Sgt. Patrick Hayes

It seems there is always a news story about some active shooter somewhere. This make gun owners cringe. The media plays up such events to give the gun grabbers a platform to push their agenda. These are, in fact, rare events. The streets of “gun controlled” Chicago are far more dangerous. The problem we have is while we can predict urban violence, there is no way to predict where and when a mass shooting will occur. It could happen anywhere at any time. What do we do when it happens?  . . .

Police Officers spend countless hours training for these scenarios. We train to charge in, engage, and stop the threat. We have our side arms, shotguns, patrol rifles, precision rifles and distraction devices to perform that task.

The biggest problem is time. We have to respond to the incident. Unless an officer is already on scene, that could take seconds to several minutes. Most active shootings are over in seconds to minutes. Most end with someone, the police or an armed citizen, shooting the suspect, or the suspect taking his own life.

The most successful active shooter interventions have come from armed citizens. Armed citizens on the scene can stop the threat before there is a catastrophic loss of life. They are already there. They can react in seconds.

The question of what an armed citizen should do depends largely on what each citizen is willing to do. Do you want to engage a shooter, thereby placing yourself at risk? Are you skilled enough to make the shot? Are you responsible for the safety of others? Can you live with taking a life?

These are vital questions each of us who carry a sidearm need to consider. You can be placed in a deadly force situation anywhere.
At your job, at the mall, at the daycare, at the gym. Anywhere where people are.

You have the choice to run; leave the area. You can hide until the threat comes to you. You can engage the shooter. The decision is yours. If you decide to engage the shooter, you will have to accurately engage an armed target quickly. You need to be prepared. First and foremost . . .  practice!

  • Practice shooting until you are confident you can hit what you aim at.
  • Make sure you know what “cover” is and how to identify it. Will it stop a bullet? How about 10 bullets?
  • Carry high quality person defense ammo in your magazines. Carry spare magazines.
  • Practice at different distances. Know how to quickly judge distance.
  • Practice shooting from cover. Practice shooting while moving.
  • Never hesitate. Hesitation kills.

What if the active shooter sees you and drops his gun? First, NEVER assume the gun the active shooter dropped is the ONLY gun he has. ALWAYS keep your firearm on him until he is on the ground with his hands visible. Second, NEVER assume he is the ONLY shooter.

If the active gives up, you are now in a very dangerous situation. You are pointing a gun at a person laying on the ground. Consider how this will look to the police or another armed citizen. Call 911 as soon as possible. ell them that you are armed. Tell them the shooter’s gun is secure. Holster your sidearm as soon as possible. As soon as you see or hear the police put your hands in the air – if it is safe to do so.

Hopefully, disptach will update the cops on what they are walking into. Keep in mind that dispatch will not take you at your word. They will advise the officers of what you said. They will still come in hot. Chances are you will be shot without a moment’s hesitation. If you can physically restrain the shooter without your gun, do so. Summon help from others to do this. Sit on him if you have to.

Develop a habit that all police officers use. Wherever you go, start looking at exits, places of cover, open areas. Practice knowing your surroundings. Pay attention. Have you ever noticed that cops stop right inside the door of a restaurant, looking around? Have you ever noticed that they sit in the back or to the side, facing the door? They do these things so that they can have a tactical advantage. They want to SEE everyone who approaches them.

Develop good tactical habits and you will be more aware when the unthinkable happens. As an Armed Citizen you could be the difference between life and death. For yourself and other innocent life.

110 Responses to Armed Citizen Response to an Active Shooter: A Law Enforcement Perspective

  1. Pretty good advice. The scariest part is when LE shows up. Seems like maybe the best option is to drop the guy regardless, and re-holster before they get there. And don’t forget to look when you re-holster, of course.

    • While the sentiment is understandable, it’s bad advice to suggest dropping the guy first. You drop someone to defend yourself and others, not to prevent getting shot by the police, which may well happen anyway.

      The fact is that in such a situation you’re going to have to accept the risks inherent to self-defense, and one of those risk just happens to be getting shot by the police. I know it’s unfair and unjust, but that’s the way it is.

