There is a new procedure that was put into practice at the recent school shooting at UNC Charlotte. When reports of a shooter spread on the campus, the university’s emergency officials blasted out a stark, but increasingly familiar message: “Run, hide, fight.”
Some students reported doing just that. One student, in a study hall at a library, said she and others barricaded the door with a table and stayed quiet, waiting for police. Another hid in a men’s restroom, and a student who was in the classroom where the shooting broke out followed others who fled.
But student Riley Howell, without the option of running or hiding, confronted the suspected gunman, Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, and “took the assailant off his feet,” the Charlotte police chief said. That heroic act saved lives, the chief said, but Howell was killed.
In total, two people were killed and four others were wounded in the attack and police have yet to release a motive for the shooting.
The procedure to respond to active shooter situations by fleeing, hiding, or in a last resort taking action against a gunman began being used after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech. There a gunman killed 32 people before killing himself, and it has become standard advice, experts said.
In 2012, the city of Houston released a training video titled “Run. Hide. Fight.” funded through a Department of Homeland Security grant. It has been adopted by it and other federal agencies.
“It’s simple, it’s easy to repeat, it resonates,” said Randy Burba, chief of public safety at Chapman University in Orange, California, and past president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. He likened it to the instructions given on airplanes about what to do if there is a loss of cabin pressure and the oxygen masks drop.
“We don’t want you to walk around worrying about a shooting,” Burba said. “… But if it happens, a little bit of training and muscle memory is useful.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said Wednesday that Howell was a hero who “did exactly what we train people to do” and that he “took the assailant off his feet.”
“You’re either going to run, you’re going to hide and shield, or you’re going to take the fight to the assailant,” Putney said at a news conference. “Having no place to run and hide, he did the last. But for his work, the assailant may not have been disarmed. Unfortunately, he gave his life in the process, but his sacrifice saved lives.”