Quick Action and Training Saved Lives – Violence at The Ohio State University
On November 28, 2016 a man armed with a butcher knife was shot and killed on The Ohio State University campus after injuring eleven
“Emerging: School reports ‘active shooter’ situation at Ohio State’s Columbus campus; police presence seen.” My heart sank when that breaking news alert flashed across my phone screen. I’m a born and raised Ohio State fan, originally from the Buckeye State. The news hit close to home and affected many friends who walk the sidewalks of OSU’s campus every day.
Tens of thousands of students and faculty members received an emergency alert, or Buckeye Alert, on the morning of November 28 warning of an active shooter on campus. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I watched the news and social feeds to learn of the events unfolding on campus. Texts messages were quickly sent to friends and family members who live and work on campus, checking to make sure all were safe. In the midst of confusion and chaos emerged the picture of an attempted, premeditated attack on OSU community members.
A Timeline of Events
9:39 a.m. – Columbus Fire responded to a call from an academic building on Ohio State’s campus for a suspected chemical leak. The suspected leak initiated an evacuation of the building. Students followed protocol and gathered outside in the courtyard.
9:52 a.m. – A suspect, armed with a butcher knife, jumped the curb with a car and drove into the courtyard. The car launched into bystanders, striking people. The suspect then proceeded to exit his vehicle and attempted to stab victims. According to reports, 11 were injured either via the vehicle or stab wounds.
9:53 a.m. – The suspect, later identified as an OSU student, was shot and killed on scene by an Ohio State University police officer. Officer Alan Horujko arrived on scene within a minute and gained control of the situation. The suspect remains the lone fatality stemming from the event.
“We are very fortunate that an OSU PD officer was there and took quick action and we believe injuries were minimized as a result of that.” – Monica Moll, OSU Director of Public Safety.
9:55 a.m. – A Buckeye Alert was sent to students stating “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on Campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.”
A shelter-in-place was in full effect for the OSU campus. Surrounding schools followed suit and initiated lockdown drills. By 11 a.m., the shelter-in-place was lifted and law enforcement officials were on scene piecing together the details of the violent morning.
The Ohio State University official statement on public safety incident (November 28, 2016):
Ohio State University Police and local law enforcement continue to respond to a public safety incident on Ohio State’s campus. A suspect has been shot and reported deceased. Victim injuries include stab wounds, injury by motor vehicle and other injuries that are being evaluated. At the recommendation of law enforcement, campus alerts for shelter in place have been lifted. Campus remains open during the continued investigation, although classes have been canceled for the remainder of the day. Facts are still being verified. We will hold a media briefing as soon as we are able. The university will continue to share information through Buckeye Alert and emergency.osu.edu. Our top priority remains the safety and security of our campus community. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and their families.
Run. Hide. Fight. – Training Engaged
Shortly before 10 a.m., the Buckeye Alert with the words Run Hide Fight was sent to more than 65,000 students. The phrase is a standard training protocol used by the OSU Department of Public Safety. The instructions come straight from the
The key words reiterate to the campus population steps to take in the case of an active shooter.
- Have an escape route and plan in mind
- Leave your belongings behind
- Keep your hands visible
- Your second option should be to hide
- Do not huddle together as it makes one easy target
- Lock and barricade doors and shut off lights
- Fighting is a last resort to be used only when your life is in imminent danger
- Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter
- Find an object to use as a weapon such as a fire extinguisher or chair
Above: Active Shooter Training by The Ohio State University
Although the incident on campus was not one of an active shooter, the training carried over. In a press conference, Monica Moll (OSU Director of Public Safety) commended students and staff for following protocol by stating, “The response was appropriate.” Columbus PD added that the students and staff followed training protocol and did not try to involve themselves in the scene. Instead, they sheltered in place. While sheltering in place, students barricaded doorways with classroom furniture, continuing to follow the protocol implemented by the Department of Public Safety. At the time of the alert, information was unknown if a second suspect was on the loose. OSU students did the right thing by following directions and barricading entry points.
The students, staff and law enforcement at OSU followed protocol previously designed by the University. What could have been an incident resulting in multiple fatalities was thwarted by the fortunate occurrence of a police officer in the immediate vicinity, that officer’s immediate and effective response, and the following of trained procedure by students and staff.
Because of the immediacy of the news-cycle, facts were challenging to verify given how quickly the event unfolded on social and traditional media.
Information You First Learn in a Crisis…Is Usually Wrong
Many times, information obtained early in a crisis is wrong. Bystander reports may not be accurate due to shock or the witness filling in gaps of information to complete a story. The media, nonetheless, will report anything and everything eyewitnesses claim they saw or heard. The incident on OSU’s campus was no different. Initial reports indicated two men targeted evacuees emerging from the academic building. One suspect held a gun, the other a knife. The suspect with the gun opened fire, striking victims. As more information became known, the timeline of events changed.
Eyewitnesses claim they heard explosions and gunfire. A Federal Law Enforcement Official stated, “It’s possible the gunshots heard were those of police trying to stop the attacker.”
