By Brad Bakke
As an attention-getter, the presenter’s line was effective and immediately got the attention of his audience:
“I just want to give you another option than getting on your knees and being shot in the back of the head like sheep,” Basim Abu-Hamid said.
The director of operations-global consulting and training for Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations was the guest speaker at three Active Shooter Response sessions that were offered at Chemeketa’s Salem and Yamhill campuses on Jan. 16.
The presentations attracted more than 350 students, faculty and members, fire and emergency services personnel, local law enforcement personnel, and interested community members.
Bill Kohlmeyer, Chemeketa’s director of Public Safety, was instrumental in bringing Abu-Hamid to the college.
“Basim’s message is a common sense approach for untrained and unarmed civilians to survive an active shooter situation,” he said. “Law enforcement was invited so they would see what information we were giving our people and what they could expect when responding.”
Kohlmeyer, a former Salem police officer, also has provided active shooter training sessions at the college for the past several years.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Most incidents of an active shooter situation happen within 10 to 15 minutes and are over before law enforcement arrives on scene. The key to surviving these types of situations is mental and physical preparation.”
Abu-Hamid said that most shooters are male.
“When they walk into the room, we see him as a God … Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, a Navy Seal, and SWAT all rolled into one. They are not. … He is a coward. Your active shooter is not that guy that makes his living shooting and training. You need to get that out of your head. The shooter is killing soft and unarmed people. We need to break that God complex,” he said.
“We need develop the Flight 93 mentality – that mentality the country developed overnight on Sept. 12, 2001. As passengers, we are no longer sitting idly by and allowing terrorists to kill the innocent.”
Using extensive research, law enforcement personnel have determined that aggressive action, by even a single individual, is the most effective countermeasure to stopping and active shooter situation.
“Single unarmed civilians have accounted for over half of the preventions. Intervention is the biggest part,” Abu-Hamid said.
So what do you do if you find yourself in an active shooter situation, like the one at the Clackamas Town Center mall in December?
Abu-Hamid’s advice: Remember G-L-O-C-K.
Abu-Hamid said, “It stands for Get out, Lock out, Knock out.
“When [the shooter] is in your building, these are you are your three options: Get out, Lock out, or Knock out. That is pretty much it.”
He elaborated during one of the Salem campus training sessions.
“Get out. When you hear gunshots, get out … unless you are getting paid [to risk your life] to go to the sound of gunfire. If you feel that you can safely get out, even if those with you do not want to, leave your stuff. You can replace that that iPad, laptop, and homework,” he said.
If you cannot get out, your next option is to lock the shooter out.
“Hiding is not good enough. Hiding is not going to prevent him from coming in. We are going to lock him out,” Abu-Hamid said. “Find a place to hide with cover … something that may slow down or stop a bullet … and lock him out.
“Lock the door if you can. Stack a bunch of furniture; make a barricade in front of the door. Make it hard for him to come in. Silence you cell phone. Turn off anything making noise. You don’t want him to know you are there.”
If getting out safely is not an option, and if locking yourself in a safe place fails, it’s possible that you will be forced to go face to face with the shooter.
“Now is the time for action. He has compromised your location. There is nowhere for you to escape. He is there to kill. That is what you need to start thinking about,” Abu-Hamid said.
“Get Mad. He is there to kill you. He has killed all of your colleagues. In the hallway you can hear the screams of the dying. You have to fight to survive. You have to get your plan in motion.”
Demonstrating with a fire extinguisher in his hands, Abu-Hamid said, “This is my new best friend. I am going to aim it and shoot it in his face,” deploying a distraction technique. ”Then I am going to …”
He waited for the response from the people in the audience, and they didn’t disappoint.
“Hit him with it,” they yelled in unison.
Abu-Hamid said, “Great bodily harm is justified at this point. … Immediately after deploying the distraction technique, we want to do the swift action technique. We are going to knock him off balance. We are going to swarm him.
“One person per limb; hands and arms are the priority. Get the hands or arms first. Let gravity do the work,” taking the shooter to the ground.
The time for the physical application of skills was the next portion of Abu-Hamid’s presentation.
“I need eight volunteers; come on down. There better be some women,” he said to the audience.
“If you physically do this exercise, you get it branded into your brain; a very special thing happens. Your brain recognizes this. You go from this” – he held out a shaky hand – “to this,” and he this time presented a hand that was steady and in control.
“People need to actually participate. When you physically do it, your brain accepts” and remembers it, he said.
Next, Abu-Hamid asked for a law enforcement volunteer. A recently retired Salem police officer, Clem Spenner, with 30 years of experience, was volunteered by his lieutenant, Dave Okada.
