Deconstructing the Aurora Colorado Shooting and What We as Responsible Citizens Could Have Done to Help

by July 23, 2012 07/23/12

In one of the deadliest U.S. shootings since Fort Hood, where Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan fired into a group of soldiers preparing for deployment, James Holmes killed 12 innocent movie-goers Friday, when he began shooting into a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Leaving more than 50 injured, those killed included a U.S. Navy Sailor and a U.S. Air Force reservist. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in the tragedy, the victims, their families and those who lived through the terrifying ordeal.

My goal in this article is to deconstruct the shooting from the news I’ve been able to gather and discuss what we as responsible citizens could have done in a similar situation.

The Aurora Shooting

On Friday, July 20th, 2012, James Eagan Holmes, 24, parked his white Hyundai within 25 yards of an emergency exit door behind the Aurora, CO Century 16 theaters. Having purchased a ticket to the midnight premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Holmes entered the theater which his car was parked behind. At some point during the movie, Homes slipped out the emergency exit door and propped it open.

Back at his vehicle, he donned an assault vest, riot helmet, gas mask, black clothing similar to that of a SWAT officer and grabbed a Smith and Wesson M&P AR-15, two Glock .40 caliber pistols (G22 and G23), a Remington 870 Express Tactical 12-gauge shotgun and tear gas canisters.

Fully armed, he re-entered the theater through the propped open door, deployed two tear gas canisters and began open firing into the crowded theater. Witnesses describe him walking up the stadium seating staircase, shooting at those closest to him. As he noticed people trying to escape the gunfire through the emergency exit door, he adjusted his fire towards them. Witnesses also describe the gunfire lasting no longer than 1-2 minutes, with 50-60 shots fired.

Reuters

Holmes eventually made his exit through the same door he entered, where he was arrested by Aurora Police near his vehicle. While the timetable of the shooting is still unclear, audio of the incident shows the first dispatch at 12:39 a.m., when reports started to come in. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates is quoted as stating that some 25 officers were on scene within a minute and a half. Oates applauded his officers for being able to pick up on a particular piece of equipment that helped responding officers distinguish Holmes as the shooter and not a SWAT Officer. He declined to get into specifics.

After his arrest, Police learned from Holmes that they might find explosives at his apartment. What Police found was a failed diversionary booby-trap he’d set up to kill anyone walking through the door. The trap was set with loud music, triggered to start after Holmes had left his apartment. Ultimately Holmes hoped the music would generate a noise complaint by neighbors and maim anyone who responded.

Stephen Mitchell / The Denver Post

Investigators believe the explosion from the booby trap was also meant to lure available resources from his real target at the theater and lessen their response time to the shooting. Police have only recently detonated the incendiary explosives at Holmes’ apartment and deemed the area safe for neighbors to return.

Holmes awaits a Monday arraignment at 8:30 a.m. and is currently being held at in solitary confinement at Arapahoe County Jail.

Thoughts on the “Why”

The shooting by James Holmes was one that didn’t seem to have a clear-cut motive, beyond authorities speculating they were based on gaining notoriety or wanting to pay back society for the wrong he’d been caused in his life. I did read reports of Holmes being unhappy, being unable to secure a job anywhere but McDonalds and dropping out of his PhD program at the University of Colorado. Beyond that speculation, nothing concrete has been produced to provide a “why.”

I’ve been intrigued lately by the criminal mind, after reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker. In the book, De Becker states that people who commit terrible violence choose their acts from among many options that we’re all capable of imagining.

Just the fact that we’re all capable of being able to conceive terrible violence is evidence that anyone can do the same, even those willing to act on it. The real lesson from De Becker in this situation is that to work towards prediction and prevention, we have to accept that these acts are done by the “we” of humanity not by interlopers who somehow sneaked in.

Karl Gehring / The Denver Post / AP

Something we’ve also been seeing in the news reports from this incident are interviews from people who knew Holmes as a quiet guy, or someone who kept to himself. De Becker talks about this too as a hackneyed myth and that a more accurate statement should be “neighbors didn’t know anything relevant,” but instead news reporters present non-information as if it’s information.

De Becker states that by the frequency of this cliché, you could almost believe that normalcy is a pre-incident indicator for aberrant crime. It isn’t. However, one of the most common pre-incident indicators, is violence in one’s childhood. I’ll save the rest of De Becker’s perspective for a write-up I’ll be doing soon on The Gift of Fear, but it’s given me fantastic insight into the power of intuition and other survival signals that protect us from violence.

Of course, these pre-incident indicators would have been seen by his family and close friends, which I’m sure are being heavily questioned right now. It will be interesting to learn more about Holmes’ childhood as further details emerge, but from what’s being presented currently, he appears to have had a normal childhood.

The Police are also doing a good job in assembling evidence of “calculation and deliberation.” My opinion is that this information will be crucial in the trial to ensure that Holmes doesn’t get painted as mentally incompetent, or a “spur-of-the-moment” criminal. I believe evidence will show that these murders were premeditated and the timeline for purchasing firearms, equipment and ammunition reflects this.

This of course doesn’t suggest anyone buying firearms consecutively is planning something like Holmes did, just that putting the timeline into perspective after the fact is revealing of him ramping up for the shooting. Holmes’ purchases are interesting to look at from the timeline perspective and also from the sensationalism perspective the media is trying to manufacture.

Guns and Ammo

In looking at what Holmes purchased, it’s somewhat clear that he didn’t have much in the way of training to employ his preferred weapons effectively. Most notable is his choice to run a 100 round drum magazine that was recovered from the scene. Anyone that’s had the opportunity to fire one of these can testify to their poor reliability, at least that’s been my experience.

It’s also come out that Holmes’ AR-15 “jammed” on him, forcing him to discard it and choose another gun. However, photos show an AR-15 near the emergency exit door Holmes used with what looks like a regular AR magazine attached. He could have tried to change mags during the malfunction, not properly knowing how to clear it, then discarded the AR when he couldn’t get it working again.

