RENO, NV - It's happened here in Northern Nevada, a person with a gun goes into a confined area like a workplace and starts to shoot anyone who gets in his or her way. Law enforcement calls them active assailants. News of it happening in a movie theater, workplace, restaurant are not uncommon. Reading or watching such a report may have you asking yourself, "what would I do in that situation?." With advise from law enforcement experts, KOLO 8 News Now has a special report on what to think about and what are some of your options they include: "Run, Retreat, Resist."
No one can predict when it will happen.
Someone enters your place of businesses with just one thing on his mind.
For Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, the gunman took a shot at him from a movie theater parking lot while Weller was in judge's chambers.
"The sound of a very loud sound, I didn't know what it was instantly. Then I heard glass shattering, and I saw the broken window and I put two and two together and realized something had just come through the window and had struck me because at the same time I had a feeling on my body. And I realized I'd been shot . I crawled out the door of my office. Law enforcement was there," says Judge Weller.
"There was no need for law enforcement to respond, law enforcement marshals were already there," says Deputy Armando Avina with Washoe County Sheriff Office when referring to the specific incident at the Mills B Lane Justice Center.
But on average law enforcement won't be in the building when an active assailant strikes with no notice, which means you are going to have to take action on your own or with your co-workers, until help arrives.
"There is no profile we can give to the public, that this is exactly what an active assailant looks like. It could be a person in a suit and tie, it could be a person with a jacket on. It could be a person with jeans. It could be male or female. So there is no clear definition as to what a person looks like," says Deputy Avina.
Law enforcement usually gets the call when this is going on after the fact.
"What we want to do is just inform the public as to options. About running, about retreating to a hiding place, and about resisting," says Deputy Avina
The first option: RUN.
It sounds like the most obvious, run away from danger. leave your valuables, and head to the nearest exit that takes you out of the building.
"They have formal attire, formal footwear, understand that if you need to run, your best option ay be to take off your shoes," says Deputy Avina.
Avoid taking an elevator, used stairwells instead.
What awaits you outside may be out of the ordinary.
Law Enforcement, with guns, even dogs.
They will tell you to keep your hands visible.
You may also hear them giving you directions to get out of harms way.
But what if you can't evacuate?
Option Two: RETREAT
Find a safe place to hide within the building out of the assailant's view
"Be out of the sight of the active assailant. Make yourself small. Hide in a closet, lock the door. Turn off the lights. Anything you can do to hide your person behind, whether its on the side of a vending machine, behind the vending machine," says Deputy Avina.
The idea is to hide and have something heavy in front of you if possible to protect your self even further- like a door.
If time permits you can reconfigure your space to conceal your self even further.
If possible call 911.
Use your best judgement.
If a call to a loved one or friend at this time is appropriate...keep the conversation concise.
You may have to silence your phone after a 911 call, remain quiet and calm.
If you come to a locked door while looking for a hiding place...move on.
There may be an instance however, where your hiding place may be effective but provides no escape route.
If the assailant is still active.
The final "R" RESIST may be your last resort:
" If you are going to react, act as swiftly as possible. If you are going to act, if you are going to resist, have that element of surprise against this person. You have to be courageous and if you decide to resist, you have to go for it as strongly as confidently as you possibly can," says Deputy Avina.
When we explained the final option to the actors in our re-enactment we sent them out to find something-anything in the office they would use to resist their assailant.
Some picked an aerosol can with something toxic inside to spray the assailant's eyes.
Others picked up heavier items to hit the assailant in the head or elsewhere.
But also think about other items that might be on the walls, on the counter like a pot of hot coffee.
"Understand that this person is fully armed, at this time you've already heard a sound or several sounds of gun fire. This person may have other weapons as well. So find something you can use that can help protect you to defend yourself," says Deputy Avina
A pair of chairs laid on their sides intertwined, placed in front of the door can obstruct the assailants movement, allowing you and even your co-workers to use makeshift weapons to overwhelm the threat.
Law enforcement will arrive on scene, but its important to remember what they look like and how they respond my be foreign to you.
"They may not look like what I am dressed in. They may not have a uniform presence," says Avina.
"There is a chance that a team may move past you especially if there is still sounds of gunfire,"
It means medical teams and others will follow to help you once it is safe to do so.
While these actors from Integrity Casting spent most of the day playing out the Run, Retreat, Resist scenarios. At the end of the day most of them told us there was really no acting required.
"And it surprised a lot of people. Surprised them on how they were gong to react, is surprised them on if they were going to step forward, or if they were going to step back. And so it made a lot of people think about who they are, and how they would actually deal with a situation like that," says Brian Perry an actor, with Integrity Casting, who participated in the exercise.
Another actor in the project, Sandy Dobronte, says she was a perfect example of what Brian was referring to.
"I think in the beginning I was more standing in the back just you know being, playing it safe . Towards the end as things got more dramatic, and we knew it was, we had to get this guy we had to resist him, it was our life or his life. Together as a group we were very empowered," says Sandy.
"The chairs, I never would have thought of that, and I thought that was great to try to make him lose you know from standing that he stumbled" says Carol Bale, another actor
"Run, Retreat, Resist, yea and it may take you awhile to get it down, and you do it enough it will be like 911," Richard Fleming who summed it up for the cast at Integrity.
KOLO 8 News Now would like to thank Washoe County's SWAT team for their assistance in filing this report. Tina Mokuau for the special makeup during the taping of the program and Integrity Casting actors were also integral in the production of the segment.
You can look at a special brochure produced by the Washoe County Sheriffs Office by going to KOLO TV DOT COM and clicking on Hot Topics.