Vancouver is an international city known for its beautiful scenery and international cuisine. But violent? I remember when I was in the IDF and the Vancouver Canucks Riot happened. I showed the iconic picture of the burning cars to my Israeli-born friends. They could not believe that it was Vancouver; they thought it was another a West Bank riot. This is not abnormal. Internationally Vancouver, or Canada, is seen as peaceful, with no crime and no violence. After all, it’s Canada right?
The reality for anyone who actually lives in Canada knows this is not true. Perhaps it’s no Iraq or Somalia, but for the people living here, at least to our standards, a single stabbing or shooting can be quite shocking.
Recently it seems that mass shootings or stabbings seem to be on the rise in North America. This could be true, or it could just be that the media has really been paying attention to them due to lack of other subjects to report.
To me, being a realist, I know these kinds of things happen all the time, in all cities, to all people, at all times. My question to you is, if you were at school, at work, or just walking down the street, would you;
a. know what to do?
b. if you know what to do, would you know how you would act?
Recently a shooting occurred in a nice area of downtown Vancouver which led to a police chase and a shootout outside a local attraction known as Science World.
For more information about the shooting please see this article:
The shooter, who was clearly disturbed, has been charged with 6 counts of attempted murder.
While I could have picked many of the other shootings or stabbings to discuss, this one was selected as I was fortunate enough to be forwarded an email by one of my students regarding someone he knew who happened to be working at Science World during this time.
One of the great advantages of modern technology is that we can be in contact with everyone at all times (so long as we are in a service area). As such, here is a look at some of those emails that have been obtained with permission of all parties.
NOTE: Some content has been modified to protect the identity of individuals and their companies
“We’ve been under lockdown for about 1.5 hours as there was a shooting in Yaletown, then the 2 bad guys ran to Science World. Window of Whitespot shot out, as well as back window of police car on Science World deck.
One suspect shot, and policeman I hear was shot with minor wounds.
Told to stay away from windows.
Everything OK. No sense of danger on 3rd floor where I am. It’s amazing how news comes so fast on social media.”
The tone of this email seems fairly calm and collected. “no sense of danger”. This is a good example of “out of sight, out of mind”. The individual is relaxed enough to send out emails in a calm manner letting others know he is ok. If there actually was a sense of danger, would the tone be different? Would he be panicking? Would there even be an email?
– Still 3 police cars in front of Science World. The side of deck where shooting occurred is still behind yellow police tape;
– The White Spot glass door has been replaced, but the broken glass not cleaned up yet;
– The water table exhibit on the deck beside White Spot has a numbered chalk circle, which I assume is a bullet hole, as I know it was damaged during the shooting”
“On 3rd floor we never felt in danger, although it was kinda scary when S. rushed in at 11 AM to say there’s a shooter and to stay away from windows (I’m not sure if she said the shooter was on the roof).
Just talked to V., who was outside cleaning windows … . He said he 1st of all he heard maybe 5 scattered shots, then brrrr brrr (which would be the police firing back on automatic). I always thought police fired single shots, but I guess once they started exchanging fire with the bad buy they turned weapons onto automatic. V. took cover on the Green Roof, where RBC was holding a function. He was right outside my window about 5 minutes before S told us about shooter.
SW is still behind yellow tape as it is a crime scene, and lots of police there this morning when I arrived at work. We are only allowed to enter the building through the main entrance. Both sides of the sidewalk leading to main entrance (i.e. KSSP Park and parking side, where Whitespot is) are off limits. Guess we won’t have attendance today being a crime scene, even if they take down the yellow tape.”
This email was to another person the morning after. The one thing that I find interesting about this is about the assumption of automatic weapons fire. In Canada, automatic weapons are prohibited, meaning you are more or less not allowed to have them (except for military). The standard issue handguns of local law enforcement would not have automatic fire. I find it interesting, that of no fault of the emailer, that they do not know firearms laws or enough about firearms to know that it could not have been automatic fire from the police. It is quite common in Canada or even the US for the average person to be misinformed about firearms. Why is this an issue for me? Our philosophy when it comes to firearms is safety through education. You may see this come out as you read some of the questions I asked when I interviewed the person who sent the emails. I will also explain why I asked the questions and why they are important.