In a span of two months leading up to the shooting, Holmes obtained his firearms from various retail outlets in Colorado. The first Glock was purchased at the Aurora Gander Mountain on May 22nd, the shotgun from Bass Pro Shops in Denver on May 28th and the AR-15 on June 7th. The other Glock pistol was purchased July 6th back at the Denver Bass Pro Shops.

The total ammunition acquired by Holmes from online retailer bulkammo.com consisted of 3,000 rounds of .223 for the AR, 3,000 .40 cal rounds and 300 rounds of 12 gauge for the shotgun. On July 2nd he shopped at online retailer tacticalgear.com and purchased a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest (black), Blackhawk Omega Elite Triple Pistol Mag Pouch (black), Blackhawk Omega Elite M16 Mag Pouch (black) and a Blackhawk Be-Wharned Knife (silver). All totaling around $300 with shipping.

If you notice in this video, ABC improperly calls the Blackhawk Assault vest purchased a “bullet proof vest” when the screen clearly shows the make of the assault vest from Blackhawk and even displays “Assault Vest” on the screen. It makes me question whether Holmes was truly wearing body armor or an armored helmet.

As many shooting enthusiasts reading this will agree, the ammunition count is not hard to accumulate if you’re taking your training with firearms seriously and practicing your skill-set. Yet the media is painting this with all their buzz words about being enough ammo to for a small army and sparking their debate for another assault weapons ban.

Even one of the blogs I read on a daily basis, Mashable, managed to jump on the bandwagon. “It’s a scary list: Assault rifle with 100-round magazine, powerful .40 caliber pistols, a 12-gauge shotgun. Holmes was armed with enough weapons and ammunition to kill hundreds – if not thousands – of people. Is it a good idea to make it so easy to acquire such weaponry along with its associated ammunition? Maybe instead of gun control, activists should be calling out for ammunition control.”

What I believe is that guns are just tools and like all tools, their impact is in the hands of the user. Just like the 9/11 hijackers were able to commit their heinous acts without firearms, people intent on doing bad can and will use whatever is at their disposal. Restrictions on guns and ammo are only going to hurt the lawful citizens protecting themselves, their families and those they haven’t met yet. Not to mention the 2nd Amendment implications.

Gun-Free Zone

Concealed carry is legal in Aurora, like the rest of Colorado, but the Cinemark theater where the shooting took place is a “gun-free zone.” Cinemark apparently has a company policy that does NOT allow its customers to carry concealed. Some critics of Concealed Carry used this incident as an example to show how armed citizens failed to act, yet didn’t bother to research the laws preventing them from carrying that night.

Cinemark is headquartered in Plano, TX and I often go to a local Texas Cinemark carrying concealed. With the Texas Concealed Handgun Law, there have to be very specific criteria met in order to legally prevent patrons from carrying on their premises.

The law states that written communication has to be given in English and Spanish, appear in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height and displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.

That written communication is a card or other document which is written with this exact language “Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by holder of license to carry a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chaper 411, Government Code (concealed handgun law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.”

I’m stating this example of Texas law to convey that as a CHL holder, if I don’t see the 30.06 sign placed in a “conspicuous manner,” I’m carrying in that establishment unless otherwise notified. There are of course other restrictions set up by that law regulating carry into government buildings, sporting events, etc.

To me, if a company chooses to display the 30.06 sign or further restrict concealed carry, I’m going to think twice about spending my hard earned money with them, or take the proper precautions to still ensure my safety and that of my family.

What Would You Have Done?

From reading what I could of eyewitness accounts, the scene was one of chaos and panic; A dark theater erupting with gunfire and tear gas. One particular account I want to share comes from 22-year-old Jennifer Seeger, an EMT student and one of the few people I’ve read about thus far with a sheepdog mentality.


Jennifer described Holmes as wearing a gas mask, a kevlar vest and appearing like he was on the SWAT team. Her details are very well presented in her interview as she describes Holmes entering through the emergency exit at the right side of the theater. His gun came within inches of her seat, which was almost the first he came to as he entered. As he passed her on his way up the stairs, she jumped into the aisle telling people that that when he runs up the stairs, they needed to crawl out.

She also recounted that it was the opposite side stairs he was moving up due to what she heard. As she moved to crawl out herself, she noticed that everyone was running back into the theater because Holmes was shooting people who were trying to escape.

“Why didn’t he take me…I honestly didn’t know what to do or what to think, I just tried to move and get out of the way and pray to god that I didn’t get shot.”

Seeger states that she was one of the last people to get out and ran into a teenage boy who was still alive and moaning. She checked his pulse and noticed it was fading, so she started telling others that “we need to get this guy out of here, he’s really critical.” She tried to pull him out to safety, but was told by others to leave him because the gunman was coming back.

She felt horrible about leaving him. “All I wanted to do is help the guy and I definitely would have given my life for the man.”

Could you have been effective in this situation? Would you have responded like Seeger did, or would you have just added your yelling to the chaos? How long would it have taken you to recognize the danger of the situation and even if you could have been carrying, how well could you have placed the shots you needed to stop the attacker? Don’t forget to imagine the dark theater filled with people running everywhere, mass panic, gunfire and tear gas.

How do you carry, do you practice shooting from that concealment? Do you train under low-light conditions or at dynamic moving targets that could possibly be armored. Do you know your capabilities and the capabilities of your carry gun. Do you know what the ammunition you carry can do? If you carry home defense ammo, have you ever shot with it? Do you know how it will cycle through your gun?

A concealed permit is only a portion of the battle we all face as responsible citizens, I’ve personally seen people who are licensed to carry that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Training is even more important than what most tend to focus on, such as what kind of gun to buy. No matter what you own, train to use it in every out-of-the-box situation you can imagine yourself being placed in one day.

Without a Gun or EMS

Something important to ask is whether carrying effective medical equipment to treat gunshot wounds would have saved lives. That’s the first thing that crossed my mind, what if many people in the audience had a pack of Combat Gauze in their back pocket, would they have been able to treat people quickly at the scene until EMS arrived?

