When Mass Killers Meet Armed Resistance and When They Don’t

CBS reported on an important question about the Orlando mass shooting at the LGBT club Pulse. The gunman started his rampage at 2 a.m. and it ended at 5 a.m. when police finally entered the building. In-between he had three hours to continue his slaughter. Why?

CBS said:

The decision by law enforcement to hold off on entering the club — where more than 100 people were shot, 49 of them killed — immediately raised questions among experts in police tactics. They said the lessons learned from other mass shootings show that officers must get inside swiftly — even at great risk — to stop the threat and save lives.

They quote one police expert, Chris Grollnek . “We live in a different world. And action beats inaction 100 percent of the time.” Delayed police action gives killers more time to kill, and the goal of the killer is to maximize the number of deaths. Sitting on their hands outside the venue is given the murderer the opportunity to finish the job.

In Orlando there were people still alive in the venue texting friends and relatives begging for help. One young man sent a series of texts:

“Call them [police] mommy”

Now

Im still in the bathroom

Hes coming

Im going to die”

He died shortly after that, while police sat outside. The victims in Pulse were not allowed to be armed — a rule that applies to victims, but can never hinder shooters. If the victims can’t respond then police have to, but the police in Orlando waited … and waited …and waited.

Today, the “Alt-Right” bigot who hoped to kill dozens at a synagogue in southern California ran into problems. The synagogue had armed security and the security guard opened fire on the shooter who fled the scene in a panic. This anti-Semite wounded four and killed one, but imagined many more victims and failed because he didn’t expect armed resistance.

Consider what took place at a university in Virginia. A student with a grudge pulled a gun and went on a shooting spree. This was the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy.

It was January 16, 2002 when Peter Odighizuwa came to campus. He had been suspended due to failing grades. Odighizuwa was angry and waving a gun calling on students to “come get me.” The students, seeing the gun, ran. A shooting spree started almost immediately. In seconds Odighizuwa had killed the school dean, a professor and one student. Three other students were shot as well, one in the chest, one in the stomach and one in the throat.

Many students heard the shots. Two who did were Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges. Mikael was outside the school having just returned to campus from lunch when he heard the shots. Tracy was inside attending class. Both immediately ran to their cars. Each had a handgun locked in the vehicle.

Bridges pulled a .357 Magnum pistol and later said he was prepared to shoot to kill if necessary. He and Gross both approached Odighizuwa at the same time from different directions. Both were pointing their weapons at him. Bridges yelled for Odighizuwa to drop his weapon. When the shooter realized they had the drop on him he threw his weapon down. A third student, unarmed, Ted Besen, approached the killer and was physically attacked.

But, Odighizuwa was now disarmed. The three students were able to restrain him and held him for the police. Odighizuwa is now in prison for the murders he committed. His killing spree ended when he faced two students with weapons. There would be no further victims that day, thanks to armed resistance.

You wouldn’t know much about that though. Do you wonder why? The media, though it widely reported the attack left out the fact that Bridges and Gross were armed. Most simply reported that the gunman was jumped and subdued by other students. That two of those students were armed didn’t get mentioned.

James Eaves-Johnson wrote about this fact one week later in The Daily Iowan. He wrote: “A Lexus-Nexis search revealed 88 stories on the topic, of which only two mentioned that either Bridges or Gross was armed.” This 2002 article noted “This was a very public shooting with a lot of media coverage.” But the media left out information showing how two students with firearms ended the killing spree.

Update: Last night I watched a CNN report regarding the recent hate attack in Poway, California. In their report they presented a man who “yelled” at the shooter, which they claimed caused the shooter to drop his weapon and run. They said the shouter banged on the car of the killer who fled and then off-handedly said another man, the security guard, also gave chase. This was highly deceptive. The security guard was armed and fired at the shooter, who dropped his weapon and fled in response. It was only after the security guard took aim on the terrorist that the other man ran after him. In other words, the armed guard managed to disarm the shooter allowing the shouter to shout. As CNN presented it the shouting saved the day and there was no firearm in the hands of anyone but the terrorist.

Eaves-Johnson also mentioned a second incident. And, while I had read many articles on this shooting for an article I wrote about school bullying, not a single one mentioned the role a firearm played in stopping it. I didn’t know the full story.

Luke Woodham was a troubled teen. He felt no one really liked him. In 1997 he murdered his mother and put on a trench coat. He filled the pockets with ammunition and took a handgun to the Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi. In rapid succession he killed two students and wounded seven others.

He had the incident planned out. He would start shooting students and continue until he heard police sirens in the distance. That would allow him time to get in his car and leave campus. From there he intended to go to the nearby Pearl Junior High School and start shooting again. How it would end was not clear. Perhaps he would kill himself or maybe the police would finally catch up with him and kill him. Either way a lot more people were going to die.

What Woodham hadn’t planned for was the action of Assistant Principal Joel Myrick. Myrick heard the gun shots. He couldn’t have a handgun in the school. But, he did keep one locked in his vehicle in the parking lot. He ran outside and retrieved the gun.

As Myrick headed back toward the school Woodham was in his vehicle headed for his next intended target. Myrick aimed his gun at the shooter. The teen crashed his car when he saw the gun. Myrick approached the car and held a gun to the killer who surrendered immediately. There would be no further victims that day, thanks to armed resistance.

So, you didn’t know about that. Neither did I. Eaves-Johnson wrote there were “687 articles on the school shooting in Pearl, Miss. Of those, only 19 mentioned” Myrick had used a gun to stop Woodham “four-and-a-half minutes before police arrived.”

