Dangers of Domestic Violence Calls

For the second time in two week’s multiple officers were shot responding to a domestic dispute. Last week in Palm Springs, California as officers negotiated with a suspect to exit the residence he opened the door and began firing killing both officers. This week in Boston officers were responding to a “domestic incident” between two roommates when officers were confronted with a suspect with an assault rifle who shot and critically wounded both officers.

As noted in the latest National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund/ COPS Office report, Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous calls for service even when multiple officers respond. Research shows that even when 3 or more officers respond to this type of call the consequences can be deadly. The report also points out the inherent dangers of a single officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Standard practice for most law enforcement agencies is to have a least two officers initially respond to a domestic violence call for service. For officers who are responding from different jurisdictions it is imperative for them to wait for back-up before approaching the scene if at all possible.

As noted in the “Deadly Calls and Fatal Encounters” report more than 20 percent of the officers in that study were killed by rifles and in both the Palm Springs murders and Boston attack officers were shot with assault rifles. Given the increasing use of assault-style rifles against police, the report recommends that “officers should incorporate the use of patrol rifles, body armor with hard armor plates, and ballistic helmets, which can be deployed during high threat responses”.

Armed with our past information on domestic violence calls and with this latest research data domestic disturbance calls officers must understand that domestic violence calls should never treated as routine; officers must be situation aware at all times, especially with the increased number of rifle attacks and take appropriate measures to protect themselves from these types of potentially deadly assaults. For more information on officer safety resources visit the NLEOMF Destination Zero page.

If you'd like more information on law enforcement agency assessments and de-escalation training visit The Community Safety Institute for more information.

John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival, Police Perspective: Life on the Beat, School Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

How safe are shopping malls?

As cooler temperatures spread across the United States our thoughts turn to fall and for US retailers the upcoming holiday season. But two deadly attacks in six days and the shooting today in Houston have many wondering just how safe are shopping malls?

On September 17th Dahir Ahmed Adan stabbed 10 shoppers at the Crossroads Center in St Cloud, Minnesota. Adan was armed with a knife and injured 20 before being killed by an off duty police officer. Less than a week later an armed gunman killed 5 and injured one other in a shopping mall in Burlington, Washington 35 miles north of Seattle. Three days later 9 people were shot at a Southwest Houston shopping center before police shot and killed the alleged gunman.

The attack on innocent shoppers in Washington is the worst mass shooting at a mall area since the 2007 attack at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska which killed 8 and wounded 5. The worst shopping mall mass shooting in the world occurred in September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya when 67 people died and over 175 were injured.

Shopping malls have long been recognized as soft targets for both terrorists and others wanting to make a statement based on body count. Large crowds of unsuspecting victims, minimal security and numerous access points for escape combine to form a very vulnerable target area for those determined to wreak havoc on innocent civilians.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the unimaginable situation of a mass shooting at a shopping mall? ESCAPE. Grab your loved ones and exit away from the shooter as quickly as possible and stay away. If you are trapped in an area or pinned down by gunfire seek cover, anything that will protect you from bullets. If cover such as a concrete bench, large table or vending machine is not available then conceal yourself and family behind anything which will keep you out of the shooters vision. If he can’t see you it is unlikely he can shoot you. Stay down, making as small of a target as possible and continue to assess your situation looking for opportunities to safely exit the location. If you have an opportunity remember to run from cover to cover or concealment to concealment making yourself as small of a target as possible by crawling or running low to the ground. Remember, unless you are a trained law enforcement officer engage the shooter only as a last resort!

Shopping malls are traditionally safe havens visited by millions of people each year but as you are out shopping remember to stay alert to your surroundings, learn the ESCAPE Model and be prepared whenever you and your family are in a public place.


John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for SurvivalPolice Perspective: Life on the BeatSchool Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer,a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

Why Munich shooting is different

As horrific as some of the recent mass shootings have been in the United States recently maybe the most terrifying of all is the one that occurred in Munich on Friday, July 22, 2016.  Although the carnage and body count were awful it was the planning and preparation that went into the attack that made it so horrendous.  German investigators have confirmed that the shooter was enamored with school shootings and had studied the tactics of the 2011 Norwegian shooter who killed 77 and wounded over 100 others. 

An even more frightening aspect of this latest international mass shooting is the fact that prior to the murders the assassin intentionally lured potential victims into his killing zone by offering free food at the nearby McDonald’s.  In a post on Facebook the shooter offered the edible enticements in order to draw people into his kill zone and increase his body count.  This proactive tactic of luring victims in and killing them is unprecedented in mass shootings and hopefully not a pre-cursor of things to come.  

Social Media & Terror Attacks

Using Social Media to Stop Terrorist Attacks

By John Matthews

If social media can be used to recruit terrorists, it can also be used to stop them. In testimony before a Senate panel, FBI Director James Comey stated that ISIS has over 21,000 English-speaking followers on Twitter and that this form of “crowdsourcing terrorism” is living proof that social media works. 

Unfortunately, it appears that this type of internet-based recruiting of “Lone Wolf” terrorists has worked yet again at two military facilities in Chattanooga which left four dead and three others injured. One news source reported that prior to the shooting the suspect posted on his blog Islamic rhetoric referring to “separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire.”

Well, if social media can work for ISIS in recruiting these self-radicalized terrorists or individual lone wolf attackers, it can also work against them. As concerned citizens and guardians of our communities we the people can mobilize to report posts from potential lone wolf attackers who seek to injure and kill others. A familiar mantra from law enforcement over the years has been to stay vigilant in our fight against crime.