      Freedom hath its risks, but in the end the rewards are far greater.

      Tom

      • I’m not proposing shooting the guy if he drops his weapon and lays down. Sitting on him or a good swat to the head with his weapon or yours would surely be better. But if I’m going to engage the guy, I’ll be shooting til he goes down, imgomdown, or he runs out of ammo. My thought in my original comment was to put him down ASAP. Sorry I didn’t articulate that as well as I would have liked.

  2. That’s good information and thanks for sharing it, Sgt. Patrick Hayes.

    A few family members and friends used to rib me about my habits and seating choices in public. Nowadays, most understand and do the same. 😉

    Many years ago, a county peace officer responded to late night/early morning gunshots fired into our home. It was a drug town up in some hills where neither cell nor radio worked. The officer quietly asked where my gun was. I had set it down on the edge of a porch a few paces from me and told him so. He instructed me to pick it up and advised that it was just him and me, nobody else for backup, so I might need it. We then proceeded to search for the shooter. I learned much that night.

      • I’m not sure… The circumstances in the weeks leading up to that night were filled with much fail on my part. I purchased a house in a very small town before I knew that it was a haven for drug running to other parts of the country. I was attending medical school in a nearby city and hadn’t realized that I was suffering latent effects of PTSD from years before. The details would likely serve as cautionary notice of some of the things not to do but also would pinpoint location and my identity. Anyone reading this who knows me, already can tell who “John in Ohio” is. 😉

        • We all do stupid things, but reader articles are some of my favorites here on ttag, we would all love to hear more about this.

        • Life wouldn’t be fun if we didn’t do stupid things (besides, what is some drug-running between friends?).

          You could just remove/change important details like adresses, names and the like. I seriously doubt Ohio is that small that everyone knows who John in Ohio is.

        • @Swarf: The whole story has alligators, Harleys, adultery, arson, Amish, etc and pajama clad yours truly standing off two crack heads with nothing but an NAA mini in .22 LR on a town street. Like I wrote; much fail on my part during those months. 😉

          Perhaps a made-for-TV movie would be a more appropriate vehicle. 😀

        • I just looked up Justified on IMDb. The cover art looks like it could’ve been me sitting on my porch during that time. Now, that has to go on my “to watch” list. Thanks!

      • Yep. I prefer to see the whole room and the entrance in a restaurant. If I can’t then I don’t seem to relax as much to really enjoy my meal.

      • Same here. Even a small fast food place usually has two, maybe three public entrances. We try to sit where we have visibility of the public entrances, access to the emergency exits, including through the kitchen, but aren’t close to the counter/cash register.

  3. “reholster reluctantly”

    i’d rather take one from a cop than from the shooter i just engaged, restrained, and then promptly released. if he reacquires his weapon and kills me, not only will he be able to continue his rampage, he will be armed with my weapons as well.

    the shooter will most certainly pop a cap in my ass if i let my guard down, officers are more than likely going to. and more than likely is better than certainly. go to the low ready and as soon as they show up, really DROP your piece, not set it down gently.

    • “Drop your piece”
      A good reason not to have a carry weapon that has fancy wood grips, and is engraved with gold inlays!

      • My EDC choice of CZ82 makes a lot of sense in this case. Yes I have ‘nicer’ (more expensive, more powerful) guns but I can pick off a 2×4 at 100 yds with my CZ82 and she never fails me so I feel very comfortable with her and mags stoked with Hornady HP ammo.

      • If that gun saves my ass or someone else’s I am going to that myself to a better prettier bigger gun!

        • The grip is shorter than many of my other handguns and the curve of it makes it easier to conceal IWB, its my preferred late Summer-Late Spring carry piece.

  4. I agree that it would be very dangerous holding a shooter at gun point. My question, how can a citizen responding to the shooter ID himself to cops and others so as not to get shot?

    • This article is very informative, but we need a follow-up from a LEO giving helpful hints on exactly how NOT to get shot by the first responders.