As mentioned earlier, the first dispatch was at 12:39 a.m. and shortly thereafter in the audio recordings, you hear an officer ask for permission to take some of the victims by vehicle to the emergency room, as there are no ambulances on scene yet. I’m willing to bet that they didn’t have proper medical equipment in their squad cars to treat people either, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

This is what I’ve been preaching for years; when you need it, help isn’t coming. You can just look at typical EMS response times vs. the time it takes for someone to lose enough blood to be beyond saving. Not to mention in a situation Law Enforcement might find themselves in where it’s still to dangerous for EMS to even enter the scene.

At the very least you should get trained in basic First Aid, understanding direct pressure, how to pack a wound and place a tourniquet. Then carry what you need to do so. This is the reason we developed our EDC Trauma Kit, to fit in the back pocket of your jeans when you’re out in town and have hemostatic gauze (QuikClot Combat Gauze), a pressure dressing / makeshift tourniquet and a pair of gloves at your disposal.

The techniques I mentioned would treat the leading cause of preventable death in a situation like this, extremity hemorrhage. AKA, bleeding out. “Keep the blood in the body,” it’s a simple phrase to memorize and one I’ve always remembered since it was taught to me years ago. I have no doubt that when we learn about the causes of death from this incident, it will closely follow the empirical research from WWII until today on the leading causes of preventable combat death; 60% extremity hemorrhage, 33% tension pneumothorax and 3% airway obstruction.

Remembrance

Like you, I wish these 12 people were still alive today and the other physical and emotional injuries could have been prevented as well. My hope with this article is to try to learn from this tragedy and honor the memory of the brave people in the theater that night. There were sheepdogs among the audience and whether you believe in that terminology or not, these people acted to protect their loved ones and help those around them.

I trust we’ll continue to hear about the heroism amongst them as new details get released, but there’s a few I’d like to mention specifically. First off, Jennifer Seeger, whom I mentioned earlier. She was inspirational with the courage she displayed in maintaining her composure while directing people, rather than adding to the chaos. The fact that she mentioned gladly giving her life for another if she could, is something I can certainly relate to.

There were also three heroes who died saving those they loved. 26-year-old Jon Blunk, who shielded his girlfriend Jansen Young; 27-year-old Matt McQuinn, who was shielding his girlfriend Samantha Yowler and 24-year-old Alex Teves, who jumped on top of his friend Amanda Lindgren. These three women made it through the attack because of these brave individuals.

In addition to the fallen were Alex Sullivan, just celebrating his 27th birthday; John Larimer, a 27-year-old U.S. Navy Sailor; 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, who recently survived the Toronto Mall Shooting; 23-year-old Micayla Medek; 18-year-old Alexander “AJ” Boik, who recently graduated high school; 51-year-old Gordon Cowden, a father of two; 32-year-old Rebecca Wingo; Jesse Childress, a 29-year-old Air Force reservist and six-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, whose mother Ashley Moser is in critical condition.

President Obama has ordered U.S. flags flown at half-staff at federal facilities, public buildings, military bases and U.S. offices overseas until sunset on July 25th. I’m currently typing this from my house on Sunday, looking out my office window at our flag at half-staff, remembering those we’ve lost and all that we can do to ensure we learn what we as responsible citizens can do to prevent another tragedy like this.

Sources:


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tex
tex

You guys are all fuckin' nuts. All these guns and all this training just begets more gun nuts and more Aurora "incidents". No citizen "Earp" has stopped one of these incidents yet.

How come this kind of incident is not common in other countries? Easy answer- sensible restrictions on guns- automatic, semi automatic, large capacity magazines, large volume ammunition purchase!

Yes- own a handgun- revolver or semi. Own a shotgun- 3 round mag. Own a hunting rifle- bolt or semi- 5 round max. No extended magazines, no tactical type weapons, .375 max for rifles .45 for handguns, no low light optics, no body armor, federal permit with recorded info to buy guns or ammo, 14 day waiting period (including private sales).

If you need more than a three round mag to kill a deer or boar you should take up golf. Why is this so hard? Fuckin' nutz!

tex
tex

You guys are all fuckin' nuts. All these guns and all this training just begets more gun nuts and more Aurora "incidents". No citizen "Earp" has stopped one of these incidents yet. How come this kind of incident is not common in other countries? Easy answer- sensible restrictions on guns- automatic, semi automatic, large capacity magazines, large volume ammunition purchase! Yes- own a handgun- revolver or semi. Own a shotgun- 3 round mag. Own a hunting rifle- bolt or semi- 5 round max. No extended magazines, no tactical type weapons, .375 max for rifles .45 for handguns, no low light optics, no body armor, federal permit with recorded info to buy guns or ammo, 14 day waiting period (including private sales). If you need more than a three round mag to kill a deer or boar you should take up golf. Why is this so hard? Fuckin' nutz!

Jason Cauley CMS
Jason Cauley CMS

Bryan - Excellent work! This is a very thorough article. Impressive. It is both thoughtful and encouraging. Well done. I will certainly be sharing this with our FB and Twitter followers. Great stuff! I hope you and Kelly and the whole ITS family are doing well.

- Jason

Jason Cauley CMS
Jason Cauley CMS

Bryan - Excellent work! This is a very thorough article. Impressive. It is both thoughtful and encouraging. Well done. I will certainly be sharing this with our FB and Twitter followers. Great stuff! I hope you and Kelly and the whole ITS family are doing well. - Jason

Christopher Brown
Christopher Brown

something i wondered was how he got the tear gas...i thought it was a law enforcment/military only item. something i've heard was that he had explosives in the car but didn't detonate, and that he called himself the joker. if that is the case then maybe his goal was to just cause as much panic and disorder as possable while giving himself as much attention as he could...which he definatly did between the shooting and the explosives at his home. something i've been wondering is if that is what he was going for then maybe the devices at his home wasn't ment to realy go off...just get more attention. either way the guy is out of his mind.

Joel
Joel

Well written article. My only point of comment that I want to make as many have touched upon this subject is that I completely agree that most people licensed to carry concealed do not have what I like to call "combat mindset." Then again 99% of America has never served so most will never have that mindset in the first place. Some of the people I do know that carry concealed I ask them all the time, how often are you shooting? Practicing in all situations? Are you up to date with the law. Its a surprise when many saw they don't even carry anymore because there is not a reason too anymore. They feel safe so don't bother with carrying. But like I said, most people don't have that instinct in them to run toward the battle. Expect of course for those three that died protecting others. Just my observations on that particular subject.

jc
jc

Jennifer is going to be a very good EMT.