Today, staying vigilant online is just as important—and, as demonstrated by a recent case
in Canada— can result in saving lives.

This past February, a Geneva, Illinois woman was arrested in Canada for a shooting plot after leaving a trail on social media, including a post prior to her arrest that said “Let’s go commit mass homicide.”

Lindsay Souvannarath posted disturbing pictures advocating race hatred, an allegiance to Hitler and Nazi beliefs, bizarre photos of herself and others, and what appeared to be a fascination with mass killers and their handiwork, especially the Columbine High School shooters and their tools of murder.

Police received a tip about a couple planning a Valentine’s Day massacre at a mall in Halifax, Canada, and she was arrested by Canadian police on charges of conspiracy to commit mass murder. Her partner in this thwarted crime committed suicide before authorities could take him into custody.

As responsible citizens who care about our communities, we need to assist law enforcement in serving as their on-line “eyes and ears” when we see threatening posts. Maybe even more importantly when we see posts and also have personal knowledge of potential offenders securing or practicing with weapons or making threats against specific individuals or groups we can “connect the dots” and provide that information to local, state or federal authorities. If you are online and read a post that includes terrorist- related chatter, threats and postings regarding weapons and mass murder, or information on upcoming or planned attacks, don’t assume that someone else will report it.

Take personal responsibility and call your local police or federal authorities. If terrorist organizations or lone wolf attackers believe social media works for them, let’s show them it can also work against them.

John Matthews is a thirty-year law enforcement veteran and award winning writer. He is a
contributor to numerous public safety publications and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for Survival, School Safety 101, Neighborhood Watch 101, Creating A Safer School and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer, a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.

Surviving a Mass Shooting

How to Survive a Mass Shooting
By John Matthews
Although the chances of being involved in a mass shooting are almost infinitesimal don’t
quote the odds to those who were in Orlando this month Newtown, Virginia Tech or any other of the over seventy locations around the United States during the past thirty years.

The real question should not be will I ever be involved in a mass shooting but if I am how do I survive.

First, if you think you just heard “fireworks” and it’s not the Fourth of July or the stroke
of midnight on New Year’s Eve immediately take action.  Don’t wait for the agonizing screams
of the injured or dying to jolt you back to reality.  

Time and time again research has shown that victims waste valuable seconds trying to rationalize irrational behavior by telling themselves“not to be paranoid”, “it’s just a prank” or “part of some show” all the while being exposed to deadly gunfire because they are not taking life-saving maneuvers.

When under attack, stay calm and think.  Hopefully you have had some training at work
or school and know that your best chance at survival lies in your ability to exit the
scene.  Quickly remove yourself from both the line of fire and from the shooters line of sight.
Get away and stay away because returning to the scene could prove to be a deadly mistake.
Exiting the location and removing yourself from the violent incident is the single most important action for surviving a mass shooting event.

If during a mass shooting or active shooter attack it is impossible to safely exit from the
location the next best course of action is to find protective cover, something that stops
bullets.  Common examples of cover found in public places include: nearby or online head shops, cement barriers in parking lots, brick walls, concrete support poles, or structural steel beams.  If these types of structures are not available, look for low places in the ground which might provide protection.

This could be natural indentations in the ground, in drainage ditches, sewer culverts, or even
laying prone on the ground alongside a cement curb in a parking lot.
In an office or workplace, most desks do not provide cover.  However, items such as file
cabinets, large pieces of machinery made of steel, or other metal objects may provide protection from the attack. Structurally, most interior walls will provide a minimum of cover while exterior walls—especially those with either a brick or cinder block construction—will provide a maximum of protection from bullets of nearly any caliber. Structural support beams of either wood or steel will provide cover, as will various types of fencing and even landscape features such as retaining walls and thick trees.

If cover is not available, the next best option is to conceal yourself from the offender.
Mass shootings are dynamic events where the shooter is actively pursuing easy targets. Since the offender often moves quickly from target to target, it is hoped that he will pass by concealed individuals, not bothering to take the time to seek them out.  If faced with a mass shooting situation, find a place to hide and then stay hidden until it is safe to move. Find a closet, bathroom, cabinet or storage room: whatever is available at the time, accessible at the moment, and maybe most important: out of the offender’s line of sight.

If you find yourself in a school or office cafeteria or a food court at the mall, and your
only option is to dive under the table, try to keep moving by rolling on the ground or “army-
crawling” in an effort to hide from the shooter.  

If you are outside and need to find concealment consider hiding behind a row of bushes, under a pile of trash or debris, or even in a drainage ditch; these all are viable options in a life and death situation. Sometimes you may need to hide from the offender just long enough for him to lose track of you as he moves on to another target. 

Under certain conditions, even areas with shadows can provide you some concealment
from the shooter. This is especially true in outdoor situations where the shooter is in the bright
sunlight and moving quickly between locations. Moving into the shadows may provide just
enough concealment to allow you to escape harm.

In examining the actions taken by individuals involved in mass shooting events over the
past 30 years, it is possible to identify some tactics successfully utilized by survivors. Even
though each situation is both unique in its circumstances and dynamic in its development, it is
possible to see that there are reoccurring patterns of behavior that can improve one’s ability to
survive one of these horrific attacks.

Remember, if you are ever involved in a mass shooting incident and you can exit, seek
cover or conceal yourself your chances of survival increase dramatically.