Update On “Rapid Mass Murder” And Single-Officer Response

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Trainer Ron Borsch, an early advocate of immediate entry into active-killer scenes by the first responding officer, reports the latest statistics in support of his tactical position. As we’ve noted previously [Force Science News 05/09/2008 and Force Science News 05/08/2009], Borsch, manager and lead trainer at the Southeast Area Law Enforcement (SEALE) regional in-service academy in Bedford, OH, tracks the circumstances surrounding active-killer incidents via an ongoing Internet research project. He focuses particularly on “rapid mass murder” episodes in which 4 or more slayings have occurred during the same event and in the same location (schools, work sites, churches, malls, and other public places) within the same time frame (20 minutes or less).

In this category, which Borsch believes offers the truest profile of mass killers and their deadly mission, he has analyzed nearly 40 cases in the U.S. and abroad, he tells Force Science News. These are his findings regarding responder effectiveness:

  • About 70% of these killing sprees were “aborted” (ended) by third-party intervention, without which the death toll undoubtedly would have been higher.
  • Of the total aborts, two-thirds were by armed or unarmed civilians, initially taking action alone the overwhelming majority of the time;
  • Of the remaining one-third of successful aborts, credited to law enforcement, 67% were initiated by a single officer;
  • Only 1 resolution initially involved as many as 3 officers. In that instance, they responded in plainclothes without special training for such a situation. The remainder (22%) were initiated by 2 officers;
  • The vast majority of successful law enforcement aborts (78%) were achieved with handguns only. “This is not to diminish the importance and growing issuance of patrol rifles,” Borsch says. “It’s merely an empowering fact that law enforcement can and has won against superior weapons used by the offender.”

(Borsch feels these statistics would likely hold true for active-killer incidents as a whole. He does not include in his tally terrorist attacks, barricade/hostage-takings, or domestic violence in private dwellings.)

“None of the reality-proven successes against rapid mass murderers resembled the multiple-officer formations commonly taught in conventional training circles,” Borsch points out. “Clearly, rapid aggressive action by a single actor has been and is now the most effective countermeasure for the active killer.”

Law enforcement, Borsch argues, is in a race with the rapid mass murderer who “wants to build his body count before cops arrive.” Starting first, he may have an edge of 5 minutes or more before police are even notified. With the right opportunity and determination, “history has proven that he can deliver murder and attempted murder as fast as once every 3 to 8 seconds,” Borsch says.

“Unfortunately, conventional training, such as waiting for backup and trying to organize a multi-officer ‘posse formation’ team for entry and location, gets in the way of successfully stopping the killing,” Borsch asserts. He characterizes waiting as “tombstone caution,” the penalty for which “is paid by innocents, killed or wounded.”

He estimates that 4 officers making entry SOLO (“Single Officer Lifesaving Others”) as they arrive at an active shooter location and hunting in a “multi-tiered, multi-directional fashion” can cover a large facility at least 4 times faster than 4 officers in a traditional formation. “That means that 4 SOLO officers will be potentially 4 times faster in locating the active killer,” he says.

“Agencies pressed for training dollars and time should invest their precious training money and time in the documented-successful single-officer approach. Those that suggest there could be a ‘blue-on-blue’ friendly fire problem because of lone officers acting independently miss the point. The real friendly fire challenge will be to avoid shooting panicked innocents, not conspicuously uniformed fellow officers.

“Handicapped by time and distance, law enforcement has, at best, a perishable opportunity to intervene in a rapid mass-murder scenario. Unlike the myriad of calls where we have been trained to wait for backup, a shooting in a public place is quite different.

“Most calls where we correctly use backup do not commonly result in murder. But with an active killer, the outcome of waiting instead of showing the courage to enter alone immediately is likely to be not only murder but multiples of murder. This goes against our mission of stopping the killing. In these situations speed has been proven to be a lifesaver.”

[Ron Borsch can be reached atrbi0075@juno.com. He is interested in hearing from anyone who has information about a rapid mass murder incident where a traditional team formation successfully aborted an active-killer attack.]

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