Nicky
Nicky

1. Am I the only person in America that wouldn't even think about taking a baby or young child to a freaking midnight showing of a very dark movie with mature concepts? DH and I are big Dark Knight fans, but it is not a kids' movie and our two year old will pend the afternoon with Grandma when we do go see it next week.

2. My first thought when I heard aboutholms and the shooting was that he was a schizophrenic, and I was right. My mother is a schizophrenic and they can be very volatile, unpredictable and violent, especially when they are under stress or feel threatened. Schizophrenics are often plagued by paranoia and perceive the world as very hostile and those around them to be conspiring against them, it is a sad and disturbing way to live and without proper support in place often sets the stage for violent acts.

3. I really don't understand why people think it so extraordinary that so many police officers were on duty in the vicinity of the Dark Knight screening. Extremely popular Late night events like this often bring out garden variety craziness ( tired people in confrontations, drowsy drivers, maybe the occasional drunk slips in). These sorts of elements can escalate very quickly if left unchecked, thus the need for extra security and vigilance. If they hadn't had extra police around, people would be wringing their hands over why there weren't tighter safety measures in place.

Nicky
Nicky

1. Am I the only person in America that wouldn't even think about taking a baby or young child to a freaking midnight showing of a very dark movie with mature concepts? DH and I are big Dark Knight fans, but it is not a kids' movie and our two year old will pend the afternoon with Grandma when we do go see it next week. 2. My first thought when I heard aboutholms and the shooting was that he was a schizophrenic, and I was right. My mother is a schizophrenic and they can be very volatile, unpredictable and violent, especially when they are under stress or feel threatened. Schizophrenics are often plagued by paranoia and perceive the world as very hostile and those around them to be conspiring against them, it is a sad and disturbing way to live and without proper support in place often sets the stage for violent acts. 3. I really don't understand why people think it so extraordinary that so many police officers were on duty in the vicinity of the Dark Knight screening. Extremely popular Late night events like this often bring out garden variety craziness ( tired people in confrontations, drowsy drivers, maybe the occasional drunk slips in). These sorts of elements can escalate very quickly if left unchecked, thus the need for extra security and vigilance. If they hadn't had extra police around, people would be wringing their hands over why there weren't tighter safety measures in place.

Doc
Doc

Having lived in the metro-Denver area not too long ago, being a LEO in the area, and going to that particular theater numerous times, one thing to take into account, for years the Aurora Mall with the Century 16 movie theater has had a history of youth/gang related problems there. For years, the mall & theater has paid for off-duty APD to provide security (as well as having a APD sub-station there in the mall). So on most weekend nights, and during summer break nights, there were usually 2-5 uniformed APD officers hanging out in the lobby area of the theater (not to mention the ones in the mall area as well)... which would not surprise me that there were some APD off-duty officers in the theater at the time of the shooting... which would explain such a rapid response time for APD...

And to me, that once again goes to prove that even if there were APD officers onsite at the time of the shooting... COPS ARE NOT THERE TO PROTECT YOU!!! YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN PROTECT YOURSELF AND LOVED ONES!!! Cops can only mop up the mess and take a report afterwards!

Trango
Trango

I appreciate your affinity for gear but saying that as a gear junkie you are qualified to say for certain what a patrol officer, whose experience and training you have no knowledge of, could in no way identify a disguised threat from one piece of gear, is like an analyst saying that he or she would know for certain how an operative would perform in the field when presented with x challenge. I'm sorry but unless you have walked the walk, you are not able to definitively talk the talk. You can offer speculation and conjecture, but it's nothing more than that.

Trango
Trango

Excellent point and a major misconception amongst many of the general population. Hell when I went through Great Lakes (Navy boot) we didn't even get to shoot the .22s. It was all laser tag. The first time I actually SHOT a firearm in the Navy wasn't until after I had gotten to my ship and it wasn't so much formal training or qualification at that time as it was, hey wanna crank off a few rounds....

Tommy
Tommy

Here's one thing I keep reading and it really bugs me. Maybe it's a misstatement of fact typical of the media and maybe not. But you repeat it here in this article and it's this.

It says that 25 police were there in a minute and a half (from where did they come so quickly)?

It says that they recognized the shooter from a regular SWAT guy, by a certain piece of clothing he was wearing that was different than theirs. ( That means the 25 cops who got there in a minute and a half were ALL SWAT)?

Did they have a SWAT team 2 blocks away, waiting for the call to come in or what?

Since when does 1 or 2 cops get to the scene in a minute and a half, much less 25 of them all dressed for battle?

How come (at least) one of the 25 cops who were there didn't go inside the theater (to save somebody) and instead they all waited for the shoooter outside?(It sounds like the cops were dressed for the ocassion for sure)?

These are the things that bother me.

Anybody else wonder about these facts, or is it just me???

Tommy
Tommy

Here's one thing I keep reading and it really bugs me. Maybe it's a misstatement of fact typical of the media and maybe not. But you repeat it here in this article and it's this. It says that 25 police were there in a minute and a half (from where did they come so quickly)? It says that they recognized the shooter from a regular SWAT guy, by a certain piece of clothing he was wearing that was different than theirs. ( That means the 25 cops who got there in a minute and a half were ALL SWAT)? Did they have a SWAT team 2 blocks away, waiting for the call to come in or what? Since when does 1 or 2 cops get to the scene in a minute and a half, much less 25 of them all dressed for battle? How come (at least) one of the 25 cops who were there didn't go inside the theater (to save somebody) and instead they all waited for the shoooter outside?(It sounds like the cops were dressed for the ocassion for sure)? These are the things that bother me. Anybody else wonder about these facts, or is it just me???

MP
MP

OK You're last paragraph (attend as much training as possible) is absolutely correct. Just because you have a ccw doesn't mean you're prepared to fight with a weapon any more than having a frying pan makes you a world class chef. So in that we agree, Train train train.