      While almost everything depends on the status/condition of the Active Shooter once he becomes inactive, it would seem that whatever non-lethal steps are required to ensure he is no further threat are paramount. If he is not dead or incapacitated by injuries he must be placed in a stress position that prevents him becoming a threat. As non-LEOs I rather suggest approaching and restraining by physical force or binding would be ill-advised.

      That leaves you standing there with an exposed handgun when LEOs arrive full of adrenalin. I have considered this and offered this advice before, as what I think would be the safest course of action – YMMV:

      If you have a semi-auto pistol, drop the magazine and empty the chamber, leaving the slide locked back. If you have a spare, full magazine, hold that in your weak hand, otherwise retain the partial mag in the weak hand. If there is a convenient horizontal surface nearby, place the pistol on that surface, but within reach. If the Active Shooter decides to become belligerent again it will take only seconds for you to re-load your weapon and be on target. (Remember the Tueller Drill.) If law enforcement arrives with no other drama, back away from you pistol with hands raised high and DROP your magazine to the floor. Follow all instructions of law enforcement immediately!

      IMO, this procedure gives you the ability to respond quickly to either the renewed threat scenario OR the concerns of responding officers. Even if the threat is physically incapacitated or dead, I fail to see the logic of re-holstering and dealing with LEOs as an armed individual in a hot-response situation. Better that they find your pistol on a counter-top than go through the process of you drawing it from your holster or they attempting to disarm you under stress.

      For your consideration only, I am by no means an authority on such, only thinking out my responses.

      • Maybe Pat Rogers could chime in on this? Not sure how moose weiners would apply, but from his video from the other day, I’m sure he’d make it applicable.

    • In a hot situation like an active shooter, call or have someone call 911 and stay on the line until relieved by Law Enforcement. Keep 911 updated on who you are, what you are wearing, what the shooter is wearing, exactly where you are located. Follow their instructions.
      911 will be talking to the entry team. They SHOULD know the situation. That a citizen has stopped the threat.
      We have considered this scenario in our training.

      • This has been said by myself and by other LE who comment here several times before, and it bears repeating every time the question comes up. That it is being said by various LE around the country in pretty much the same form, is significant.

        Police going to any serious call want clear, concise information more than just about anything else. If I know what the good guy and bad guy look like before I arrive, the chances of a tragic mistake are reduced dramatically.

    • T shirt that says “I’m not the shooter”.
      Also make sure you have multiple plans for that situation.

    • Do you have to take a drink every time “active shooter” is used?

      Ensure you have a box of donuts and your wife’s dog near you.

  5. Good information but most malls where I live are “gun free zones”(Illinois). Even if I have legal carry(I don’t YET) the local constables would NOT look kindly at me shooting a BG. And I HAVE INTERVENED with women being attacked by bad guys. Without a gun & NEVER stuck around for Officer Friendly to show up. In Chicagoland you’re treated as a criminal until proven innocent.

    • Look for store entrances to the mall that aren’t posted, in general, if there is a single entrance to the building that is not posted, its technically not a GFZ.

    • I understand…The Chicago Police Chief has gone on record saying his cops might shoot CCW folks. Mind you the cops never said that. The people of Chicago deserve a better man in the top cop job.

  6. You used to be able to get a shirt from XS sights that said “GOOD GUY” on the back, like police have “POLICE” on theirs.

    • I actually had an idea of having several undershirts printed with the word SECURITY on the front and back. In the event of a shooting, you could remove your over garment and have a shirt that says security on it. It might give the cop a second’s pause before he shoots you in the back.

  7. I’m a large man. But I’m continually told that I move very quietly and surprise people when they suddenly realize I’m where they thought I wasn’t. I stop when entering strange places and look around. I hate sitting with my back to a window or door. Head on a swivel is a lifestyle. Not just for cops.

    • Large man, head on swivel. Exactly how I’ve always pictured you. Although, I usually add in a long, mustache which you twist with gusto after making a witty comment. “Nyah! Nyah, see?”

    • I also have a tendency to sneak around with my head on a swivel. Not fun since I have startled people many times because they don’t notice me standing next to them or sitting behind them. I am used to it though, does get annoying since you sometimes feel like everyone is ignoring you.

