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Fort Hood: The Challenge of Violent Intruders/Active Shooters

It has been only a few hours since the latest shooting at Fort Hood and the investigation into what happened is just now moving into its earliest stages. This is a heartbreaking incident that reopens the wounds of the first Fort Hood shooting in which Major Nidal Hassan, an Army psychiatrist, shot and killed 13 and injured 32 people in an active shooter/violent intruder incident categorized as workplace violence.

Categories aside, the killings of 2009 and those of today are active shooter incidents. A violent intruder entered an area that is a gun-free zone and opened fire on the innocent, most of whom likely thought that it couldn’t happen to them. Not again. Not at the same place. Not by someone wearing the uniform. It couldn’t happen, but it did happen and early reports indicate that four people are dead including the shooter, four people are critically injured and still more are less seriously wounded.

What could have been done before this incident ever started that would have prevented it from happening in the first place? Are we going to learn that Ivan Lopez (the reported shooter) was observed by coworkers, friends and family to be acting differently than normal? Are we going to learn that the shooter experienced a significant incident or event? It has been reported that he was suffering from mental health issues. Were there pre-incident indicators that should have been a signal to pay more attention to Lopez, his mental health and the danger it represented? We don’t want to speculate as anything is possible and information, especially in the early hours of an incident, tends to be incorrect. We may have to wait for an investigation to learn more about the shooter and his motivations.

But even now, we know certain things: that despite all the attention given to the danger of active shooters, too often they exist among us; that we are far from identifying who they are and how to stop them; that public safety responders are doing the best they can, but too much killing can be done before police arrive; and finally, that we must prepare our organizations to prevent and respond to protect themselves from harm when an active shooter incident occurs. Until a cure for this sickening plague is found, we all need to be prepared.

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