HOWEVER; reviewing the senario over and over again allows us to put ourselves into that situation and learn. If we didn't analyze and "game" the situation from every angle (including what we would have done whether solo or with a family) we couldn't form a plan to either escape or to neutralize the threat/aggresor.

Only by mental preparation can we develop the mindset necessary to know what we need to do and to dominate a threat. One prepared (mental, physically, and trained) CCW holder could have saved a lot of people from being injured or killed. I'm not saying he/she could have saved everyone, but certainly could have helped tremendously.

Oh, and on the topic of dry fire... I dry fire 30 mins AT LEAST 3-4 times a week. I also put several thousand rounds (of pistol ammunition alone) down range every year (the number would be higher if MT didn't have such a cold winter). I do this not only for competition but also practice drawing from concealment. BY NO MEANS am I an expert nor am I trying to pass myself off as one. But the old maxim "you don't rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training" rings true.

I believe a responsible armed citizen needs to train to protect him/herself and their family. As an LEO I have a responsibility to everyone else as well; which is why I train the way I do. So please take this as my humble opinion (because thats all it is). I am in no way attempting to demean the value of your post or your opinion. I just humbly offer mine.

TyrannyNews
TyrannyNews

I haven't read every post here, but read quite a few. I'm relatively familiar with the reports of the event, but light on witness specifics. If what I'm about to cover has already been, then I apologize. But, I find this freakin' significant.

Examine the photo that you include and I'll link to here very carefully...

Without knowing the witness testimony, I see something odd any way you slice it.

1. Someone was shot OUTSIDE of the theater and sustained an ARTERIAL wound.

2. Their wound spurted rapidly as they traveled.

3. For some reason, this person made their way to the right-rear exit (no outside door handle noted) and RE-ENTERED the theater.

What the hell is going on here? Do any of the witnesses describe being hit outside or running the distance between exits? Anything that would explain what appears to be the only significant blood trail outside of the theater?

TyrannyNews
TyrannyNews

I haven't read every post here, but read quite a few. I'm relatively familiar with the reports of the event, but light on witness specifics. If what I'm about to cover has already been, then I apologize. But, I find this freakin' significant. Examine the photo that you include and I'll link to here very carefully... Without knowing the witness testimony, I see something odd any way you slice it. 1. Someone was shot OUTSIDE of the theater and sustained an ARTERIAL wound. 2. Their wound spurted rapidly as they traveled. 3. For some reason, this person made their way to the right-rear exit (no outside door handle noted) and RE-ENTERED the theater. What the hell is going on here? Do any of the witnesses describe being hit outside or running the distance between exits? Anything that would explain what appears to be the only significant blood trail outside of the theater?

Jeff
Jeff

At the Columbine High School massacre, there was an armed and trained police officer on duty who tried and failed to stop the killers. Why do so many people, in fact, why does anyone think that an untrained civilian could have stopped the perpetrator in this situation? Real life does not follow a TV script!

FDMedic
FDMedic

A note on EMS response: as a firefighter/paramedic by trade, even with a good response time, it is unlikely care would be initiated after immediate arrival on-scene.

Both agencies with whom I work mandate that responses to specific dispatches (think severe psychiatric problems, [attempted] suicides, overdoses, assaults, knife or GSWs, and so on) require law enforcement to secure the scene prior to arrival. If fire or EMS arrives prior to law enforcement, the responding unit(s) must stage away from the scene pending law enforcement arrival. Neither agency has explicitly addressed a mass shooting or active shooter scenario. However, the operational guidelines would likely reflect the nature of the ICS that had been established at time of arrival

Intuition indicates the following rules apply:

(1) Do not approach farther than a set perimeter pending notification by law enforcement;

(2) Verify with dispatch the nature of any assailants, including physical description, any wounds they may have sustained, and additional identifying markers;

(3) Contact the incident commander (or division chief, group or section leader, etc.) and inform them of unit ID, staging location, and distinguishing characteristics or affiliated service;

(4) Avoid free-lancing. This may be extremely difficult in the face of many [critically] wounded individuals, but with a rapidly-evolving incident, failure to maintain accountability will add to the chaos.

(5) Triage, triage, triage - try to group victims based on severity; green victims can help each other; yellow and red will require the most resources. As additional support arrives on-scene, load and transport critical patients. Do not commit too many resource too early for on-scene care!

(6) Ensure prior to departure that someone on-scene is aware of the patient's identity, nature and severity of injuries, and intended destination. Inform dispatch of any alterations to the destination and confirm that the changes were propagated back to incident command.

(7) Notify the receiving facility of the incident nature - while details are likely to be limited, advising them to activate their internal mass casualty procedures will reduce the likelihood that they will be overwhelmed. Any victims with "green" status that have self-transported will have brought widely varying accounts. Use the information obtained through command to brief the ED staff; but do not speculate.

All that said, this is a fantastic dissection of the event. Brian, thank you for analysis and insight on this article - and to the rest of ITS Tactical staff for their work as well.

FDMedic
FDMedic

A note on EMS response: as a firefighter/paramedic by trade, even with a good response time, it is unlikely care would be initiated after immediate arrival on-scene. Both agencies with whom I work mandate that responses to specific dispatches (think severe psychiatric problems, [attempted] suicides, overdoses, assaults, knife or GSWs, and so on) require law enforcement to secure the scene prior to arrival. If fire or EMS arrives prior to law enforcement, the responding unit(s) must stage away from the scene pending law enforcement arrival. Neither agency has explicitly addressed a mass shooting or active shooter scenario. However, the operational guidelines would likely reflect the nature of the ICS that had been established at time of arrival Intuition indicates the following rules apply: (1) Do not approach farther than a set perimeter pending notification by law enforcement; (2) Verify with dispatch the nature of any assailants, including physical description, any wounds they may have sustained, and additional identifying markers; (3) Contact the incident commander (or division chief, group or section leader, etc.) and inform them of unit ID, staging location, and distinguishing characteristics or affiliated service; (4) Avoid free-lancing. This may be extremely difficult in the face of many [critically] wounded individuals, but with a rapidly-evolving incident, failure to maintain accountability will add to the chaos. (5) Triage, triage, triage - try to group victims based on severity; green victims can help each other; yellow and red will require the most resources. As additional support arrives on-scene, load and transport critical patients. Do not commit too many resource too early for on-scene care! (6) Ensure prior to departure that someone on-scene is aware of the patient's identity, nature and severity of injuries, and intended destination. Inform dispatch of any alterations to the destination and confirm that the changes were propagated back to incident command. (7) Notify the receiving facility of the incident nature - while details are likely to be limited, advising them to activate their internal mass casualty procedures will reduce the likelihood that they will be overwhelmed. Any victims with "green" status that have self-transported will have brought widely varying accounts. Use the information obtained through command to brief the ED staff; but do not speculate. All that said, this is a fantastic dissection of the event. Brian, thank you for analysis and insight on this article - and to the rest of ITS Tactical staff for their work as well.