An interview with the emailer:
How fast after being told there was a shooting outside was a lockdown initiated? I think within 5 minutes, I didn’t hear the shooting becuz I’m on 3rd floor, but someone ran up around 11 AM and told us to stay away from windows since there was a shooter.
5 minutes is a long time for a lockdown to kick in, a lot can happen in five minutes. If your company or school takes this long do you think you are prepared?
Who initiated the lock down? Science world or the police? Initially Science World, then I hung around away from the windows until 3 PM when the police asked us to meet them downstairs.
If 5 min is a long time, then 4 hours is even longer for an official police lockdown. A common belief is that law enforcement will come rushing in to take control of the entire scene. This is a fallacy. It depends how many officers are on duty and what the situation is. In this case all officers who were there immediately were far too busy (being shot at) to deal with civilians. In major emergencies. for example. it’s quite reasonable to assume you may be on your own from 48 hours to even two weeks. So the same would apply for a shooter. If it is reasonable to prepare food and water for an earthquake is it not also reasonable to get training in the event you are face-to-face with a violent individual?
Have you ever received in house training regarding what to do in a lock down? No, just the regular evacuation drills.
This may seem shocking, but for someone like me who has spent several years in Occupational Health and Safety it is quite normal. In North America the idea of practicing lockdown procedures is quite foreign. It’s hard enough to get companies to do their yearly fire drill let alone a procedure that they may never need to use. Such procedures and practices are quite complicated to set up and regularly practice. As such, companies often only do them as minimally required.
Do you know what to do if the shooter came inside? No, but I would’ve locked myself in office. Afterwards I thought of the recent Moncton RCMP shootings, or many years ago when Viet Cong penetrated the US Embassy in Saigon.
While locking yourself in a room is certainly a good first step as most plans would start with this, as it puts a barrier between you and the shooter, it is not infallible. One thing I learned as a sniper is that you must always have an exit strategy. Putting yourself in the rabbit hole only works if you see the other side. Remember, bullets can go through walls and doors and “bullet resistant” is a relative term.
If the shooter made it close to you, do you think you would know what to do? Definitely not. I’m sure I would freeze mentally even if I had gun training.
This is the answer I expected. Most civilians would not know what to do, and even if they did in theory they do not have enough practice to react without panic. Even some law enforcement occasionally freeze up as they did not receive enough training (Usually due to budget restraints.)
How was the emotion levels in the room where you were for lockdown? 100% calm. We were actually in the IT room following the police officers on security cameras installed outside Science World. Everyone following on their smart phones on Twitter, Global TV sites etc. Being on 3rd floor, we felt safe, although thinking back I don’t think the elevators were shut down so if the shooter entered Science World he could’ve come upstairs.
This was a very fortunate situation. They were far enough upstairs that they felt detached from the danger, however, as it was pointed out there were ways to access the floor. Consider a Die Hard type situation. Buildings can quite easily be taken over by gunmen. Even though it’s something we think about it is something that could happen in a matter of minutes.
Did you have faith in the police ability to stop the shooters? Yes. Although even when social media reported the shooter had been captured, we still heard that there might be a 2nd shooter.
Could you say the same thing in your police force?
How did social media affect your thoughts considering you were in the middle of the situation? Actually kept us calmer, as internally there were no announcements over PA system updating us as the staff were too busy dealing with public and police.
This is actually another reason to like social media. The number one worst thing that can happen is mass panic. Once that happens even the smartest person in the room can make incorrect decisions (AKA the Vancouver Riots).
How accurate were the reports based on your first hand experience? Aside from mentioning a woman (either being shot or one of the shooters) and 2 shooters, reports very accurate.