Many people probably forgot about the shooting in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. It was a school graduation dance that Andrew Wurst entered to take out his anger on the school. First he shot teacher John Gillette outside. He started shooting randomly inside the restaurant where the 240 students had gathered.

Restaurant owner James Strand kept a shotgun in back. He pointed it at Wurst and captured the shooter holding him for police. There would be no further victims that day, thanks to armed resistance.

It was February 12, 2007 when a young man entered the Trolley Square Shopping Mall, in Salt Lake City. The mall was a self-declared “gun free zone” forbidding patrons from carrying weapons. He wasn’t worried. In fact, he appreciated knowing that his victims couldn’t defend themselves.

He opened fire even before he got inside, killing his first victims immediately outside the front door. As he walked down the mall hallway he fired in all directions. Several more people were shot inside a card store immediately inside the mall. The shooter moved on to the Pottery Barns Kids store.

What he didn’t know was one patron of the mall, Kenneth Hammond, had ignored the signs informing patrons they must be unarmed to enter. He was a police officer but he was not on duty and he was not a police officer for Salt Lake City. By all standards he was a civilian that day and should have left his firearm in his vehicle. It’s a good thing he didn’t.

He was sitting in the mall with his wife having dinner when he heard the shots. He told her to hide and to call 911 emergency services. He went to confront the gunman. The killer found himself under gun fire much sooner than he anticipated. From this point on all his effort was to protect himself from Hammond, he had no time to kill anyone else. Hammond was able to pin down the shooter until police finally arrived and one of them shot the man to death. There would be no further victims that day, thanks to armed resistance.

In December, 2007 an armed young man shot four people in a church before fleeing the scene for a much bigger church nearby. He had 3,000 rounds of ammunition. Inside was Jeanne Assam who volunteered for the church as a security officer. Some of the security detail were armed, some where not. She once worked as a police officer, but was now just a civilian, helping out at church. She heard about the attack at the other church earlier and had suggested the church beef up security for that service.

When the same armed man arrived at New Life Church no one realized he was the same shooter—but it didn’t take long. He started shooting outside the church and shot five people in quick succession before he entered the lobby of the megachurch with thousands of people in attendance. Assam was in the lobby and fired on the killer. She hit him several times and said his blood sprayed her as a result. She told media, “You cannot wait for SWAT when there’s an active killer. You have to go in and take care of business immediately.”

She did just that and she ended the carnage that day long before police could even arrive.

When a 14-year-old student proclaimed he hated his life he shot his parents and then went to the Townville Elementary School and started shooting. According to the F.B.I. “A volunteer firefighter, who possessed a valid firearms permit, restrained the shooter until law enforcement officers arrived and apprehended him.”

At the Burnett Chapel Church of Christ a man with 2 handguns started firing at people in the parking lot, killing one. He entered the church and shot five more victims. One civilian tried to resist and the F.B.I. recounts the rest of the story: “While the shooter was preoccupied, the citizen, who possessed a valid firearms permit, retrieved a handgun from his car and held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived. One person was killed; seven were wounded.”

In Sutherland Springs, Texas a shooter attacked a Baptist Church and began shooting outside. He entered the building and continued. The shooter came out with his rifle and was confronted by an armed neighbor who heard the shootings. The civilian shot the killer twice who dropped his gun and fled the scene. The civilian, with another civilian, jumped in a vehicle and chased the shooter. During the attempt to flee the shooter turned over his car and committed suicide with a handgun he had in the vehicle.

At an automotive store in Florida a shooter started killing civilians in the parking lot. The manager of the shop and one employe were both licensed to carry firearms and opened fire on the shooter. They hit him twice and the armed civilians held the shooter until police arrived. He only managed to kill one person and wound one other.

In each of these cases a killer is stopped when he faces armed resistance. It is clear that in several of these cases the shooter intended to continue his killing spree.

Three of these cases involved armed resistance by students, faculty or civilians. In one case the armed resistance was from an off-duty police officer in a city where he had no legal authority and where he was carrying his weapon in violation of the mall’s gun free policy. In two others resistance came from individuals working in private capacity as security guards.

In a two-year period, 2016–2017, the F.B.I. reported armed citizens confronted active shooters six times and unarmed citizens managed to stop four incidents. The report from the Bureau said:

In four incidents, citizens possessing valid firearms permits successfully stopped the shooter. In two incidents, citizens exchanged gunfire with the shooter. In two incidents, the citizens held the shooter at gunpoint until law enforcement arrived.

In one incident, a citizen possessing a valid firearms permit exchanged gunfire with the shooter,causing the shooter to flee to another scene and continue shooting.

In one incident, a citizen possessing a valid firearms permit was wounded before he could fire at theshooter.

What would have happened if these people waited for the police? In three cases the shooters were apprehended before the police arrived because of armed civilians. At Trolley Square the shooter was kept busy by Hammond until the police arrived. In all cases local police were the Johnny-come-latelys.

Consider the horrific events at Virginia Tech. Again an armed man enters a “gun free zone.” He kills two victims and walks away long before the police arrive. He spends two hours on campus, doing what is unknown. He then enters another building on campus and begins shooting. He never encounters a police officer during this. All the students and faculty present had apparently complied with the “no gun” policy of the university. So no one stopped him. NO ONE STOPPED HIM! And when he finished his shooting spree 32 people were dead. It was the killer who ended the spree. He took his own life and when the police arrived all they dealt with were the dead.

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James Peron

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James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.

The Radical Center

A blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute: a liberaltarian think tank.