BLACK
BLACK

Best write up yet. Job well done.

Todd
Todd

"Note that two military-trained personnel are among the dead"

JUST BECAUSE you are in the military does NOT mean you are trained to deal with tactical situations. There was one Navy and one Air Force guy in the crowd. Having been both Army and Navy, I assure you that the Navy provided me with absolutely NO tactical training whatsoever. We shot .22 cal 1911's in basic... after that if you're not special ops, CeeBee, Master at Arms, or one of the other few jobs that actually require a weapon, generally you won't have the training. It just depends on your rate (your job). The Air Force is the same. If the guy was a computer technician, then he's probably not even seen a weapon since basic.

Todd
Todd

One quick note, there is some argument as to whether there was even tear gas involved. Video of people post-event does NOT show any tear gas like reactions, nor are there any significant reports of treatment for tear gas exposure (the most I've seen is 3 treated for chemical exposure, but not specifically tear gas). MOST likely the subject had signal or smoke grenades, which add to the confusion, but that's NOT tear gas.

Cpadd55
Cpadd55

Aurora PD is a large department. Not to mention Aurora PD were not the only officers responding. Denver PD, as well as others were responding. The numbers could Also include, Arapahoe County Sheriffs and Adams County Sheriffs. This was a multiple department call, and multiple department response. There were four to five different ambulance companies on scene as well. Being a responder in the Denver metro area, at that time of night, it's highly possible to have that many response vehicles there in a short time period.

Joe
Joe

Credit Card. Why would he care. He wont ever have to pay it back.

Joe
Joe

I dont know about APD but my department has shift change at 11 pm and midnight. If the station is that close then that also explains why 25 officers were there so fast. It seems "Dr. Dave" just likes to call out people on things he know nothing about.

John Pavoncello
John Pavoncello

Dan,

In certain states, there are restrictions on where you can and can't legally carry a firearm. In Colorado, it seems, if the property owner posts a "no-guns" sign, you aren't allowed to carry there. This movie theater was in fact a No Gun Zone.

John Pavoncello
John Pavoncello

Dan, In certain states, there are restrictions on where you can and can't legally carry a firearm. In Colorado, it seems, if the property owner posts a "no-guns" sign, you aren't allowed to carry there. This movie theater was in fact a No Gun Zone.

GreenTip556
GreenTip556

A quick question:

If a CC citizen responded to the threat and with the relatively short response time of public safety law enfprcement assets, besides re-holstering immediately, what could you do to mitigate being pointed out as a threat by panickers or deemed an active shootins suspect by law enforcemwnt? Clearly immediate compliance to respondinglaw enforcement is key, but bystanders and panickers may not have the training or knowledge to identify an active shooter from a lawfully armed response. This could lead to mob mentality and place the responder in danger couldn't it?

GreenTip556
GreenTip556

A quick question: If a CC citizen responded to the threat and with the relatively short response time of public safety law enfprcement assets, besides re-holstering immediately, what could you do to mitigate being pointed out as a threat by panickers or deemed an active shootins suspect by law enforcemwnt? Clearly immediate compliance to respondinglaw enforcement is key, but bystanders and panickers may not have the training or knowledge to identify an active shooter from a lawfully armed response. This could lead to mob mentality and place the responder in danger couldn't it?

ITS-Reader-0000*
ITS-Reader-0000*

Forgot to mention some numbers:

I suppose if someone armed with 3000 rounds were to attempt to abuse them in Florida, considering that approximately 1 active CC permit per 20 people is dangling about, factoring just half the shooter's capacity at 1500 rounds and maybe 1000 potential victims, there just might be about 50 CC holders in the area. Yeah, statistics can churn the belly, but it's still better than hyper-imaginative hysteria.

ITS-Reader-0000*
ITS-Reader-0000*

Forgot to mention some numbers: I suppose if someone armed with 3000 rounds were to attempt to abuse them in Florida, considering that approximately 1 active CC permit per 20 people is dangling about, factoring just half the shooter's capacity at 1500 rounds and maybe 1000 potential victims, there just might be about 50 CC holders in the area. Yeah, statistics can churn the belly, but it's still better than hyper-imaginative hysteria.

ITS-Reader-0000*
ITS-Reader-0000*

First, fantastic article, IMO.

I am glad the idiocy surrounding the ammunition-counts was mentioned. It does have me wondering, however, if the hyper-imaginative may be right: has there ever been any instance of an urban massacre or shootout where thousands of rounds were fired? Obviously none with accurate shooters! I suppose it is conceivable, but one would need a mighty rucksack and a bad day for SWAT to get very far. I do remember the LA (militia) bank robbery which was nearly epic, and I suppose quite few rounds were spent on that occasion. But I just can't see the high ammunition-count having much priority in understanding the Aurora event; a single box often contains 50.

