-15, but don’t debate such trivialities. It makes you look pedantic.) and a 9mm Glock 17 on his person as well as a .38 snub nose in his car. Not many of you carry around that type of hardware at the night club.
If you want to prevail against a person armed like that, you must beat him with skill and tactics because you won’t have an equivalent level of weaponry. Are you up to the task?
My friend Tim made the following statement on his Facebook page shortly after the killings:
“Events seem to indicate that to have any hope of stopping the sort of malevolent narcissist revealed in Orlando, you need **exceptional** skill with your concealed handgun. You need to have enough skill with your handgun to outpace the other guy’s skill with his rifle.”
That’s practical advice. How many of you are working hard enough on your pistol skills to make it happen?
3) Hiding and playing dead aren’t very good options. The whole “Run, Hide, Fight” mantra is doing more harm than good. People aren’t doing enough of the “run” and “fight“. Instead, a whole lot of folks are embracing the “hide” element of that saying. Hiding is fine, if you have a good hiding place. Where do you really think you are going to hide in a crowded nightclub?
The only locations for hiding were the bathrooms. More than 30 people crowded themselves into a single club bathroom. Many of those people locked themselves in toilet stalls for protection. What type of protection is a toilet stall door against a rifle round? Not very good.
One witness described the scene in the bathroom:
“‘The scary part was that he didn’t say anything, and what’s scarier than that when he shot the boy that was already shot, he laughed,’ an emotional Casiano said. ‘And as he’s laughing as he fires through the whole front of the stall. That’s when I got my first wound.'”
They started pleading for their lives, but this only seemed to spur the gunman on, who put his gun over the top of the stall and sprayed bullets towards them before leaving the room.”
Toilet stalls are not bulletproof. Don’t hide in a place where you can’t make a quick escape.
Most of the people who hid in the bathrooms were killed. In fact, only one out of 30 actually survived. Those who played dead didn’t fare much better. As with the Virginia Tech active killer, this terrorist regularly walked past all of the “dead” bodies on the dance floor and fired additional rounds at them to ensure that they weren’t still alive. One victim described what happened as he played dead on the dance floor:
“‘I was shot about three times in my leg, so I had fallen down. I tried to get back up, but everyone started running anywhere. I got trampled over, and I shattered and broke my bones on my left leg. So by this time I couldn’t walk at all,’ he said.
‘He goes into the other room, and I can just hear more shots going on. I thought I was a little safe at this time because, you know, it’s giving everyone time to tackle him down or get him down,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, I hear him come back, and he’s shooting everyone that’s already dead on the floor. Making sure they’re dead,’ Colon said.
‘I can hear the (gunshots) closer, and I look over and he shoots the girl next to me. And I’m just there laying down. I’m thinking, ‘I’m next. I’m dead.”
The gunman shoots the already wounded Colon twice more, but somehow, the survivor said, ‘by the glory of God, he shoots towards my head but it hits my hand.
‘Then he shoots me again and it hits the side of my hip,’ he recalled.
Colon was careful not to give away the fact that, despite having a half-dozen bullets lodged in his body, he was not dead.
‘I had no reaction. I was just prepared to just stay there laying down so he won’t know that I’m alive,’ he said.
‘And he’s just doing this for another five, ten minutes. He’s just shooting all over the place.”
Playing dead should only be a tactic you employ when you have exhausted all others.
4) You may have to attack the killer even if you are unarmed. It doesn’t appear that anyone tried to fight the killer as he was on his murderous rampage. That’s a shame. There’s no way that the terrorist would have killed as many people as he did had the bar patrons attacked en masse.
Even if you were unarmed and attacked, what’s the worst thing that could happen? You get killed? You are likely already dead anyway. You have nothing to lose by trying to take the killer out (some tips on doing so HERE). If you can organize your friends for a simultaneous attack, you will likely have a higher success rate. That should be pretty easy to do in a club. Few people go to a dance club by themselves.
There is really no way that one armed man should be able to take 300 people hostage. Do whatever mental gymnastics you need to perform to wrap yourself around the idea that you may have to fight, even with bare hands, if you don’t want to end up in a coffin.
5) Being aware of all possible exits and choosing a “tactical” spot to hang out in a bar are both very important considerations. There weren’t many exits in this particular club. There was a serious traffic jam of people all trying to get out at once. In one instance, an escaping club patron blocked the exit door from the outside to slow down fleeing victims in order to ensure that he was able to escape without being trampled. If that happens, you better have a “Plan B.” If you don’t know where all of the exits are located, that’s going to be a tough plan to formulate while a terrorist is shooting at you.
Check out the diagram of the venue posted at the Gun Watch website:
The black blobs along the perimeter are the bar’s exits. The author of the article cited above made the statement that it was very easy for the terrorist to control the club patrons’ actions by standing near the lower entrance location. From that point, the killer could visualize the entire club and ALL the exits. It’s the best position to be in order to take over the room.
Finding spots like that in the venues you attend is a valuable exercise. YOU want to hold the dominant room position! If you can see all the exits, you have an advantage. You can move to the one that is least crowded if something bad happens. When you go out to large public events, stay on the periphery of the crowd and plant yourself in the most dominant position you can obtain. Make sure you can see all entrances/exits if possible. Make sure you aren’t trapped in a corner or locked into position by a crowd of people. If you can, you should also pick a spot that gives you visual access to the venue’s cash registers. If the crisis that happens is a simple robbery instead of a terrorist active killer, the cash register is the most likely place for bad things to kick off.
6) Face Shots. Today’s active killers are more commonly integrating explosive vests/belts into their attack planning. They are also more likely than ever to be wearing body armor. Both of these observations hold true for the Pulse shooting. The shooter in this case claimed that he was wearing a bomb vest (although it was later found that he had lied). He also attempted to buy military style (Level Three) hard armor plates capable of stopping rifle rounds, but the store wouldn’t sell it to him.
If you shoot center mass against a killer/terrorist with a bomb vest, your bullet will likely detonate the explosive and kill you. If you shoot center mass against a target with quality armor, your shots will be ineffective. You have to practice your head shots and train yourself to take them if you find yourself in an active killer event. What’s the farthest distance you can you guarantee a perfect headshot? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you aren’t prepared to take on a modern-day active killer.
When I go to the range for my weekly practice session later this morning, I know what I’ll be working on.
That’s all I have for today. I had planned to give some tips to police officers as well, but this post is already 2200 words long and I have at least that much more to say to my cop friends. Check out the site on Monday for an in-depth critique of the police performance in this incident and to learn why there is a tremendous difference between the tactics you should employ at a traditional hostage barricade incident and the tactics you should use in a hostage taking contemporaneous with an active killer event. It’s an important distinction and failure to understand the difference probably led to lots of unnecessary deaths in this shooting incident.
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