Left: August 1, 1966: Charles Whitman shot 47 people, killing 16 of them the top of the Texas Tower on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Right: October 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock kills at least 58 from the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
August 1, 1966: Charles Whitman takes a selection of weapons, food, water and more up to the top of the Texas Tower on the University of Texas campus in Austin. From his perch, he shot 47 people, killing 16 of them. His longest engagement distance was approximately 1,500 feet / 500 yards and he killed one victim by shooting through a six inch gap in concrete. Charles Whitman was killed by responding police officers.
October 1, 2017: Stephen Paddock takes ten rifles (according to Sheriff’s statement) and goes to the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay in Law Vegas where he fires down into a dense crowd of people attending a country music concert. Paddock killed over 50 victims and an additional 400+ are being reported as injured.
These events occurred 51 years apart. The “Texas Tower” incident has often been cited as the beginning of the active shooter era and is cited as one of the reasons police departments began to develop special operations teams in the United States. Across the span of that 51 years, the incidents of active shooter attacks has increased from one every few years to several per year in some years. Active shooter attacks have occurred in schools of every grade from elementary to college and post graduate, in shopping malls, in places of worship, in business offices and now from a resort hotel into a concert crowd.
With any such tragedy we have several immediate reactions and responses as we learn about what occurred.
First, shock. After all, since it hasn’t happened before – in such a venue – then why would it happen now? It’s unexpected. It’s surprising. It’s scary… most of us have been to Las Vegas and can easily imagine being “in the fish bowl” as a shooter looks down at us from an elevated position in any one of the hotels anywhere along the strip. It’s a scary potential reality that shakes our core.
Second, disbelief. There’s no way, right? Is this real? Wait… don’t all the casinos prohibit weapons? How did he even get a gun… much less TEN… into the hotel? Those of us who have been to Vegas know that Nevada is a gun-friendly state and cases with rifles and/or handguns inside are not an unknown site in the hotel lobbies. If you’ve been to SHOT Show you’ve seen literally hundreds of them going through the hotels. Believe it. This happened.
Third, the drive to “fix it.” We seek to place blame; to place responsibility. We seek a way to “fix” whatever it was that MUST be broken for this to have happened. The unfortunate reality is that the only thing broken was the perpetrator’s spirit and sense of morality. We can’t fix that. Humans are imperfect and there will always be those who hold evil in their heart. All we can do is be ready; be alert and respond as efficiently as possible full of courage – just as Las Vegas Metro PD and Sheriffs did last night.
Fourth, the eagerness to jump on the bandwagon. It’s news! It’s breaking! It’s… heinous and tragic and we don’t need to make it worse by spreading unconfirmed rumors or allegations. In the past hour and a half (as I write this) I’ve seen the weapons used described as anything from “military style” to “belt fed.” Those of us who have served in the military, or who are more firearms familiar than a lot of the population, know what “belt fed” means. However, that term was used by a “law enforcement expert,” (who, by the way, isn’t a police officer anymore) to describe how the gunshots sounded after he watched a video. Once he used that term, a bunch of folks jumped on the bandwagon and suddenly… the social media pundits have proclaimed the attack was performed with a belt fed weapon. As of this writing, I can’t find any confirmation from a single law enforcement agency that lists his weapons, what caliber or type they were. It may well have been a belt-fed weapon… but how about if we wait for confirmation before we all start reporting that as fact?
Fifth comes the anger and worry. How dare he?! Why?! What if I or someone I knew had been attending that concert?! Evil dares. It’s that simple. Evil doesn’t care or have any sense of compassion. He was already dead in his heart and mind and he killed himself (according to all reports) after he committed this heinous and tragic act. We cannot wipe evil from the heart of man. Evil dares. Why? Who knows? We may never find out unless he left a letter or manifesto or whatever. It may simply have to be chalked off to, “evil dares.” And let’s all be thankful that we WEREN’T at that concert… but also ask ourselves, very seriously, what if we were?
How would you have reacted? Because the reality is this: evil will strike again. We never know if it will be in our presence or not. All we can do is stay alert and stay alive. We can react within the confines of our courage, our preparedness, our knowledge and our training. So… think about yourself. What would you have done? Reports of courageous behavior are flowing across the news and social media. It warms my heart to see how Americans act so selflessly in tragedies such as these.
Would you welcome a stranger into your car as a means of hiding? Would you provide first aid? Would you carry them? Assist them? Can you treat your own wound if one of those rounds find you?
All any of us can do is stay alert to our surroundings and try to respond as best we can. As I have often told my children: The best you can do is all you can do. Never do less than your best.
Keep the victims of this event… the survivors… and the first responders in your prayers.
By Frank Borelli | Officer.com