As for theoretical means of prevention/mitigation/etc., aint got much to say. On almost a completely different subject, but still of shootings in public places, this 71 senior seemed to do very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eowwq1DV3J0

ITS-Reader-0000*
ITS-Reader-0000*

First, fantastic article, IMO. I am glad the idiocy surrounding the ammunition-counts was mentioned. It does have me wondering, however, if the hyper-imaginative may be right: has there ever been any instance of an urban massacre or shootout where thousands of rounds were fired? Obviously none with accurate shooters! I suppose it is conceivable, but one would need a mighty rucksack and a bad day for SWAT to get very far. I do remember the LA (militia) bank robbery which was nearly epic, and I suppose quite few rounds were spent on that occasion. But I just can't see the high ammunition-count having much priority in understanding the Aurora event; a single box often contains 50. As for theoretical means of prevention/mitigation/etc., aint got much to say. On almost a completely different subject, but still of shootings in public places, this 71 senior seemed to do very well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eowwq1DV3J0

Dan
Dan

Great Post Bryan.

I'll say the same thing here that I have been saying to my friends...

Even if we do find out that he had a level 3 ballistic vest beneath his tac vest, a shot or two from a .40mm or possibly even a 9mm weapon (fired by a concealed carry permit holder) would still knock this string bean on his ass or at the very least, knock the wind out of him.

I've yet to hear any indication that he had a ceramic plate, so assuming it was kevlar fabric rather than a plate guard - yes, even the smallest of weapons would have likely changed the outcome or delayed the outcome to a point where first responders would have been able to arrive and save more lives.

Dan
Dan

Great Post Bryan. I'll say the same thing here that I have been saying to my friends... Even if we do find out that he had a level 3 ballistic vest beneath his tac vest, a shot or two from a .40mm or possibly even a 9mm weapon (fired by a concealed carry permit holder) would still knock this string bean on his ass or at the very least, knock the wind out of him. I've yet to hear any indication that he had a ceramic plate, so assuming it was kevlar fabric rather than a plate guard - yes, even the smallest of weapons would have likely changed the outcome or delayed the outcome to a point where first responders would have been able to arrive and save more lives.

Servelan
Servelan

This guy planned this for months. This guy had booby traps in his apartment and was trying to get a police response to too-loud music to kill people via the bombs he'd placed. This guy got through a system intended to keep the wrong people from getting guns. This guy is the wild card, the Mule (Foundation reference), the variable you can't plan for 100%.

Who cares what his childhood was like? Who cares what his friends and family say about him? Will that bring back his victims or lessen the pain of their families? Does it help prevent another such incident? People with horrendous childhoods frequently grow up to be decent, loving people. People with ordinary childhoods frequently grow up to be decent, loving people. People from both groups sometimes behave abberantly. It happens.

It is too easy to imagine what 'coulda' or 'shoulda' been done. 'If a trained, armed person...' or 'If everyone had a CCWP...' are not useful, after the fact, for analyzing this particular event or preventing a similar one in the future any more than speculating on the shooter's childhood. You cannot plan against a mentally ill person's actions or planned mayhem by person or persons unknown in every possible place you go. The best you can do is know where the exits are in a case like this. Note that two military-trained personnel are among the dead; they had no problem with 'situational awareness', and* still* got shot and died.

How did this person get past the safeguards already in place in the building and in the law? Why did no one notice the propped door (isn't that a fire safety kind of thing? No alarm on the door?)? How did he fool the supposedly sober-minded people and businesses he purchased weapons and ammo from? Who ignored the signs of this person cracking up leading up to the day of carnage? The Israelis rely on body language to foil terrorists; maybe gun dealers need to get a course in that?

The laws are only as good as those that follow and/or enforce them. Someone blinked, and 12 people are dead as a result.

Servelan
Servelan

This guy planned this for months. This guy had booby traps in his apartment and was trying to get a police response to too-loud music to kill people via the bombs he'd placed. This guy got through a system intended to keep the wrong people from getting guns. This guy is the wild card, the Mule (Foundation reference), the variable you can't plan for 100%. Who cares what his childhood was like? Who cares what his friends and family say about him? Will that bring back his victims or lessen the pain of their families? Does it help prevent another such incident? People with horrendous childhoods frequently grow up to be decent, loving people. People with ordinary childhoods frequently grow up to be decent, loving people. People from both groups sometimes behave abberantly. It happens. It is too easy to imagine what 'coulda' or 'shoulda' been done. 'If a trained, armed person...' or 'If everyone had a CCWP...' are not useful, after the fact, for analyzing this particular event or preventing a similar one in the future any more than speculating on the shooter's childhood. You cannot plan against a mentally ill person's actions or planned mayhem by person or persons unknown in every possible place you go. The best you can do is know where the exits are in a case like this. Note that two military-trained personnel are among the dead; they had no problem with 'situational awareness', and* still* got shot and died. How did this person get past the safeguards already in place in the building and in the law? Why did no one notice the propped door (isn't that a fire safety kind of thing? No alarm on the door?)? How did he fool the supposedly sober-minded people and businesses he purchased weapons and ammo from? Who ignored the signs of this person cracking up leading up to the day of carnage? The Israelis rely on body language to foil terrorists; maybe gun dealers need to get a course in that? The laws are only as good as those that follow and/or enforce them. Someone blinked, and 12 people are dead as a result.

Brian C.
Brian C.

I am not new to owning a weapon, but I am new to actually training to use weapons. While I can applaud the factual and thoughtful way that Brian approached this subject, I have to say I can't disagree more with your statements about the typical citizen with CCW. My first thoughts after hearing about the tragedy, as I am sure most of us with children would think; What would I have done to secure my family? Wasn't there anybody with CCW in the theater?

After a while, it dawned on me that without ever having been in the situation (any type of gunfight and certainly not one in which I had members of my family to protect) it would do no good to speculate. I've been in physical altercations before and can relate to the stress and adrenalin, but I am sure this pales in comparison to what happens in a true life threatening situation. I've certainly never come close to this level of stress with any training I've participated in.

For me, the most important part of what Brian wrote was related to training. How much? How often? How much from different scenarios and situations? For me, this is the key. As I look around at the majority of places, they only allow or provide static environments. In many places, you can't even practice drawing a weapon from a holster. How many people do this at home or dry fire? How many with CCW have ever attended an advanced training course? These questions make me disagree with your assertions that most people with CCW would look for cover or somehow know what to do.

