It is dangerously naive to assume that the violent suspect you may face will have no training, and will have some type of inferior weaponry. Such an assumption could cost you your very life. Indeed, the federal ECSP (Exceptional Case Study Project), an operational analysis of the thinking and behavior of 83 persons from 1949 to 1995 who assassinated, attacked or approached to attack a prominent person in the United States concluded that, among other findings, “…mental illness is not critical to determining dangerousness; the ability and capacity to develop and execute a plan is much more significant. Most importantly, the findings indicated that there is no ‘profile’ of the assassin, but rather, identified a common set of ‘attack related behaviors’ exhibited by the subjects.” In other words, a cogent man or group on a mission is a greater threat than the deranged and loud that one would intuitively suspect. It is not a stretch to interpolate the mindset from assassination, to mass murder, to terrorism.
The Minds Of Madmen
As recounted in the new book Storming Las Vegas by John Huddy (Ballantine Books, 2008), Jose Vigoa was anything but untrained and unprepared in his armed robberies of armored cars in Las Vegas. Vigoa is a former Cuban member of the Spetsnaz (Russian special forces) with combat experience in Afghanistan and Africa. When Vigoa “immigrated” to the U.S. as part of the Mariel boatlift, he found his way to Vegas. First applying his “talents” to the drug trade, he was known as being very brutal and very well armed. After a stint in federal prison, Vigoa returned to Vegas and soon applied himself to robbing armored-car pick-ups at some major casinos. He methodically planned robberies and was ready to fire his AK if any resistance from the guards was experienced.
Far from untrained, Vigoa frequently took his armed-robbery crew out to the desert, engaging in firearms training and small-unit tactics. Listen to the words of Vigoa from his federal prison cell as recounted in the book, “One of my special skills, in war and in crime, was to drill my men hard by simulating the mission again and again, sometimes 20 or 30 times… It’s important that you shoot fast without looking or aiming. Trust your ability, train your mind. You become your weapon, and your weapon becomes you.”
When gang-banger Andres Raya went AWOL from the Marines and ingested cocaine, he had a mission. Arming himself with his Russian rifle secreted under a serape, he went to a liquor store in Ceres, CA and called in a shots-fired call to set up his ambush. As soon as officers arrived, Raya attacked aggressively, advancing toward the officers and wounding one. When their return fire drove Raya away, he turned his lethal assault against a responding sergeant from the other direction, killing the officer with two rounds to the head. After being chased down nearby streets, Raya turned toward the officers and again assaulted their positions before he was taken down by their return fire. Although the left would portray Raya as a poster boy for PTSD, it was learned that he had not served in combat in Iraq and was going to be deployed to Okinawa not a “second tour” in the Middle East.
If you knew you would one day face a Jose Vigoa or Andres Raya, how would you train and prepare differently? I would propose that if you train for the worst then you will be prepared mentally and physically. If you assume you will face compliant and untrained suspects, surprise could be the least of your worries.
Who knows what process or mental defect produces mass shooters? Maybe one day researchers will find a defective brain cell or gene in these homicidal psychopaths. Regardless, the tests won’t be done until after they strike. Schools, malls and any target-rich environment are the potential killing fields of these murderers. Police are training to respond aggressively to these incidents, but the murderers seem to have learned about our response times and tactics, and are quicker during their assaults to inflict mass death and destruction prior to our arrival.
*Feb. 2008, Northern Illinois University: Graduate student Steven Kazmierczak entered the auditorium-style lecture facility with three handguns hidden under his coat and a shotgun secreted in a guitar case. From the stage, Kazmierczak shot 23 people, killing five and wounding 18 before turning his gun on himself. In the subsequent investigation it would be found that he had recently “stopped taking his medication” and had begun acting “erratic.”
*Dec. 2007, Omaha, NE: 19-year-old Robert Hawkins entered the Westroads Mall with an SKS rifle hidden under a jacket. Hawkins unleashed a lethal torrent of 7.62x39mm rounds, killing eight and wounding five before killing himself. According to news sources, in the suicide note that was found later he stated that, “he was a piece of sh– all his life, and now he’ll be famous.” Right on the first part, and “infamous” on the second.
*Apr. 2007, Virgina Tech: Post-incident investigative reports found that Seung Hoi Cho had engaged in a solid training regimen prior to his murderous in which he killed 32 and wounded 25 before killing himself. Cho fired thousands of rounds in practice (with targets set on the ground so he fired down into the target’s heads as fast as he could walk by), and he worked out daily in preparation. He was a trained-and-equipped killing machine.
