Lexington, SC (Jimmy Poluszek) - In today’s social climate, most Americans are familiar with the many mass shootings and violent crimes that happen around our country. However, few are sure exactly what to do in the event that such a thing would ever happen in their community. Fortunately, a seminar on Active Shooter Awareness was given last night at Radius Church on Main Street in Lexington which was open for anybody to come in and learn how to react calmly and effectively in such an extreme and dangerous situation. This particular event was organized by the sheriff’s department in Lexington County and local police in partnership with the FBI. It is one of many which are presented around the country.
The main speaker of the night was Robert Chadwick. Chadwick has previously trained many police officers in the use of firearms, and had even served as part of a SWAT unit. The purpose of the seminar, according to Chadwick, was to help train the people of Lexington, and the surrounding areas, to be better prepared in case of a mass shooting. Though the focus was placed specifically on shootings in churches, he made it clear that shooters could strike anywhere, especially workplaces and schools.
To start off with, Chadwick defined an “active shooter” as any criminal armed with a gun whose main goal is to shoot and kill as many people in a specific location as possible. He then explained the many steps people can take if they are presented with such a situation. “The best way to survive an active shooting is to not be where the shooter is,” he explained. According to him, most mass shooters typically attempt to trap their victims inside the building that is being invaded, and rarely chase people who manage to escape. The first course of action should be to try and safely leave the premise before alerting the police to what is happening.
If there is no safe way to escape, the next course of action is to hide if possible, especially in rooms that can be barricaded. Only in life or death situations should a civilian attempt to confront and fight the criminal in question. The main point that Chadwick wanted to make was that citizens should remain calm despite the circumstances. A calm person can take steps toward ensuring their survival better than those who panic and begin to act irrationally. Citizens are instructed to do whatever they can to protect themselves and last until the police are on the scene and ready to take down the shooter.
Vigilant members of the community don’t have to wait until such an event to take place before alerting the police, however. Sometimes the threat can be identified and stopped long before it occurs. Chadwick explained that in 80% of school shootings, at least one person other than the perpetrator was aware that a shooting was going to take place long before it happened; However, most never alert the authorities. Citizens should remain aware of their surroundings and be ready to identify suspicious traits in someone. Individuals may display strange or suspicious behavior that could indicate they are capable of such extreme, violent actions. Traits such as stockpiling large amounts of weapons for no particular reason or recently going off heavy prescribed medication for emotional problems may be signs of a potentially unstable individual.
The Thursday night event drew an unexpectedly large turnout. So many people came to the church that it was difficult for anyone to find parking even before the event had begun. According to Chadwick during an interview after the seminar, he has spoken at these events eight or nine times already in towns other than Lexington, and as many as a thousand people have shown up to several events, despite those events not usually being advertised. To him, the amount of people that attend the event each time is “very encouraging” and he hopes that the attendees take the information provided to heart and go out to their own church congregations or communities to spread the word.
In regard to specifically church shootings, he had this to say: “Houses of worship are still statistically one of the safest places to be in the country; however, we still want people to be forewarned. We don’t want them to be afraid to go to church, but we also don’t want them to be oblivious to the potential for these kinds of things.”
It is events such as these that help to make Lexington County a safer and friendlier community to live in.