I think that CCW have, or at least should have, an obligation to attend as much training as possible. If it is true, that in times of high stress, we fall back on our training, what do you fall back on if your only training is at the local range?

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Thanks Alexis, glad you got something out of it!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Thanks Mike, appreciate the response and the link!

William Crosby Prentice
William Crosby Prentice

Excellent analysis. I particularly liked your discussion of the way to approach private restrictions on concealed carry.

It is interesting to note that there was a very massive police response, but it took them 90 seconds to get there and that was not soon enough for the victims. My conclusion from that is that the only thing that could have reduced or eliminated the casualties would have been an armed citizen right there. That is what happened before as you will recall when an armed citizen put a stop to an active shooter at a Colorado church event.

The entire episode has only strengthened by resolve that if I can't carry at a certain location, then I need to reconsider whether or not I want to go there at all. I of course know the locations where it is absolutely prohibited, and I don't carry there. However, if a private business is posted such that I can't see it, then I guess they can ask me to leave - I would rather say that I am sorry than ask permission. If it is posted properly and prominently, then I will go somewhere else.

Back to the issue of armed citizen response, you mentioned that a former serviceman and West Point graduate had said that this would not be a good thing. As you know, being a member of the armed services is no guarantee that you believe in an armed citizenry, and in fact it is amazing how many former members of the armed services have gone over to the dark side and think we should all be nice little sheep.

During that ninety second window before the first policeman arrived, an armed citizen sitting in that audience could have saved many lives. If he did everything perfectly, then maybe he would have bagged the guy right off and saved everyone. Even if he reacted poorly, but managed to get some rounds off at the guy as soon as the action started, then he would have at least diverted his attention away from the unarmed fleeing victims, maybe he would have even taken cover and focused solely on you - but lives would have been saved.

It doesn't have to be pretty to work. As we all know, Murphy is always right there with you in combat. But Murphy left this guy alone for a minute and a half, except for causing a malfunction on his rifle. I would have rather had Murphy appear in front of this guy in the form of an armed citizen that just got back from a long weekend of advanced combat pistol training.

Bill

PS - It would also have been awesome if everyone in the theater would have had a pocket trauma kit handy!

William Crosby Prentice
William Crosby Prentice

Excellent analysis. I particularly liked your discussion of the way to approach private restrictions on concealed carry. It is interesting to note that there was a very massive police response, but it took them 90 seconds to get there and that was not soon enough for the victims. My conclusion from that is that the only thing that could have reduced or eliminated the casualties would have been an armed citizen right there. That is what happened before as you will recall when an armed citizen put a stop to an active shooter at a Colorado church event. The entire episode has only strengthened by resolve that if I can't carry at a certain location, then I need to reconsider whether or not I want to go there at all. I of course know the locations where it is absolutely prohibited, and I don't carry there. However, if a private business is posted such that I can't see it, then I guess they can ask me to leave - I would rather say that I am sorry than ask permission. If it is posted properly and prominently, then I will go somewhere else. Back to the issue of armed citizen response, you mentioned that a former serviceman and West Point graduate had said that this would not be a good thing. As you know, being a member of the armed services is no guarantee that you believe in an armed citizenry, and in fact it is amazing how many former members of the armed services have gone over to the dark side and think we should all be nice little sheep. During that ninety second window before the first policeman arrived, an armed citizen sitting in that audience could have saved many lives. If he did everything perfectly, then maybe he would have bagged the guy right off and saved everyone. Even if he reacted poorly, but managed to get some rounds off at the guy as soon as the action started, then he would have at least diverted his attention away from the unarmed fleeing victims, maybe he would have even taken cover and focused solely on you - but lives would have been saved. It doesn't have to be pretty to work. As we all know, Murphy is always right there with you in combat. But Murphy left this guy alone for a minute and a half, except for causing a malfunction on his rifle. I would have rather had Murphy appear in front of this guy in the form of an armed citizen that just got back from a long weekend of advanced combat pistol training. Bill PS - It would also have been awesome if everyone in the theater would have had a pocket trauma kit handy!

James
James

You're an idiot. There have indeed been cases where an armed citizen or off-duty LEO (which is roughly the equivalent of an armed citizen in terms of weapons and gear) have either killed an active shooter or pinned him down long enough for police to arrive with more hardware.

The case that springs most readily to mind is the Salt Lake Trolley Square Mall shooting where an off duty Ogden, Ut officer engaged a shooter with his pistol, pinning him down until officers arrived. All the killings of the shooter (whose name escapes me) were done before the Ogden cop began shooting. The only person the shooter killed afterward was himself.

Christopher Brown
Christopher Brown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9RKMtLcacU you were saying? oh...and the countries that have more gun restrictions also have higher crime. take a look at the uk...the police carried around nightsticks before the gun ban...now they are carring smgs. d.c. has some of the highest crime in the u.s. and their gun restrictions are worse than cali. look at where so many shootings happen...they are all gun free zones, because criminals know people won't be shooting back.

James
James

You're an idiot. There have indeed been cases where an armed citizen or off-duty LEO (which is roughly the equivalent of an armed citizen in terms of weapons and gear) have either killed an active shooter or pinned him down long enough for police to arrive with more hardware. The case that springs most readily to mind is the Salt Lake Trolley Square Mall shooting where an off duty Ogden, Ut officer engaged a shooter with his pistol, pinning him down until officers arrived. All the killings of the shooter (whose name escapes me) were done before the Ogden cop began shooting. The only person the shooter killed afterward was himself.

Todd
Todd

"Note that two military-trained personnel are among the dead" JUST BECAUSE you are in the military does NOT mean you are trained to deal with tactical situations. There was one Navy and one Air Force guy in the crowd. Having been both Army and Navy, I assure you that the Navy provided me with absolutely NO tactical training whatsoever. We shot .22 cal 1911's in basic... after that if you're not special ops, CeeBee, Master at Arms, or one of the other few jobs that actually require a weapon, generally you won't have the training. It just depends on your rate (your job). The Air Force is the same. If the guy was a computer technician, then he's probably not even seen a weapon since basic.

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