DeKalb Police teach seniors how to respond in active shooter situation

A DeKalb County Police vehicle. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — A safety training held by DeKalb County Police Department on May 4 taught situational awareness and what to do in case of an active shooter situation, a problem officers said is becoming more prevalent.

DeKalb County native, Sgt. J.K. Walker has been giving active shooter presentations for eight years. Walker said the “avenger mindset” is increasingly found in gunmen who have recently experienced a break-up or workplace discipline, or been fired from their job.

“They have resolved, ‘I am going to come back and do something about it,’” he said, describing an avenger profile. “They’re going to take matters into their own hands.”

The police sergeant used the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings as an example of an avenger profile. Suspect Robert Aaron Long, 21, took responsibility for the shootings according to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. CNN reported Long was recently kicked out of house by family members due to his sexual addiction, two characteristics of an attacker.

Attacker risk factors can include a history or exposure to violence, mental illness, suicidal ideation, threatening behavior, isolation and a recent change in behavior. Walker said police depend on reports of attackers posting plans on social media.

A three-step process founded by Texas State University called Avoid, Deny, Defend aims to help bystanders stay safe under stressful circumstances.

Avoid the attacker by going to the safest exit. Keep in mind, the closest exit may not be the safest exit.

Deny the attacker access. Conceal yourself by putting objects between you and the attacker. Close and lock the door, and turn off the lights. Silence your cell phone. Make it appear that no one is in the area.

Defend yourself by any means. If faced with the attacker, fight back by striking eyes or groin. It is within your legal rights to defend yourself when your life is in danger.

When possible, Walker said to call 911 and report the attacker’s description, location, weapons, and number of victims. Wait for law enforcement to arrive and follow their instructions.

“Law enforcement will be entering a chaotic scene with limited information. Their first priority will be to stop the threat to your safety,” Walker said. “The police may not know where or who the threat is. Listen and comply with their commands.”

He added, “Fire and rescue teams cannot enter the scene until the attacker is detained.”

DKPD is hosting a series of virtual classes and programs during May, Older Americans’ Month.

“The DeKalb Human Services Department and the Lou Walker Senior Center are committed to providing health and safety information and resources to DeKalb seniors. This virtual training was an opportunity to empower our seniors with tools to keep them safe if they ever face a situation in which there is an active shooter,” said Damon Scott, director of DeKalb Human Services.

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