PORT JERVIS—People listened to the shocking incident in 2002 of a man who entered the Port Jervis Auto Mall with a firearm, killed one person, and was about to shoot innocent bystanders. Former Marine Sal Latina stopped and held him until law enforcement arrived, losing a thumb as the shooter’s gun misfired.
How to Survive a Mass Shooting Incident seminar in the Drew United Methodist Church hall on Feb. 25 attracted about 75 concerned citizens interested in how to handle a similar horrific situation.
Chief William Worden recounted the episode to remind the audience that an active shooter can turn up anywhere. Several experts provided steps to take when caught in the crosshairs of an active shooter.
Capt. Anthony Weede, special operations, Orange County sheriff’s office, said, whether on duty or off duty, police are very suspicious and alert to their surroundings. He said it was now time for ordinary citizens to have this habit.
‘Run Hide Fight’
Weede showed a short video from the Department of Homeland Security to stress three actions that could save your life. “It may feel like just another day at the office, but occasionally life feels more like an action movie than reality,” the narrator stated in the video.
Weede said that to run, hide, and fight, in that order, can save lives. The video showed people running from a building, hiding behind barricades, and confronting an attacker as a last resort. “Disarm him and commit to taking the shooter down no matter what.”
The first responders on the scene are not there to evacuate or tend to the injured, according to the video. “They are well-trained and are there to stop the shooter.”
Mike Barnard, black belt senior master instructor and owner of Han Ho Martial Arts in Slate Hill, showed how to take down an active shooter. Pressing the back of the knees can immediately cause a shooter to fall.
“I can’t think of a tougher situation to be faced with. If you can’t run, if you are faced with a gunman, and if they are going to take your life—that’s what they are there for—it’s not a negotiation,” Barnard said.
He said timing is critical. “Do not let the seconds tick away. You think you hear a gunshot. You move. You don’t debate. You go into action. You can ask questions later.” If a group is faced with the shooter, “You all go,” he said. “As you make the move, you yell, you scream.”
Prepare and Practice
Tom McMullen came to the seminar with his son, Robert, a sixth-grade student at Anna S. Kruhl Elementary School. Robert said his school does lockdown drills.
“It’s a different world he’s got to grow up in,” his father said. “The more he knows may be to his advantage as he goes through life.” McMullen teaches at Sullivan County Community College and said the school also practices lockdown drills. “This is exactly what we practice.”
Active in her ward’s neighborhood watch, Niki Jones had been hearing about mass shootings in the media and emailed Worden: “Hey, we need to teach this seminar. It’s really worthwhile and valuable.”
The Port City’s neighborhood watch is a strong one, Worden noted, and said the department will hold this one and a more in-depth presentation in late spring.
The meeting was the first neighborhood watch crime prevention forum this year sponsored by the Port Jervis Police Department. A drill will be conducted during school break in March involving several area police departments and state police barracks.
Orange County collaborated with the Orange County Chamber of Commerce to co-host active shooter response training for local businesses the same day. About 150 people attended the free event.
“The goal of this new training program is to prepare you ahead of time so you can protect yourself, your family, and your co-workers,” said County Executive Steven Neuhaus.
“The Orange County Sheriff’s Office continues to advocate active shooter training for all county staff and civilians,” said Orange County Sheriff Carl DuBois said. “We cannot be complacent and need to realize this type of unfortunate event can happen here.”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)’s website encourages “preparedness through a ‘whole community’ approach by providing training, products, and resources to a broad range of stakeholders on issues such as active shooter awareness, incident response, and workplace violence.”
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