      • I prefer to think of it as being cautious, not sneaky. But it works. Never been surprised by a mass shooter.

        • Last mass shooting I was at, there were 8 of us. We had 2 Barrett’s, and two McMillans in 50 cal. One MRAD.
          One .338 lapua. A half dozen .308’s. A butt load of hand guns, several EBR’s and a case of tannerite.
          Dang, that was a fun day.

      • In DC this past October, officers lined up in front of me in an attempt to create a line to separate protesters from the White House. The problem was that here I was sitting with my back to the WH fence and the line officers right in front of me; sidearms right at my eye level. So… I’m sitting there, thinking, “Dumb-asses!” 😀

        • It is unlikely that you were unobserved by everyone. I was suprised by the gmen on the roofs watching a peaceful DC protest in 1992. They were dressed in tactical black and had bolt action rifles. They were immobile and difficult to see, but after a couple hours, they started moving to new spots on the roof and looked around.

        • @Curious: No doubt that I wasn’t completely unobserved by some. We noticed uniformed and plain clothed on the grounds of the WH moving around; on the roof as well. It’s just that these foolish ones in front of me had, for whatever reason, left themselves at a clear tactical advantage. I took a photo or two of their sidearm grips and magazines in my face. A determined individual could’ve taken a few of them down with a spork at that moment. I did, however, briefly consider ejecting a few magazines and tossing them over my shoulder onto the People’s lawn. I restrained myself and was a good boy (somewhat).

        • Like Chicago, That Chief, Lanier, is nothing but a political liberal hack. One of the worst Chiefs in the country.

  8. You could always carry a couple of large zip ties and secure the guy, sit on him and have your weapon holstered when the officer arrives. Or secure him and fade away

  9. The most successful active shooter interventions have come from armed citizens. Armed citizens on the scene can stop the threat before there is a catastrophic loss of life.

    Okay, then why in the HELL is every cop in the country, or more to the point, every Chief type cop, NOT standing on the rooftops screaming for more armed citizens?

    I’m not disagreeing with your statistic; I’m asking why the disconnect between observable reality and the public posturing done by too many in LE?

    Why is there not a cover story in SWAT magazine titled something like “All Police need to actively campaign for More Armed Citizens to prevent Active Shooter Victim Deaths!”

    And that should likewise be all over the MSM.

    If there is data to support that armed citizens lower the “cost” of active shooters, THAT should be the freaking freaky freak narrative, not scary black rifle bans (that few AS’s use anyway) and UBC’s, etc.

    • No one wants to hear it, they all just want to live in their own little world.

      The security shirt thing would not work, because all a bad guy would have to do is wear it.

      • Sadly, I think you are right.

        I do question how a man of conscience could know such data exists yet go on the TV or in magazine interviews singing the complete opposite tune.

        Though someone did say on here recently something to the effect of some among us would gladly see a few die if it furthers the collectivist cause.

        Man ….

    • It is no longer fashionable for police to suggest you arm yourself. I can only imagine the hysterics when reading this article, how dare he tell a bunch of misogynist gun nuts to “pack heat!” He’s supposed to tuck them in and tell them the one about the lady who grabbed the boogie man’s “assault clip” while he was reloading.

    • It’s the politically appointed Police Chiefs that toe the PC no one but the “Only ones” should be armed.

      Polls have shown that the great majority of street cops support armed citizens; That’s been my experience with the street cops here in NM.

      Of course: the exceptions are what human beings remember.

      • This is the key. Chief of Police is not a law enforcement position but a political position. They are expected to parrot the political and ideological positions of their bosses; typically the mayor.

        It’s not a position that a free or logical thinking person is hired for because you wouldn’t be with the program.

    • Simply because our “Liberal controlled” Media doesn’t interview street cops or pro gun Chiefs.
      Notice that its the same five or six Chiefs on the news?
      Most cops know the value of armed citizens. ( Badge dictators aside..lol)

  10. Ruester, Milwaukee’s sheriff is bucking that trend. Never expected that from a big city cop from that side of the Youse-Y’all Lne.

