When You Least Expect It
This afternoon, the local news was jumping for a report of a shooting at one of the older malls in the area. When I was a kid, it was within walking distance of my apartment complex and I spent quite a bit of time there. It was a nice enough place back then, kind of the upscale place to shop. Like many suburban malls, as the suburbs have expanded, it has gone down hill a bit. It's still not a "bad" place, but it is more empty than full, even in the Christmas shopping season. When the food court was added back in 1987 or so, I was the contract security officer working the construction site for the last few weeks while it had some openings to the parking lot. Today's shooting was in the food court restrooms, so I knew exactly where it was when the news came out.
Fortunately, there were only two minor injuries... one was an elderly lady falling in the panic escape, and a guy that got hit by ricochet. They still haven't released the full story, but it sounds like it was a negligent discharge in the "family" restroom. Probably some guy thinking he was being safer by not using a regular stall, but then being careless. The guy who did it managed to slide out in the panic, but the police released a description of him that almost sounds like he could be that BATF agent who shot himself in the foot during a gun safety demonstration a few years back. Hmm, it's Columbus Day, federal employees were off... anyone know where that ATF agent is these days?
Anyway, what can we do if we are in a mall when a mass shooting happens? Well, the first reaction of many might be to say, "I'll take cover, draw my legal concealed weapon, and engage the target if I have the opportunity to save lives." That's a great idea, but most of us aren't in the mall alone. We are often there with family, including children. What do we do with them?
I've written before about situational awareness. There are some specifics related to being in a mall. When you enter a mall shop, check out the entrance. Some have sliding glass doors or a sliding cage door. Others have a roll down cage. See if you can notice how to close it. Is it a simple chain and pulley set up, an electric push button, or a key switch? Perhaps just a pull will get it shut. If you frequent a particular mall or shop, try to remember the particulars and do a quick mental rehearsal of how you would quickly secure it.
But that's not good enough. You don't want to hide in a corner. Head toward the rear of the shop. There will probably be a door at the back that goes to an office. You could gather all the occupants in the office, lock the door, and use the phone to call 911. But that still might not be good enough. In the rear of that office should be another door. Beyond that is going to be the back areas of the mall. Deliveries come in that way. It is almost like a catacomb. You can get to many other shops' rear doors, or to any number of building emergency exits or loading docks. Heading out that way is much more likely to get you to safety in a mall mass shooting than hunkering down in a shop.