BY PENNY DICKERSON
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood grew up believing there were two places he always would be protected – school and church.
For recreation, movie theaters were favored. Today, none of them are safe havens and in the past three years, each has been a targeted location for tragic shooting sprees by lone gunmen.
In response to attacks at public places, the Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) along with the Volusia County-Daytona Beach NAACP and the Black Clergy Alliance held a free community workshop on Aug. 6 to inform residents how to increase chances for survival if confronted with an active shooter.
“Shortly after the Charleston shootings, I was contacted by (NAACP President) Cynthia Slater about putting together a seminar for the churches and their staff to discuss being more secure and preventing copycat killings,” Chitwood told the Daytona Times this week.
“This was in July and very well-attended. Afterwards, she and I, along with Rev. Derrick Harris, president of the Black Clergy Alliance, discussed how this not only happens in churches, but schools and movie theaters so we should open it up to the community. And that’s what we did,” Chitwood added.
More than 100 people packed a room in DBPD headquarters for the seminar on Aug. 6. But Chitwood notes that he and the NAACP previously united when he invited them to the department’s two-hour seminar on “Race and Policing” hosted by Dr. Randy Nelson of Bethune-Cookman University, which was later opened to the community.
“The NAACP has established a positive relationship with the department through open and honest dialogue that addresses the concerns of the community,” Slater told the Times. “It is important to me as president to convey to the public that law enforcement must form a positive relationship with organizations like ours in an effort to establish community trust.’’
Slater further stated the conciliatory relationship demonstrates to the public that the NAACP is scrutinizing the department and has high expectations for law enforcement to protect its citizens.
Active shooter profile
The Aug. 6 workshop offered salient points to follow if confronted by an active shooter and better defined who fits the profile:
An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims.
Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.
‘Run, Hide, Fight’
Attendees viewed a DVD titled “Run, Hide, Fight,” produced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“You should be checking out a movie theater before the movie starts,” warned Chitwood. “God forbid if a fire were to break out or if somebody came in with a gun. Ask yourself, ‘Where would I go? Can I dive under a seat or how would I escape the line of fire?’ The first thing you do is run.
Don’t talk on your cell phone.’’
If you can’t run, hide. Seek a place where there is good cover or concealment where you won’t be seen. Lock and barricade the doors to any office and don’t make a sound. Place your cell phone on vibrate.
If you’ve got nothing else left and you’re faced with “kill or be killed,” use anything at your disposal, including a fire extinguisher or chair. Do anything you can to knock the shooter of his balance.
According to Homeland Security, when the shooter is at close range and you cannot flee, your chance of survival is much greater if you try to incapacitate him or her. Citizens should call 911 when it is safe to do so.
Chitwood notes that in the last 15 years, active shooter scenarios have more than tripled and is probably going to get worse before it gets better.
Recent attacks in Louisiana and Tennessee have commanded headlines, but the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was committed in 2012 when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot to death 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The same year, 25-year-old James Egan Holmes sprayed bullets into the dark at a Century movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring 70 others. And in June, 21-year-old Dylan Roof released a barrage of bullets in the basement of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and nine people were killed.
The shooters in both Tennessee and Connecticut were both deemed mentally ill and in Charleston, Roof had forewarned friends of his action, but they didn’t alert the police.
“These shooters are motivated by racial hatred, governmental hatred and people don’t want to hear it, but mentally ill people are running around with guns,” said Chitwood. “That’s what’s scary. How do you fight that? How do you stop that?
I don’t have all the answers.’’
Chitwood has received more than a dozen follow-up emails from attendees and Slater’s posture is that the seminar was beneficial to people in general.
“I thought that it was well attended. However, I wish that there were more citizens from ‘our’ community in attendance,” Slater remarked, referring to African-Americans.
“We as a people must learn to be proactive about issues, particularly with the rise of active shooters,’’ she added. “Proactive means that we must be prepared in the event of a crisis.
Oftentimes, it could be too late.”