Surviving the unthinkable

Mt. Pleasant Police and Henry County Sheriff's Department hold active shooter training

Union photo by Ashley Duong

Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Lyle Murray led an active shooter training for the public on Tuesday evening. Murray stressed that old tactics including hiding under a desk are not effective methods of surviving a shooter.
Union photo by Ashley Duong Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Lyle Murray led an active shooter training for the public on Tuesday evening. Murray stressed that old tactics including hiding under a desk are not effective methods of surviving a shooter.

MT. PLEASANT — Mt. Pleasant Police Department Police Chief Lyle Murray and Henry County deputy Spencer Rider held an active shooter training session for the public last week.

More than 40 local residents sat in Mt. Pleasant City Hall’s meeting room as Rider and Murray went over Run, Hide, Fight, the sequence of actions suggested by the Department of Homeland Security in active shooter situations.

“The point of this training is a tool in your toolbox that I hope you never have to use. This is meant for you to have a say in your own life if you’re ever put in this type of event. The question comes down to what’s your life worth to you? Is it worth fighting back or is it just worth sitting under a desk and hoping for the best?” Rider said.

Murray added that the training is “not a magic wand,” and may not necessarily save everyone but may “increase survivability.”

At the beginning of the presentation, Murray and Rider went over statistics in recent shootings across the country.

Murray noted there were 434 mass shootings in 2019, averaging 1.19 per day in the U.S. In total, the shootings lead to 517 deaths and 1,643 injuries.

“They’re evil, they’re out to kill you, plain and simple. It’s all about numbers to them — what’s the highest number they can get,” Rider said of the objectives of mass shooters.

Because shooters are looking to hurt as many people as they can, they often look to highly and densely populated areas like concerts venues, churches and schools, Murray explained.

As the pair discussed past shootings, Rider said when he thinks of mass shootings, the first thing that comes to mind is the Columbine High School massacre, which occurred in 1999. A total of 15 people died and 24 people were injured in that incident.

“The number one thing I remember from that day is a staircase that lead outside. And just directly down from that staircase when you went inside was a library. And out of the 15 people that died that day, 10 of those people were in that library. All they had to do was run down that hallway 30 feet away and down those stairs, they would have gotten out, they would have been alive but unfortunately, the librarian or teacher did what they were trained to do: hide under the desk,” Rider said.

Both Rider and Murray repeatedly reiterated that simply hiding may not be enough to survive an active shooter. Instead, people should immediately look for ways to leave the premises.

“That’s the old rules, that’s what we told our kids, ‘wait there for the cops to show up,’ — that’s crappy advice,” Murray said, adding that people need to understand law enforcement will not be at the situation immediately.

The pair said in addition to running, actions that make it difficult for a shooter to aim their gun also will help improve chances of survival.

“50% of the time they’re hitting somebody. Law enforcement, we’re not even at 30%, even with our training, that’s what the stats show,” Rider explained. Tactics the pair suggested included running in a zigzag, or if in a group, scattering in multiple directions.

Following their discussion of running, Rider and Murray said if a person is unable to escape or leave the situation, finding a secure location to hide may be the best second option. They encouraged people to think resourcefully, including using tables, chairs and clothing items like belts to secure doors.

“They’re not going to spend time trying to get into a room. Remember they’re looking to get the highest number so if they can’t get in, they’re just going to move to the next door,” Murray said, “ It’s all about buying yourself time. Once that clock is ticking, they know the cops are coming.”

If a person is directly confronted with a shooter, Rider and Murray said “the last resort is to fight.”

To demonstrate how to take down a potential assailant, instructed four volunteers on how to restrain a person’s arms and legs. Rider again encouraged people to think resourcefully about what can be used as a weapon. Murray said anything that can be thrown is an asset.

“They will flinch and when they flinch, that gun is pointed up in the air and not at you,” he said.

Rider and Murray also discussed the importance of establishing a rally point so people know where to gather to get to family members and medical help. For situations at malls with family members, Murray also suggested determining a location members of the family should meet, providing examples like meeting at their car in the parking lot.

“You have options, you might have to hide, but you got to choose,” Murray reminded local residents toward the end of the presentation.

Helen Newell a teacher at Mt. Pleasant Christian School said she attended the training because she was concerned about protecting herself and teaching her students how to protect themselves as well.

“It’s lifesaving information. You can’t hide. Do something, be active. Get out. I’ve taught my kids two options: we can go out through the window or we can go out to the hallway and there’s a back door if possible,” she said.

“I teach predominantly 2nd and 3rd graders so they understand. They hear these things on TV and are aware of the dangers,” she added.

Brian Iles, a Mt. Pleasant resident, said he also came out to “add a tool in his Tool Box” should he ever be faced with an active shooter situation.

“You never know what piece of information you might pick up that might save your life. I never thought about how to stop someone and restrain them or throwing things, that’s a good one,” he said.