Sunday, February 28, 2010

School and Workplace Shootings

A brief history

“Going Postal” was a phrase that spawned from 20 separate shootings that took place in postal offices during the 1980s and 1990s (During this time period, over 40 people in the U.S. lost their lives in situations where an armed assailant unexpectedly appeared with a firearm and started shooting).

A short list of recent U.S workplace shootings recent years:

• 1984 McDonalds San Diego Ca. (21 killed, 19 injured)
• 1986 Edmond, Oklahoma Post office (14 killed, 6 injured)
• 2006 Goleta Ca. Postal Center (7 killed)
• 2010 St. Louis (3 dead, 8 injured)

And locally…

• November 2009 Tualatin, Oregon (2 dead, 2 injured)

Some of the deadliest U.S. school shootings occurred in the last half century:

• 1966 University of Texas (14 killed, 32 injured)
• 1999 Columbine High School Colorado (13 killed, 21 injured)
• 2005 Red Lake High School Minnesota (7 killed, 5 injured)
• 2007 Virginia Tech University (32 dead, 15 injured)

Thurston High School and Kip Kinkel’s shooting rampage

In Oregon in 1998, Kip Kinkel walked into the cafeteria at Thurston High school and opened fire with a rifle (Killing 2 and injuring 25). This hit close to home with me for several reasons:

1. I grew up in Springfield, Oregon and attended Thurston High. I know that cafeteria very well and it was very easy for me to picture the scene.

2. I lived about a quarter of a mile from the Kinkels. My sister babysat Kip when he was young. Before I saw his face on TV (as a murderer) my only image of him was seeing him eat ice cream and ride his big wheel in the drive way.

A history of violence

Thurston High had a long history of violence and bullying/hazing long before Kip ever arrived. I found myself in a number of self defense situations during my time as a student there (more on this below). I don’t believe Kip’s actions were warranted or justifiable, but I do believe that an extremely emotionally unbalanced individual should not be provoked.

I’ve been in the vicinity of gun crimes…four times.

My experience with hostile environments involving guns includes four distinct situations. I’ve been shot at twice in my life and believe that in both instances the individuals were attempting to scare me (believe me—they succeeded).

The first time:

In the first instance I was young and growing up in Springfield, Oregon. On the outskirts of town there lived a crazy old man who didn’t like kids cutting through his property. One day, after catching us cutting through, he shot over our heads with a rifle. At the time, I was sure he was trying to kill us. We both got out of there as fast as we could—creating a beeline path through the forest and brush in our hurry just to get out of there. That incident instilled in me a desire to improve my escape and evasion abilities. (Tactics and abilities that I regularly share with my Tien Tae Jitsu martial arts students.)

Getting shot at a second time

I consider the second incident a wrong place/wrong time type of situation. My best friend and I were juniors at Thurston High and one night were going out on a double date with a couple of girls from our school. My friend’s new girlfriend had an insanely jealous ex-boyfriend (real life drama) who followed our car (unbeknownst to us) over to a friend’s house. As we got out of our car, he drove by and fired a shotgun at us (twice). Fortunately, the shells were only filled with rock salt. Unfortunately, the rock salt missed my friend, hitting both me and my date). It took us a few minutes to realize it was only rock salt. If it had been buck shot or bird shot we would have been seriously injured or killed.

I suffered superficial wounds on my chest and on my arms as I covered my head/face. My date got hit in the back of the head and her shoulder as she turned to run. At the time, I thought I was going to die. The rock salt left me with some small scars on my chest and arms and I remember that it burned intensely—feeling like sparks flying out of a campfire. I reacted by getting everyone down and hiding behind the car. The crazed ex-boyfriend peeled out and sped away. To make matters worse, one of the neighboring homeowners ran out into the street and fired a large handgun at the car as it drove away. It was absolutely nuts. We were all lucky no one got seriously injured or killed.

Experiencing a close shooting

The third incident occurred at my apartment in southeast Portland in 1987. Crips and Bloods (bitter rival gangs) were waging all-out war almost every night in my neighborhood back then. One summer night I’d just opened my window to cool my room when shots rang out (including fully automatic weapon fire). The gunfight was so close, I could smell gunpowder coming in on the breeze through my open window. I immediately dropped to the floor, crawled down the hall and sat in the most central part of the house—my closet—until it grew quiet.

Experiencing a fourth (and hopefully final) shooting

My fourth very-near experience with gunfire happened one afternoon as I was visiting my parents in their nice, mid- to upper-middle class neighborhood in Tualatin, Oregon, just 20 minutes south of Portland. As I was climbing out of my car, several shots sounded nearby and a car quickly sped away down the street. I instinctively ran (crouched very low) to a nearby embankment and laid flat. From my position, I could see an individual lying in the garage of the house across the street. The victim was bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds. This occurred in a very nice, quiet neighborhood and was the last thing I ever expected to take place that day. Later, I would learn that the shooting was an act of revenge based upon an earlier incident. It wasn’t until the Life Flight helicopter disappeared into the distant sky that I finally caught my breath.

In my next post, I’ll provide some guidance on being prepared and reacting in the event that you find yourself facing an aggressive, gun wielding assailant.

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