This is fortunate for us in Canada, but other countries may have media that is manipulated to far greater amounts than here. (I advise you not to watch CNN)
How much do you know about firearms?
Nothing, and I have no wish to being a Canadian who is glad I am not living in gun crazy USA.
I would consider this a fairly standard Canadian reaction. I, who am a gun supporter and owner though, would rather see people educated on guns even if they have no interest in owning or using them.
If a shooter was disarmed, would you feel comfortable handling their weapon?
Yes, but only to gingerly move the gun to the side being careful not to point at anyone.
As a follow up to above, if you are not trained and managed to get the gun away from your attacker, what then? Are you going to shoot them? Do you even know how? Are you going to empty the magazine and chamber for safety like in the movies? Do you even know how?
Many Krav Maga schools teach gun disarms but negate to educate their students on the proper use of various firearms. To us, this is faulty thinking. From a tactical perspective one must have as much information about any possible situation to come up with the best possible solutions. Guns in the hands of those who do not know how to use them can be dangerous no matter what the intent is. Just see youtube for gun fails….
A quick synopsis from start to finish of the day. The following is what I’ve emailed friends today.
Since I never felt in danger being on the 3rd floor, it was more exciting than scary.
– We simply stayed away from the windows (had to evacuate my office as I have a window) as we were told there might be shooter on the roof. When we were told to move, I moved right away, as ever since 9-11 when there are emergencies I don’t hesitate to evacuate;
– We did not lock ourselves in a room, since we didn’t feel in danger;
– Actually saw the police hunting for shooter(s) as the MIS guy was monitoring the outdoor cameras and could see them with their rifles
– Didn’t know what was going on after the initial order to move away from windows at 11 AM. There were no internal announcements as Customer Service was too busy dealing with the public, so never was sure if I could move around until 3 PM when the police brought us all to lobby to talk.
– So in a real emergency situation, it would be mass confusion, having no idea who is where
– the kids who were at Science World (not as many as usual due to teacher’s strike) were moved to omni theatre and given free pop corn and drinks;
– Police ordered us to leave building at 3:30 PM, through the front door as of course Science World was a crime scene and they wanted to do another sweep of the building
– although I didn’t see it personally, I heard that when searching for the shooter(s), it’s just like the movies where the police search rooms with weapons drawn
– when I left I locked the office doors, but then thought it would make it more difficult for police to do their sweep
– A door at the White Spot at Science World was shattered by a bullet, and replaced quickly this morning
– The police tape stayed up until about 11 AM this morning
In our emailer’s case things turned out fairly well and their perhaps normally boring day at work was quite the eventful one. However, with a slightly different set of circumstances this could have been Vancouver’s Sandy Hook. Science World is a very large complicated building that has children, tourists, families, students and everyone of all ages in it at any given time. It really would not take an individual with any kind of weapon much effort to cause a lot of harm. Picture this..
An individual walks into there with an axe and starts hacking and slashing in a crowd of people.
How long until the group realizes something is wrong? How long until law enforcement is called? How long until they arrive?
It could be 30 seconds for security to arrive or 5-7 minutes for police to arrive.
Are you willing to put your life in question in that time?
I think it’s far more prudent for anyone to take their own personal safety in their own hands and learn even some basic skill that could potentially save their lives one day.
If you learn Krav Maga and all you learn is to be more aware then that is still something. If you learned to always be alert and vigilant and you spotted that axe wielding individual before they became a problem then we did our job.
However, if you are the first intended victim of the attacker you will need far more than keen eyes. In that moment you will know real fear and you will know, if you do in fact know, what to do to ensure that you go home safely. Even if that means just avoiding a fatal blow before help arrives.
Remember, no matter what you think, in that moment, your safety and life will only ever be in YOUR hands, not anyone elses.
Stay alert and stay educated.
Written by: Jonathan Fader
Edited by: Warren Chow