2 major lessons from Fort Hood's second active killer
There are lessons to be learned from the murderous rampage this week at Fort Hood, but far too many people have failed to learn them before, and I’m not confident this tragedy will enlighten them now
Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before: A female police officer plays a crucial role in stopping an active killer from murdering unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood.
Yeah, we’ve seen it. Four-and-a-half years ago, Sergeant Kimberly Munley was with her partner — Senior Sergeant Mark Todd — when Major Nidal Hassan opened fire on the unarmed soldiers at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood. Munley was severely injured, and Hassan has been convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection.
Well, the sequel came out this week. On Wednesday, another female officer — at the time of this writing not-yet-identified — was reportedly about 20 feet from a 34-year-old gunman named Ivan Lopez, when the assailant put a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic to his head and ended his own life (and ended a murderous rampage on unarmed soldiers).
Two Caveats, and Two Questions
Before going any further, I want to acknowledge two things which are in danger of being lost in all of this. My good friends at Stratfor covered both elements in a brief they issued the other day. I’m going to relay precisely what they said, because I couldn’t have said it better myself:
“Large military facilities with significant civilian populations and daily commuters have always been notoriously hard to secure. In the wake of the 2009 Hasan incident, the Army received its security policies, instigating nationwide active shooter response team training.
A plot to carry out at attack at a restaurant near Fort Hood was foiled on July 27, 2011, when U.S. Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was taken into custody. An alert employee at a gun store where Abdo allegedly bought materials to make improvised explosive devices noted the suspect's odd demeanor and called the police.”
Fort Hood is one of the largest and most-heavily populated U.S. military installations on American soil — covering nearly 215,000 acres (or about 330 square miles) — with an estimated population of 71,000 (almost 42,000 of which are soldiers) so protecting it has got to be supremely difficult. And we must not forget that at least one active killer was stopped before he could commit his intended atrocities.
Some steps have been taken, many of them good. But two glaring problems remain.
1.) When will we learn that active killers almost always exhibit behaviors that foretell their intentions?
2.) When will we learn that “gun-free zones” are invitation for active killers seeking defenseless victims?
I’ve rearranged my planned schedule of columnist features for today, and bring to you two very timely items addressing the first question.
I direct your attention to an excellent piece by Dan Marcou, provocatively entitled 15 years after Columbine: How the media turned me into a 'gun control advocate.'
Spoiler alert: He’s not a gun control advocate.
The second article is by Scott Stewart — reprinted by permission of Stratfor — entitled Demystifying the criminal planning cycle.
Both of these items provide invaluable instruction on the visible, predictable behaviors we must observe and act upon to stop these mass-murderers before they begin their attacks.
For the second question above, I’ve turned to a handful of my contributors for their thoughts (edited for brevity). My comments, of course, will be last. Add yours in the comments area below.
Dan Marcou, PoliceOne Columnist
This is a sad day for our military and our country. Whether or not anyone wants to admit it, we have configured our military at home in such a manner that they have become soft targets.
That can't be. You can't defend others if you are unable to defend yourself, period.
Dick Fairburn, PoliceOne Columnist
Why can't our soldiers be armed ‘at home?’ Whether or not this was a terrorist incident, it is still an active shooter incident and we know VERY clearly that the quickest way to save lives in such an event is a good guy with a gun.
If we can trust our soldiers to protect themselves overseas, why not here?
My nephew — a retired E-9 USN Master at Arms — reacted to the Navy base shooting last year by saying “It’s a damn sorry day when a military post has to wait for a civilian police response to save their asses!”
I doubt that was the situation at Fort Hood this week. It is far too vast a base for a civilian PD to respond in time, but they still depend on DOD police, when any combat soldier with a sidearm or M4 could have stopped this very quickly.
Glenn French, PoliceOne Columnist
History has shown that when our domestic military installations are targeted, local law enforcement act as additional response. Many military bases are vast in land and populations can be small cities. My question for you officers working outside these bases is “are you prepared to respond to an active shooter on a military installation?”
If you’re dispatched to building 410 on base, would you know where to go? I assume we’re all prepared with the proper tactical equipment but intelligence on your objective is just as important. We’re all familiar with the cities we patrol — use the same diligence when preparing for such a response on a military base.
Having joint training sessions with the Joint Command on base will be very useful. I’ve always found our military comrades eager and willing to train with local law enforcement.
Kyle Lamb, PoliceOne Contributor
Another tragic shooting in a ‘gun-free zone.’ When will America wake up? The powers that be have made Americans targets in their own workplace and community.
Lance Eldridge, PoliceOne Contributor
Military reservations in the United States remain a “soft” target, and until the Pentagon and the government make mature decisions regarding the security of the nation’s soldiers, they will remain vulnerable. Efforts at controlling access are and will always be cosmetic, meant more for political theater than practical protection of potential victims.
The real tragedy is the deaths of those murdered while performing their duties on a military reservation. They and their families deserve the nation's condolences and to be remembered — as we have remembered and mourned those killed on November 5, 2009.
Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief
I had originally entitled this column 'Active killer at Fort Hood (the sequel)' because I was seething in anger as I wrote it — and I thought it was pretty clever on my part. My more-level-headed colleagues advised that keeping that title "might just piss people off."
That was kind of my intention, but I see their point.
I’m going to make this simple. We have the ability to acquire the tools, training, and tactics to ensure we have both an ounce of prevention and a pound of cure for these events.
The Five Phases represent that crucial “ounce of prevention.”
The legally-armed sheepdogs — and what they hold in their hands! — are that “pound of cure.”
It’s all there. What we seem to lack is the intelligence and the intestinal fortitude to follow through and use those resources to the best of our ability.
There are lessons to be learned from the murderous rampage this week at Fort Hood, but far too many people have failed to learn them before, and I’m not terribly confident this tragedy will enlighten them now.