  11. As with all things this can go both ways , had a young guy came into a eating place and started trouble , wanted money for a phone call, and than he broke the door , I came up to help the check out lady and he took off, the police came about 3 min,s later and told me I could arrest him and hold him for the police … But how ? and I have done a lot of shooting with police and find I shoot better that a lot of police. So again we can never be sure of the mine set of the policeman…that comes? and its the legal system that make everything a big mess now days…Yes we must help , but be safe and take care too.

  12. I have been saying the same things that Sgt Hayes has been saying since I have been posting on TTAG. It is gratifying to hear a dedicated peace officer confirm my opinions.

  13. Third-bullet edit:

    Carry high quality person defense ammo in your magazines or cylinder. Carry spare magazines or speedloaders.

  14. If you KNOW it’s a bad guy (maybe you just saw him murder someone) don’t verbally challenge him; if you’re able to shoot, shoot. He is already an imminent threat to everyone in there. Believe me, police are not (any longer) training to talk to active shooters.

    He will be easier to restrain when he’s dead or wounded. But you need to be sure he’s not just an armed citizen like you looking for the bad guy…

      • So if you are holding a firearm when the police arrive you will be shot. And no, I didn’t miss the ACTIVE shooter part.

  15. Why is an AR styled firearm called a “Patrol Carbine” when LEO’s have them, and “assault weapons” when civilians have them?

    Don’t forget to secure your dog before the police show up, give the dispatcher a description of what you are wearing, and you are the homeowner, business owner, etc,… As previously posted, they are coming in hot, and some cops are “hotter” than others…

      • Bingo

        ANYONE not sworn military is a civilian. Including all the pissants at ATF, FBI CIA, MSA, etc/misc alphabet soup agancy.

        Former military, that have not repudiated their oath, can go by veteran or soldier/officer/troop/etc rather than civilian if desired.

  16. Got the habit of sitting where I could see the door from my dad, Chicago PD-K9 (retired). He also taught me how to observe without looking like I was watching everything. Now in Florida, I carry wherever I go and My girlfriend is constantly amazed by how much I ‘see’. Unfortunately she is a sheeple despite my efforts to convert her to a sheepdog. Meh, some people would rather be blissfully unaware.

  17. Good guys should wear attire with large bull’s eye targets front and rear, center mass.

    Based on what I’ve seen of LEOs at my range, such targets are never struck by police gunfire and should render the wearers completely safe.

  18. “Police Officers spend countless hours training for these scenarios. We train to charge in, engage, and stop the threat.”
    “{Dispatch} will advise the officers of what you said. They will still come in hot. Chances are you will be shot without a moment’s hesitation.”

    So much for all those countless hours of training that the officers come in and shoot without a moment’s hesitation. Seems like people are in more danger from responding officers than from the spree killer. In that case, probably is better just to hightail it out of there, don’t engage the shooter, and let him have his way until the flatfoots show up.

    • If you’re more afraid of what the responding cops MIGHT do, then yes, you should scamper on out. It will take courage and fortitude to engage an actual shooter who is actually shooting innocents. If the uncertainty of a responding cops actions are enough to give you cold feet you don’t have what it takes to stand and fight.

      And if MAIG or MDA find out there was a person with a permit and a gun that pulled a rabbit that will give them all sorts of “told you so’s” on the talk circuit.

      We can’t claim to be sheep dogs or first responders if our plans are to run at the first sign of trouble.

  19. I think that we really need to visit having dogs in schools. And more school resource officers. And your average citizen should be allowed to carry on school property.

    And turtles are the shit. That is all

  20. Reading this, it sounds like the best option is to disarm government employees. Give them a whistle and a cell phone/radio. That way they can’t “come in hot” and harm a citizen.

