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                        What We Can Learn From the Few Available Details of the South Carolina Church Shooting

                        You Must Be Prepared to ACT!


                        Before I get into the core subject of this article (Personal Safety), let me preface it with this:

                        The following is not in any way intended to “Monday morning quarterback”, judge, or “second guess” the decisions of the victims of this horrible and tragic incident! In fact, the response of the victims were “completely normal” and “instinctual” for anyone save those who have prepared themselves for a different, potentially more effective response. Regardless of the fact that their decisions may have contributed to loss of life, they can not in any way be criticized or faulted for the outcome of this incident!

                        It is always extremely difficult to take a tragic incident and use the decisions of the victims, whether effective or ineffective, of such an incident to improve the performance of potential future victims of such incidents. Unfortunately however, it needs to be done. Police Officers, as a part of daily training to enhance our chances of survival, review video recording of incidents, many times deadly, involving other officers. We have to look critically at the decisions made by other officers during dangerous and/or deadly encounters in order to enhance our skills and give ourselves the absolute best chance to survive. If something were ever to happen to me, and there were lessons to be learned from any mistakes that I might have made, I would want this to be used for the good of others.

                        Why do I say all this? Because this in an extremely well intentioned article and not in any way meant to offend anyone! It is not intended to These days, there always seems to be someone who takes offense to something (regardless of the subject matter) and, given that the subject matter of this article may expose the potential errors of victims of a deadly massacre, I just want it to be clear that I do not feel that anyone did anything wrong under the circumstances!

                        The Details of the Shooting

                        While there are relatively few details about this incident, the following is what I have been able to generally gather to use for training purposes. Again, please note that the exact details (names, ages, etc) are not critical, with the exception of the potential physical ability of some of those involved to be able to effectively respond to, and stop, an incident like this.

                        1) Dylan Roof came to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and attended a Bible Study for approximately 1 hour. It appears as though Roof was accepted and actually may have openly participated in the study. While this may sound somewhat out of the ordinary (new white male in an church with an all black congregation), it’s a church, and new people are accepted and come and go regularly. My wife and I attended a church in Ohio with an all black congregation and we accepted with open arms and greatly enjoyed being there.

                        2) At one point Roof stands up, pulls out a gun and states something to the effect of “I’m here tonight to kill black people” at which point he begins to fire a torrent of shots, one of which is aimed at the church’s Pastor, Clementa Pinckney, from point blank range.

                        3) Following the killing of Pastor Pinckney, it appears as though Roof had to reload. It is reported that a younger male subject in his mid 20’s pleaded with Roof, as Roof reloaded, telling Roof that he “didn’t need to do this”.

                        4) Following Roof’s successful reload he killed this particular male subject. During the course of this incident he also killed 7 additional subjects of ages ranging from 26-87 (again, these are approximates). I have also read, in others accounts, that Roof reloaded as many as five times!

                        So, there is MUCH to potentially be learned from this tragic incident! The greatest, general lesson is that YOU MUST BE PREPARED TO ACT IMMEDIATELY WITH A GOOD DECISION. YOU MUST BE PREPARED TO MAKE A GOOD DECISION IN FRACTIONS OF A SECOND! And this preparation takes time and effort!

                        WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

                        First consider, under the circumstances, exactly what you would do? Again, understand that it’s very easy to come up with answers fairly quickly and without thought when you are not experiencing any real stress or danger. The following answers are typical:

                        “I’d run out the door” (Run)

                        “I’d hide under a table” (Hide)

                        “I’d attack the guy” (Fight)

                        Remember however, that such a decision will not come as easily and instinctively as you might think, unless you have fully prepared yourself in advance. If you have taken our Understanding Violence Course, you know that you have to factor in the numerous things that are going to seriously hamper any life or death decision-making process (Symptoms of Fear; Elevated Heart Rate; Loss of Fine Motor Skills; Rush of Adrenaline; Tunnel Vision; etc). And all of these things MUST be overcome in fractions of a second! That’s all these victims had to come up with a solution! Fractions of a Second!! And trust me, being taught very generally to run, hide or fight is not nearly enough! Its better, however, than not discussing anything at all.

                        So What Could’ve Potentially Been Done to Save Lives!

                        I have highlighted and underlined the word Potentially above. Why? Because obviously unless something is played out under real circumstances, we cannot know for certain whether it will work or not. So the following may Potentially work:

                        Number One: A Baseline Was Broken!

                        A church has a new visitor that doesn’t fit the profile of the average church member! This alone should’ve put everyone inside that church on alert. Why? Because the baseline “norm” was broken. Not that this automatically meant danger, but it could! And in this case it did.

                        Number 2: What Was Roof’s Demeanor Prior to Attack?

                        My guess is that Roof showed signs that there was potential danger awry. Roof likely showed signs of nervousness or signs that he was hiding his real emotions! These are all things that must be studied and mastered as a part of your “passion to survive”.

                        Number 3: Reaction!

                        Based on the available information, there were two ideal moments, based on the available information, where reaction might’ve saved lives:

                        1) Immediately upon the shots fired

                        2) Upon Roof’s Reload

                        Remember, there is strength in numbers and “attack immediately and with utter fury”! There is no better time than immediately to “make your move”! Things will not get any better with time. Reaction doesn’t necessarily mean attacking the “bad guy”. It can also mean escape or moving others to action by giving an instruction. In a situation like this, a sudden incident of trauma, the untrained and unprepared will freeze; the untrained and unprepared will likely follow whatever it is that those around them decide to do. If it’s nothing, then the reaction of all will likely be nothing. If it’s running away, then likely everyone will run away; and they will likely follow wherever the first person decides to run. There is clear evidence of this in situations captured on video.

                        Again, in a sudden incidence of violence, you will have fractions of a second to react and make the right decisions!

                        The key is that you must do something and being prepared to make THE RIGHT DECISIONS IN FRACTIONS OF A SECONDcan be critical to survival.

                        Strength in Numbers

                        In this situation, had everyone been prepared to react immediately by attacking the shooter the second he started shooting, the sheer numbers, 9-against-1, may have quickly taken Roof’s advantage of surprise and weapons. Is it likely that some or all would still be injured or killed? Maybe! Yet far less likely than not doing anything or doing the wrong thing.

                        Attempting to Talk Your Attacker Down

                        There may be times when this will work. But as with anything, understanding the type of person and situation that you are dealing with, and how to handle such a person, will be critical to success. Again, knowing and being prepared for this is simply a part of the passion to survive.

                        In this case, however, the bad guy has already fired shots and killed people. Therefore, attempting to reason with him will likely be futile! Retreat or fight are the only options at this point.

                        The Bottom Line?

                        Never allow yourself to be a victim without fighting for your life! NEVER!

                        Published Jun 29, 2015

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