Most Pacific Palisades would rather talk about anything than an active shooter. But the lessons that Sergeant Mike Harding went over at a July 19 meeting at the Legion Hall could save a life, possibly your own.
Before introducing Harding, Ronald Reagan Legion Post 283 Commander Jim Cragg addressed the packed room.
“Active shooters are a scourge in the country,” Cragg said. “There are people out there that are armed.”
The Legion is apolitical and by its constitution cannot support a political candidate or cause, but Cragg emphasized that teaching people what they can do if they are ever in this situation is something the Legion can do.
“This is what’s here, what’s now,” Cragg said and then introduced Harding, who has spent almost 36 years in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department working with officer survival and active shooter response protocols.
“You have a greater chance of being hit by lightning than by an active shooter,” Harding assured audiences. But he then went through steps that people can take if they are ever in that situation.
He told the audience that the workplace is the number one place that active shooters are found and that the number two location is schools.
Harding said that since 2006, there are about four or more deaths every 2.9 months and that mass shootings take place every year.
“Just like fire drills, making a plan in advance is imperative,” said Harding, who added that most active shooter situations are over in 10 to 15 minutes, which means if you are on the scene, “You are your own first responder.”
Once the police arrive their first priority is to take out the shooter, not to render medical aid.
Depending on the situation, the steps a person should take are RUN. HIDE. FIGHT.
RUN: If someone is in a situation where there is an active shooter, the first thing to do is “Get out,” which might mean going through emergency exits, back doors. Once outside, don’t run to a parking lot because in that location “you are more vulnerable to attack.”
Where do you run to? Harding said he taught his daughters to hop fences to get out of the perimeter, to get into a residential zone and to get “away from the killing zone.”
HIDE: “If you can’t get to an exit, get to a room and secure your location,” but remember bullets can go through drywall.
Once inside, block the doors to the room, staying away from the windows, silencing cell phones and turning out lights.
“If you can’t shelter in place, prepare to defend yourself,” he said.
FIGHT: The last option might be stopping the shooter. He pointed out the nightclub in Florida where a shooter had two guns and killed 49 people was done in a crowd of 350. “The fight option was not even used,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to fight if it raises the level of your survival.
“Who has the power,” Harding said. “Not the shooter, the crowd has the advantage.” He pointed out that the shooter can only fight in one direction.
“Most people don’t do anything. We watch. We freeze.” And that can be deadly.
“About 50 percent of active shooters are stopped by civilians,” Harding said. “There are more and more people willing to challenge a shooter. Are they sometimes killed? Yes, but they have stopped additional deaths.”
Shooters often have mindset after searching on the Internet that “I’m going to kill more people than the last person did. I’ll be famous.”
Harding also describes shooters as “opportunists and cowards.” He said about 40 percent of all active shooters commit suicide. “They would rather commit suicide than fight you.”
He laid down some simple facts. “You have the right to use a reasonable amount of force if you are in that situation. Violence is not a bad thing when you are trying to stop an evil doer.”
Harding said, “I taught my daughters to scratch at the eyes, fight like a cat, claw.” He said that gouging an eye is an effective way of stopping someone.
He showed the audience how to hit the throat, stopping them. “If the person can’t breathe, they can’t fight,” Harding said.
His daughters asked how they, as petite women, could reach a man’s face. “Kick them in the groin,” he said, “Very simple, very efficient, and when they bend over you can reach their face.”
“You need to hurt this individual and break them,” he said. “Break their will.”
The active shooter video, which is disturbing, can be found at click here.