In an article by the Columbus Dispatch, “Less than a minute after the attack, an OSU police officer shot and killed the suspect. Despite rumors of a second suspect, police and campus officials say there was one person involved in the attack.”
Law enforcement continued to search for additional suspects in a neighboring parking garage. Police escorted two individuals out of the parking garage in handcuffs. The two men were thought to have been seeking shelter, but happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Both were later released from police custody.
Preparedness Goes Beyond Active Shooter Training
OSU’s Run Hide Fight training worked well. Active shooter training, however, should not be the sole focus of any business or education institution – the focus should be on deadly weapons and prevention. The weapons used in the attack on the OSU campus were a vehicle and butcher knife. The suspect did not carry a firearm, yet still injured nine before police obtained control. A gun is not the sole weapon a suspect can utilize to harm others. The scope of training and preventative measures must go beyond active shooter scenarios.
Similarly, a vehicle was also used as a weapon during the July 14 attack in Nice, France.
Insurance for Deadly Weapons
Various organizations such as Universities, colleges and schools, have a “duty of care” to maintain a secure environment for their staff, tenants, patients, students, vendors, visitors, etc…There are significant challenges to securing huge campuses such as The Ohio State University (1,765 acres at the Columbus campus and 16,132 acres total), particularly ones where visitors come and go frequently. Despite the best security measures, facilities with frequent and transient visitors are difficult to secure. These organizations are particularly susceptible to “lone attackers” who can enter buildings unchallenged or attack with traditional or non-traditional weapons.
Unfortunately, no amount of training, security guards and warnings can totally eliminate the chance of an deadly weapon attack at a business or school. Thankfully, when one of these incidents occurs, another smart option is for these organizations to have deadly weapon insurance. This is a new form of coverage specifically designed to provide additional financial security when one of these tragic events happen. McGowan Program Administrators has a newly developed deadly weapon insurance program. Whether it’s a stand alone policy or part of a larger McGowan bundle of policies, they offer coverages to help businesses and organizations pick up the pieces following an deadly weapon incident. McGowan offers uniquely tailored policies with primary liability limits between $1 million and $25 million.
To learn more about deadly weapons insurance coverage, contact our partners at McGowan Program Administrators.
Social Media – To Help or To Hinder?
There are many ways in which social media use can tarnish a brand, career and organization – we’ve seen it happen many times. It did, however, prove to be invaluable for Ohio State on the day of the stabbing. In addition to the Buckeye Alert, OSU’s Emergency Management Department utilized Twitter to push out updates in real time. The initial tweet, warning students to Run Hide Fight, garnered more than 19,000 retweets. Word spread, and fast.
Not only was social media used to keep students, staff and the rest of the world up-to-date, other universities and public figures took to Twitter to send their condolences to the Buckeye community. Less than 48-hours before the stabbing occurred, the OSU campus was filled with hundreds of thousands of college football fans for The Game, also known as the rivalry game between The Ohio State University and The University of Michigan. Quite notably one of the biggest rivalries in college sports, “The Game” seemed trivial in light of the stabbing. Rivalries aside, The University of Michigan sent their condolences to the OSU community.
The actions of the OSU PD and the campus community must be applauded. But, was this stabbing event preventable? Maybe. According to reports:
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, wrote on what appears to be his Facebook page that he had reached a “boiling point,” made a reference to “lone wolf attacks” and cited radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
“America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim Ummah [community]. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” the post said.
Two hours before that, a cryptic post on the page said: “Forgive and forget. Love.”
“I just transferred from Columbus State. We had prayer rooms, like actual rooms where we could go pray because we Muslims have to pray five times a day.
“There’s Fajr, which is early in the morning, at dawn. Then Zuhr during the daytime, then Asr in the evening, like right about now. And then Maghrib, which is like right at sunset and then Isha at night. I wanted to pray Asr. I mean, I’m new here. This is my first day. This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray.
“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.”
Before a suspect carries out an act of violence, warning signs are exhibited. These signs can be verbal or behavior changes. Many times, the suspect has confided in someone the details of their attack. Other times the suspect posts on social media or creates a detailed manifesto. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20 and the dots are connected after the event has taken place. All warning signs must be taken seriously in such cases.
Regarding the attack at OSU, police are investigating the motive, but terrorism has not been ruled out.
At the End of the Day, Lives were Saved
Eleven people were injured during the attack, one of which remains in critical condition. The situation could have escalated into a much more violent attack had it not been for the fast-acting OSU police officer and training implemented by the university community as a whole. We must understand that an act of violence can occur on any campus at any time. Never think “it won’t happen here,” because it will. Predict crises that can occur within your organization or institution. Plan and practice how to respond to each and every threat. Perform training protocols when a crisis does occur.
I have always been proud to be a Buckeye, this instance proves no different. Good job, Ohio State community. My thoughts go out to the members of the Buckeye community and those directly affected by the violent acts.