Active shooter incidents and police response

Greg Ellifritz has noted a change in active shooter tactics, including setting up ambushes to catch responding officers.  Most of us aren’t police, but we can learn useful lessons from the history of active shooter incidents and how they’re likely to play out.  We can adapt our response accordingly, and hopefully keep ourselves and our loved ones from harm in the process.

I was reviewing some of the recent articles about the Borderland Bar shooting in California.  During that shooting, the killer purposely stopped firing on the victims to set up an ambush to attack the police officers he knew were coming.  That’s a relatively rare event and it’s one our current police response procedure isn’t likely to effectively counter.

. . .

Studying active killer events during most of the 21st century showed us that the killer would be alone and he would be too busy racking up a large body count to set up ambushes for responding officers.  The attacks also weren’t lasting as long as the Columbine siege, with 69% of active killer attacks completed in five minutes or less.

It turned out that our “posse formations” simply took to long to organize.  By the time cops rounded up four to six officers to make entry, the attack was finished.  Our group entries weren’t saving lives, they were causing more deaths.

With very few exceptions, active killers were shooting between four and eight victims per minute during their rampages.  Some outlier events like the recent Las Vegas concert shooting demonstrated even faster rates of fire (538 people injured in 10 minutes).

It’s relatively simple math.  Most urban or suburban police departments can get one officer on the scene of an active killer attack in three to four minutes.  Many can get two officers there in five minutes.  For most agencies, getting four officers on scene takes about 10 minutes from the time the officers are dispatched.

The difference between a single officer response and a four-officer team response is about six minutes in time.  In waiting those extra six minutes, an average of 48 more victims will be shot.  That’s unacceptable.

. . .

Active killers now know that the first cop on the scene is coming in with guns blazing as soon as he rolls up.  The killer knows that he only has three to four minutes to inflict his carnage before the cops show up and spoil the party.  Just like we’ve modified our tactics to respond to changes in killing patterns, the killers are beginning to modify their tactics to prolong the amount of time they have to kill more innocent victims.

Now the killers are planning to either escape the scene in the first few minutes or they are setting up ambushes to take out the first couple officers on scene (as seen in the Borderland shooting).

We are starting to see a slight increase in multiple attacker active killer events (Las Vegas and San Bernardino).  We are also seeing worldwide symphonic terrorist attacks involving multiple suspects.  Take a look at the Beslan school hostage siege, the Australian Lindt cafe hostage siege, the Bangladesh restaurant hostage siege, and the Nord Ost theater attack.  The French Bataclan Theater hostage incident fits that profile as well.

. . .

In addition to multiple attackers, we are seeing killers attempting to ambush cops as they make entry. Besides the California bar shooting I mentioned earlier, we have the DC Navy Yard shooting, the Las Vegas incident, and the Kirkersville, Ohio police chief assassination. The Pulse Nightclub Shooting might have also involved an ambush of the initial responding officers.

. . .

So what can we do?

There’s more at the link.  Click over there to read Greg’s suggested responses.  It’s important information.

If you’re caught in such an incident, it helps to know what the shooter(s) may plan to do, so you can avoid being caught in the traps they set.  Furthermore, if you know how police are likely to respond, you may be able to avoid being caught in a crossfire by moving yourself and your loved ones out of the danger zone.  For the armed citizen, this is even more important information, because you don’t want to get shot by responding officers who think you’re part of the problem.  That happened just the other day.  If at all possible, let’s not have it happen again!



  1. Key aspect of these new rules of engagement for the armed civilian.
    Keep your weapon concealed until absolutely necessary to address an immediate threat.
    Once that threat has been dealt with you must holster or otherwise conceal your firearm and adopt the demeanor of just another innocent bystander until you have engaged an arriving officer and established a line of communication.
    Sure, you know you're the good guy, and so probably do a host of bystander witnesses, but the first cop on the scene will be pumped up on adrenaline and primed to react to any perceived threat. And you standing there visibly armed is a great way to get yourself shot.

  2. I suggested exactly this new development in person to Chris Hernandez – Author a couple of years ago, when he was out in CA with his family. He's a large-city officer now, and former SWAT cop.

    When tactics become both known and predictable, the enemy gets a vote, and they'll never have first responders' best interests at heart.

    And time after time, armed citizens with CCWs stop this nonsense in seconds, not minutes, whereas Gun Free Zones mere ensure they keep happening at all.

    That's really all anyone needs to know, if they're actually wishful of solving/ending the phenomenon.

  3. That is, if the police follow the active-shooter protocols rather than cowering outside for minutes or hours, like the Broward school shooting (where the shooter walked away) or the Pace Nightclub shooting (where the shooter had lots of time for follow-up kill shots because the police took hours…)

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