YUMA, Ariz. – The most recent mass shooting in America killed in San Bernardino, California killed 14 people, seriously injured 22 and devastated the nation yet again. Closer to home, 73-year-old Carey Hal Dyess went on a six-hour shooting spree from Wellton to Yuma, claiming six lives in 2011 before killing himself. In hopes of thwarting future bloodshed, Arizona’s Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu took to the airwaves. “I wish we could have a cop on every corner, in every neighborhood, in every school. We just can’t. We want a citizen to add to the equation,” said Sheriff Babeu.
The sheriff urging an average person to take up arms in the fight against deadly attacks. A recent study with the University of Texas reports 84 active shooter events between 2000 and 2010. Almost half ended before first responders got to the scene. In 16 cases victims stopped the attack, with only three using a gun. Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot serves as President for the Arizona Sheriff’s Association. He fully supports the second amendment, but says the best a bystander can do is assess the situation from a safe space and call dispatch with details
“Any kind of an emergency situation we would ask folks to be our best witness that’s the key and make sure they’re doing it from a safe location so they’re not put in danger. That’s what we’re paid for that’s why we wear this equipment. It’s for our protection,” said Wilmot.
YCSO reports the department spends $125,000 each year on deputy training alone. Retired Arizona Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Dave McDowell also points out it’s best to avoid combat. Explaining the savior could be mistaken for the enemy. “It’s far best to I think try to incorporate the philosophy of run escape and then fight as the last resort. You gotta remember that there’s police coming to the scene and they’re not going to know who the shooter is,” said McDowell. A real risk Sheriff Wilmot upholds. He says, “It’s hard for law enforcement, without real time information when you get there. Because you have to pause [and figure out] who’s the good guy [or] who’s the bad guy.”
But how could a citizen add to the equation of size up to trained law enforcement? For example, a local gun range offers a variety of firearm safety courses. “We take them through a class where they understand all the safety aspects how to operate, how to maintain. All the basics, and then we actually get them inside the range shooting .22 pistols,” said Senior Vice President of Sprague’s Sports Ron Gissendaner. But in the event of an active shooter, despite training Gissendaner stresses it’s up to you to decide the course of action. “That’s an individual right, that’s an individual who has to know that they’re qualified to be able to make that judgement call on who the bad person really is,” said Gissendaner.
It’s also up to each person how often they practice. On the other side of the spectrum, deputies along with border patrol, and police train on a weekly basis to maintain their skills. The Yuma County agencies have access to this virtual simulator that creates real-world scenario and provides dynamic training. “We do scenarios like this on a quarterly basis. We have live active shooter situations one time a year, training exercises whereas a civilian they may do something like this but it’s going to be very small scale very minimal training that they’re going to get,” said Yuma Sector Border Patrol agent Terry Hartman.
To ramp up the lesson in self-defense I took an additional course with McDowell who now works with civilians. He says if waiting on police to arrive, find a place to hide. Whether concealment to remain out of sight, or cover behind a dense object like concrete. If you happen to be outside and near a car the best spot to hide is toward the front and by the wheel, because the further down you go the less dense the object between you and that bullet. If caught in the front lines be prepared to shoot, and make sure you’ve had proper training. Just keep in mind you will face legal consequences in the aftermath. Sheriff Wilmot says, “There is a liability concern that they have just encumbered upon them and their family because of what they’ve decided to do.”
But if face to face with an attacker, don’t hesitate to act. “You life is of no value to them and so you’re the one who’s going to have to protect it,” said McDowell. And if you don’t have a gun, use anything you’ve got.