Temecula residents were invited to participate in civilian response to active shooter training Oct. 23.
Dozens of community members filed into Temecula Valley High School’s Golden Bear Theater to take part in the training, which was co-sponsored by the city of Temecula, the Temecula Valley Unified School District and the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Riverside County sheriff’s deputies Bruce Pierson and Rob Bartlett gave a presentation lasting more than two hours on various ways unarmed civilians can escape or, if necessary, defend themselves during an active shooter situation.
The number of shooter incidents has shot up over the last two decades. In 2000, there was one active shooter incident in the United States, according to the FBI. In 2018, there were 27. A total of 277 active shooter incidents have occurred nationwide during the 18-year period between 2000 and 2018, FBI statistics show.
“It can happen anywhere, anyplace, anytime,” Temecula Mayor Pro Tem James Stewart told the audience, explaining the city’s reasoning for partnering with the school district and the sheriff’s department to put the training on. “Information is power, especially in this situation, because once these guys start telling you the things that you need to look for, the things that you need to do in case of (a shooting) it will pop back into your brain if that situation is ever to arise.”
Bartlett and Pierson started by telling the audience that in most cases, law enforcement and emergency personnel are not going to respond to a shooter situation for several minutes –
and possibly not until the situation is already over, in some cases.
The average response time, they said, is five to six minutes.
When John Hinckley Jr. tried to assassinate then-president Ronald Reagan in 1981, Hinckley was able to fire off six rounds in under two seconds, even with Secret Service and other law enforcement in the immediate vicinity.
“These first responders are not going to be there,” Bartlett said.
One of the best things someone who finds themselves in a shooter situation can do, Bartlett and Pierson said, is just to run, if possible – and to leave belongings behind.
In most cases, there is only one shooter, so it’s safest to get as far away from that one person as possible. The only two mass shootings that involved more than one shooter were the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the San Bernardino shooting in 2015, they said. And in both of those cases, the shooters stuck together.
But if there’s no other choice, people involved in a mass shooting event can fight back with anything that is available. They can throw objects or even jump on the shooter, Pierson and Bartlett said.
“The initial person that does whatever needs to be done is the spark,” Bartlett said. “Because once the spark starts, other people are going to help you. You’re not gonna be there by yourself.”
Another of the examples they gave was the shooting at a constituent meeting in Tucson for Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. While six people were killed, the shooting was stopped when a 74-year-old Army colonel, who had been shot himself, tackled the shooter and others followed suit.
“It just instantly happened, and people started jumping (on the shooter),” Bartlett said. “That will happen in real life.”
Attendees said the training was informative, and they appreciated the efforts of the city, school district and sheriff’s department in organizing it.
“I think I learned – thinking that little children know more about what to do than I do, I learned a lot,” Marti Greenwood of Temecula said.
Stewart said while Temecula is one of the safest cities in the country and he hopes the information given during the presentation will never have to be used, it’s important for residents to know what to do during a shooting situation, to be prepared.
“I’m just trying to get this knowledge into as many people’s hands, as many kids’ hands as possible,” he said.