“He is going to be our bad guy,” Abu-Hamid said of Spenner.
Pointing to a partition of curtains in the room, he said, “This is going to be our doorway. Clem is going to be coming through. Clem knows what is going to be waiting for him on the other side, right?”
Spenner was handed a fully loaded Nerf gun.
Abu-Hamid then gave lightweight balls to his eight volunteers.
“Now remember: When he comes through that door, how are you guys going to be set up? … We want different angles, and close. We are going to deploy the distraction technique. I want you to wait until you see the whites of his eyes. Wait until he is through the threshold,” he said.
“He is going to try and shoot as many of you as possible. You are going to deploy the distraction technique. What part of the body are you aiming for?”
Several volunteers said at once, “His face.”
“Then what are you going to do immediately after that? You are going to be deploying and moving in. Grab a limb. The moment that you touch Clem, I am going to yell freeze.”
He provided some additional instructions for his volunteers:
“OK, I am going to take Clem in the back and get him set up. I am going to be the first guy through the door. Don’t hurt me. The second guy through is going to be your shooter,” he said.
When Abu-Hamid and Clem stepped behind the curtain, the volunteers devised their plan in about 30 seconds. They separated, fanning out into a semi-circle, seven to eight feet from the door.
“Okay, good guy coming out. Don’t kill me,” he said a moment later.
And then: “Shots fired! Shots Fired!”
A long five seconds passed while the volunteers waited for the shooter.
When Officer Clem crossed the threshold, he was pummeled by the lightweight plastic balls. Before he had a chance to recover, the volunteers were all over him and he was incapacitated.
“Freeze!” Abu-Hamid called five consecutive times.
The shooter managed to fire three rounds in the ensuing mayhem. One person was hit in the leg. But in this situation, at least, everyone survived and the threat was eliminated.
According to Abu-Hamid, the training was successful: The shooter was distracted and stopped.
The participants then took time to examine carefully what had happened during the exercise.
Clem said, “I was obviously distracted. I focused as we would coming through on a stack” – a formation that police officers use for assaulting a hostile room – “where we sweep the wall. As soon as I saw the first two people and I started firing, immediately – I mean even before I started firing – things were coming at me. I am pretty sure I shot low.”
Abu-Hamid said, “He knew it was coming. Was the fact that they were spread out – even though you knew they were going to be spread out, your brain typically is not expecting that – was that distracting at all?”
“I saw this,” Clem said, indicating those volunteers who had been directly in front of him. “I did not see this,” pointing to the rest of the volunteers.
“Perfect, that’s it,” Abu-Hamid said. “He didn’t even have a chance. He was able to shoot you in the leg, much better than being shot in the back of the head. A lot of the time they do not even get one shot off.
“We have one of the most senior [law enforcement] guys in the room – definitely one the best trained – and you guys beat him. You guys won. I did not tell him to put two rounds in the ground; I didn’t tell him to do that. I told him, ‘You are going lose.’ ”
Many of the participants said they walked away from the presentation feeling better prepared for an active shooter situation.
Russell Pardow, a second-year electronics technology student, said, “This is awesome; this should be part of orientation. … This was very valuable. You never know where this may happen.”
Mica Gearhardt, a second-year general studies student, said, “This was great. I feel a lot better having that knowhow.”
Anita VanderMolen, an ASL interpreter, said, “I feel much, much better. He went over situations that could be. It made everybody feel confident.”
Tami Sjostrom, a dual-enrolled, second-year sociology student, said, “The training was very informative. I now have the permission to fight back. We all need to develop the United Flight 93 Mentality. We can fight back, and we can succeed as a group. We need to … protect our friends and families. I wish we all could have had the opportunity to physically participate.”
Abu-Hamid said, “The shooters are not going to stop until they are stopped. Fleeing is you best option. Get out; Lock out. If that fails, it is time to fight, and it’s time to Knock out. It’s that United 93 mentality. We have go to practice, practice, practice, over and over in your head.”
No additional training sessions with Abu-Hamid are on the immediate calendar, although Kohlmeyer continues to do sessions in Chemeketa classes when he is invited.
“I think we will want to try and find a time when we can get more of our students, faculty, and staff to the training before we actually schedule” another session with Abu-Hamid, Kohlmeyer said. “We don’t have any active shooter drills actually planned, but I have been talking with the Marion County Sheriff’s office and Salem police about doing one.”
Questions about the training sessions should be directed to Kohlmeyer at 503-399-6505. Emails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.