Blue Byline

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Virginia Tech continues to teach us human nature

Post by Brian O'Neill on Dec. 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm with 8 Comments »
December 10, 2011 1:06 pm

Almost three thousand miles separates us from recent events at Virginia Tech, yet the irony is as palpable as the chill in the air.

Virginia Tech students place flowers at memorial for Officer Deriek Crouse/ AP

Within minutes of a fatal shooting on this cursed campus last Thursday, officials sounded a school alarm and inundated students’ cell phones with texted news and updates.

The nature of the event itself was painfully reminiscent: A lone subject approaches a police officer, shoots him and then runs away. For those of us living in the Puget Sound area, it is a reminder of the six police officers slain in a similar unprovoked fashion between October, 2009 and January, 2010.

The comparison between the recent incident in Virginia Tech and our local tragedies now two years distant is an ice cold serving of deja vu. It is not, however, ironic.

The grating voice of irony points out instead that the bloody lessons learned in 2007 turned out to be useless last Thursday. In 2007 a disturbed and marginalized psycho was given a two hour window to pursue a path of bloody carnage through a Virginia Tech campus filled with students wholly unaware of the danger. In the years following this rampage, school and police officials were forced to make several changes to their “active shooter” response, including the addition of campus alarms and an emergency text messaging system.

Public safety professionals are well practiced at learning from mistakes, mostly because critical incidents occur so frequently in a free, populated and chaotic nation such as ours. These provide ample example for what works, both technologically and tactically, as well as what doesn’t work. As events at Virginia Tech in 2007 clearly demonstrated, we make our share of mistakes.

No amount of correction can change the fact that these errors cost lives. Regardless of the usefulness of correcting our errors, the loss of life leaves many of us, police and civilian alike, with a bitter sense of regret. From that poisoned well springs the cruel irony of the two Virginia Tech shootings. If the incidents had happened in reverse order, if Officer Crouse’s killing had instead occurred in 2007, then would the inevitable changes in campus security have prevented a massacre?

This line of thinking is, like the cruel twist of irony’s blade, both pointless and painful.

It remains a maddening fact that there are still incidents for which we can do little to prepare. Our solutions sometimes appear as the equivalent of a barn door shutting on an already departed horse.

As first responders we pride ourselves in being well prepared and in learning from our mistakes. But the truth is that arbitrary and violent acts are a part of human nature, and no amount preparation can change that fact.


Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. rivitman says:

    “It remains a maddening fact that there are still incidents for which we can do little to prepare.”

    That idea is for victims. For Sheeple.

    That notion exists where people and politicians believe their only protection is the police.

    Here’s the bad news:

    The police, while doing a great deal to maintain public safety, are usually on a crime scene after the fact. They can’t undo an act that takes seconds with minutes long response times.

    It’s up to YOU to take measures to defend yourself, your loved ones, and your property. It always has been. Society has been trained into such a level of meekness, this might seem odd.

    Do it anyway.

    The good news is you CAN still do it.

    So do it right, do it fast, and above all, do it NOW.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    If you were to consider the nature of this latest incident, an ambush execution, you might have spared yourself the effort of forcing your gun views into an unrelated topic. If you can’t help being condescending, at least make your comments relevant.

  3. rivitman says:

    First, I never mentioned guns.

    Next, I didn’t force anything on anyone.

    Most certainly the officer was ambushed, in a similar fashion to our own Lakewood officers.

    Had your thoughts been limited to that, I would have said nothing. But you brought up the 2007 event, and different event entirely. of a different sort. One that could have been stopped at some point, if people in charge got out of the way of persons defending themselves, and-or potential victims at least understood the value of being aware, suspicious, and being able to act upon what they see and hear.

    In this latest incident it took law enforcement 14 minutes to respond, and 22 minutes for VA Tech to issue an alert. An improvement over the 07 crime, but equally useless.

    Thus everyone on campus was unaware, and unprepared, AND defenseless with an active shooter in the vicinity. Probably in the belief that the police would be faster, and the staff a VA tech more responsive….this time.

    An officer has died and that’s a tragedy. It’s no less for a civilian.

    Today I heard a report of a suicidal shooter in LA., on the corner of sunset and vine. Screaming and shooting at cars. Nobody even thought to run him down.

    That doesn’t make sense to me. But then again it does, because people expect someone else to ensure their safety. they have been spoon fed that notion.

    It doesn’t work.

    You raised the point of massacre prevention. You made the entirely valid description of a “populated and chaotic nation”.

    I simply relived the police of the notion of a responsibility they cannot possible uphold, and placed it where it belongs, with the citizenry.

  4. steve_allison says:

    While I agree that for years we have let / ask / allowed the police to do our dirty work by themselves and be the primary ones to hold the line against all manner of crook I would suggest more of a partnership with OUR police .

    Yes, we need to be more involved in crime prevention and not get up in someones face unless we are in serious danger or someone else is . I think that is what rivitman is saying?

    The police can’t do it all and can’t be everywhere . We all must rise to do the right thing, to observe things and call for help, report things that are a miss . There are many potential unintended consequences to active intervention . Rivitman , I do get your point .

    I would like to remind people that when the police do arrive you are putting yourself in a bsd situation if you are there holding someone at gun point or otherwise intervening . You may be thought to be the bad guy in a very confusing, fast moving and fluid and dangerous situation. Be extra careful. In many / most cases your most powerful weapons are your eyes, ears and your cell phone used from a safe distance. Just call first .

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    Brian, ever notice that all these “events” happen in Gun Free Zones. No doubt the LEO believed that crazies would obey the rules. Second, if you are familiar with Col. Jeff Cooper’s Color Coded system of paying attention, you know this poor guy was in condition White, and had no idea of what was about to happen. How you can say this is not gun-related is quite beyond me.

  6. Brian O'Neill says:

    If someone approaches from behind with the intent to shoot you, you may well get shot whether or not you’re at Code Red or Code White. I generally prefer to stay out of the Monday morning QB role, especially when I’m operating with so few facts about the latest VT shooting.

    Gun related? I would consider any firearms incident gun-related. Your paraphrasing, however, was incorrect. I do not believe, as rivitman suggested, that the more recent incident had anything to tell us about the public having easier access to firearms.

  7. BlaineCGarver says:

    If the Officer was shot in the back, I see your point.
    Situational awareness is a trait learned while very, very young. It can’t be taught after you are an adult, for the most part.

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