*Feb. 2007, Trolley Square Mall, Salt Lake City, UT: 18-year-old Sulejmen Talovic armed with a shotgun, a .38 revolver, a backpack of ammo and homicide as his goal. He killed five and wounded four others until off-duty Ogden officer Ken Hammond returned fire with his pistol, forcing the suspect to retreat until responding on-duty officers could deliver accurate fire, killing the suspect.
These mass-shooting suspects methodically planned, armed and prepared for their attacks. It is folly to excuse them as “mentally disturbed,” as if this can somehow explain their actions and by nature suggests that they can be dealt with by less-than-violent means. Such is not the case and we must train to aggressively stop such attacks. Sadly, local schools, universities and malls have become “gun-free zones” preventing peaceful, law-abiding concealed-carry permit holders from protecting themselves and others at these locations. Soon after the N. Illinois University incident I taught a class at a police academy situated at a liberal University. When I asked the school commander how the new program was going he stated that, “well the faculty and students are somewhat put off by the off-duty pistols worn by the police instructors” (I had been in the halls and the coffee shop several times with my badge and pistol exposed). Here I thought that they might be reassured by my and other officers’ presence…silly me.
It is incumbent upon all off-duty officers to carry religiously and to carry enough gun and enough ammunition to be able to thwart an attack not only on you and your family but the society we are sworn to protect. This is also true for civilian CCW permit holders, which leads to the case of Matthew Murray, who assaulted the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO with his rifle. He probably thought that it would be smooth sailing and full of passive God-fearing churchgoers, but he ran into former police officer and church security officer Jeanne Assam. Exhibiting extreme composure under fire, Assam took a covered position and then aggressively counter-attacked Murray. Assam would give credit to the Lord and the suspect would indeed soon learn about the vengeance of the Almighty when his flock is attacked, but it was Jeanne Assam and her mental fortitude who stopped a committed killer that day in December 2007.
For the first time in U.S. history, more than one in every 100 people in this country is incarcerated. According to Justice Department reports, one in every 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 are locked up. Fewer females are behind bars but their rate of incarceration is accelerating.
Because of three-strike laws that mandate minimum mandatory sentences, LE is confronted with hard-core ex-cons who would rather fight it out than go back to prison, possibly for life.
In June 2007, when avowed skinhead and white supremacist Curtis Algier was taken from his Utah prison cell to a local hospital for an MRI by the armed corrections officer, he had murder on his mind. As soon as his handcuffs and leg shackles were removed, he savagely attacked the officer—disarming him, and killing him with his own gun. Algier, heavily tatooed denoting his skinhead affiliation including a Swastika on his face, after his recapture would later blame the victim for un-cuffing him and offering him the opportunity.
We have come to the time when our prisons are releasing cons out onto the street more prepared than ever to victimize society. According to a 2006 California study the, rate of recidivism for recently paroled felons is at an overall rate of 51.06 percent. We lock these felons up for good reason, only to have them become more violent and better trained within the prison system. With the overcrowding of our prisons and jails, and failure to adequately staff, should we be surprised when they assault each other and corrections officers?
In April 2008, two members of a southern California gang, the Surenos, attacked four COs (corrections officers) at a CA prison. The inmates repeatedly stabbed and slashed the officers. Want to know what a hard-core inmate is capable of? Watch the HBO film Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder. When white supremacist Troy Kell wanted black inmate Lonnie Blackmon dead, he conspired with fellow white inmate Eric Daniels to have Blackmon taken to the prison dispensary, where he and Daniels, having obtained a handcuff key and prison shank, brutally and savagely stab Blackmon to the death. With Daniels holding the victim inmates legs, Kell stabs his victim in the throat, neck, back and face as many as 67 times. Triumphant in his butchery, Troy Kell stalks away from his kill yelling, “We got some white power jumpin’ off around here!”
Preparations and Training
How do you prepare, train and equip to deal with psychos and career criminals who prey upon the unsuspecting and the unprepared, or when they seek the weak and vulnerable among us and attack with no remorse? Whether military, LE or legally armed citizen, we can learn about commitment to the training function and the application of deadly force when necessary.
Learn techniques, and train for proficiency to protect you and yours against the hyper-violent and be forever “switched on.” Don’t let those you are sworn to protect, or yourself, be an easy victim.