  21. Some additional, and sobering reading about the results of active shooter simulations in a school setting. Overall– radio and even person-to-person communications go to pot, and you can’t assume the cops will think you’re the good guy. I think the only lesson I’m learning is that you shouldn’t get caught by responding officers with a firearm in hand– sash or no sash you’re more likely to get shot than not. H/t to the highroad.org

    http://www.hendonpub.com/law_and_order/articles/2014/02/active_shooter_training_lessons_learned

  22. This is some good feedback from the Sgt, but I could definitely use more info from a LE perspective. Especially if it means less room for posts about what MDA had for lunch. 🙂

  23. Not sure I would hold a mag in my hand while the cops show up. Hold nothing with fingers spread and hands in the air. A kid in GA was shot by a cop as he opened the front door . . . . . He was holding a Wii remote. The kid is dead.

    THIS is why I am afraid of cops.

  24. Thanks for the comments…. If anyone has any “LE Perspective topics” they would like to see, just message Robert with the topic…

  25. Lots of love for the PoPo on here I see..
    Identifying your clothing description to Dispatch/911 vs. the Goblin is never a guarantee. The description could well be switched around and your description might be put out as the bad guy. We can see what will happen there…
    (I never forgot what happened when a plain clothes transit policeman was holding a bad guy at gunpoint and was shot to pieces by responding officers looking for a “Black man with a gun”. The suspect and the officer were both Black)…
    The Columbine cops were ripped on for NOT going in hot. Police are now being trained to armor up, form sticks, and get in there to take out the Goblin ASAP, no waiting for SWAT…
    and I see them being criticized for doing THAT here on these comments…
    This thread is the very definition of Police work being a “thankless job”…

  26. A citizen who intervenes in an active shooter situation in a public place must bear all of the above in mind PLUS he must accept the VERY HIGH probability that responding LEO will NOT WAIT to identify friend/foe/victim. They will shoot at the first thing they perceive as being a threat….and since you the
    armed citizen will be armed YOU WILL BE THE THREAT. They shoot people for reaching for a cane.
    They shoot people for holding a cell phone or Wii controller. THEY SHOOT PEOPLE WHO HAVE EMPTY HANDS IN THE AIR. Therefore you must assume they will blow your ass away the instant they see you. Plan accordingly.

    • All great points Dan, especially since they are all true. As soon as you are aware of LEO’s coming to the scene it is best to disarm yourself and do your best not to be considered a threat by them. You will live longer that way.

      BTW, how do you bold text here in these comments? Thanks 🙂

  27. My plan would be to engage, fill the guy with enough lead that he dies, maybe shoot him in the head as he “reached for something while he was down”, and reholster my weapon.

  28. I love the articles here, and most of the them are chock full of good info. This is one that is.

    But please, someone run this through spell check real quick. I am not trying to grammar nazi this, but multiple spelling/typing errors make this a bit painful to read for literate people. Readers lose focus as they end up concentrating on the errors they see and lose focus on the story. You also lose a bit of your credibility when your article comes off like a bad facebook rant due to such basic spelling/typing errors .

  29. Great article, thanks! Scary too! I would hope my adrenaline rush wouldn’t cause me to shake like a leaf! I’ve never experienced someone shooting AT me – on that note thanks to all the good LEO’s and military folks (active and inactive) …. Ya’ll are brave Mo-Fo’s!
    John, love your story and am glad things worked out!! You MUST start with Justified’s FIRST season! It’s truly the best AND you need to history!!

    Oliphant is a terrific actor

    • I will make sure to start at the beginning of the first season. That mistake was made and lesson learned with Breaking Bad. Thanks!

  30. This is good advice, but what I got most from it is that cops seem to be very careless, unaware of the situation at hand and VERY trigger happy.

    • I believe there’s a personal and organizational accountability problem with some (perhaps many?) departments.

  31. In World War II, they drafted men down to a fairly low IQ to shoot people for a safer world. Men learned to shoot and did shoot. Millions of people who would have been killed by the Germans or Japanese were saved. Sometimes our soldiers were shot by the enemy, sometimes killed by friendly fire. If you get shot by the active shooter or by friendly fire, you still did your job as an adult to try to save other people. It is not manly to concern yourself with your own danger when there are innocents to try to save.

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