Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Work place shooting

In case you haven't heard, another work place shooting has taken place. Omar Thornton killed eight people at Hartford Distributors, a beer and wine distribution warehouse in Manchester, Connecticut last Tuesday (August 3rd).  Omar's motive is, so far, harassment in the workplace.

The anti-freedom advocates started having nocturnal emissions Tuesday night. Now they have eight more reasons to pass another set of Draconian gun laws against the law abiding citizens of the United States. Their usual claim is that the reason this shooting happened is that we don't have enough law to prevent mass shootings like these. And, as usual, they haven't stripped commercial media's hyperbole and looked at the facts.

Mass shootings are rare. Consider this quote from Newsweek in the article, Workplace Shootings: Rare, Horrifying, and Totally Unpredictable
Of the 15,000 average annual homicides, less than 1 percent are mass killings. But as the economy tanks and jobs are scarce, the rates of these killings increase. So says Jack Levine, the Brudnick professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University.
Okay, 15,000 sounds like a lot. How does this number stack up against other leading causes of death in the United States? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) it isn't in the top ten, which published this list:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
  • Heart disease: 616,067
  • Cancer: 562,875
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 135,952
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 127,924
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 123,706
  • Alzheimer's disease: 74,632
  • Diabetes: 71,382
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 52,717
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 46,448
  • Septicemia: 34,828
Not only do the annual number of homicides not make the list, but the number one spot, heart disease, is so far out in front of homicides that there isn't any comparison. Then there's the fine print; the real number is less than one percent of 15,000, or less than 150. Not even on the map when it comes to death. My chances of being struck and killed by lightening are much better than this long shot. Still and all, I might win the lottery. A little study into this might help me along the way.

One thing that I know and that every shooter who has ever tried to hit anything under stress knows for a cold, certain fact is this: people can and do miss a man sized target at six feet or less. For instance, I'm a fairly good shot. In a group of high end recreational shooters (including police) I'll land right in the middle on most days. The first time I shot in an International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) competition I was supposed to knock a bunch of steel plate targets (about the size of a large dinner plate) off a rail at around thirty feet. The more I shot at them the longer those damn plates just sat there, unmoving. I was all keyed up and couldn't hit a thing. This happened in a controlled environment with stationary targets, good lighting and a group of men who were all cheering me on. Imagine trying to hit anything in a hostile environment with moving targets and poor lighting, and you'll have some idea of how this could happen (from the NY Daily News): Hartford Distributors VP Steve Hollander miraculously survives Omar Thornton's Conn. murder spree

Omar Thornton aimed his weapon at his boss and fired - twice - but the shaken victim miraculously escaped with only a grazed arm and jaw.

"By just the grace of God, I don't know how he missed me," said Steve Hollander, a Hartford Distributors vice president who was treated at Hartford Hospital and released.
I'm not going to count on the shooter missing, but I'm a firm believer in the old adage that the Lord helps those who help themselves. In this case? Don't just stand there, run! Run in an erratic zig-zag and try to get hard cover between you and the shooter. Even if you're old, fat and ugly as the back end of a bus and can't run because you're carrying an extra 100 pounds, you have to try. Your friends and family will thank you for your efforts. If you don't have friends or family, do it anyway. The commercial news media will want to interview you right afterwords and you'll have your five minutes of fame.

Invariably someone will hear about this story and ask aloud, "Didn't the police do anything?" Yes, Virginia, the police did do something. Again, from the NY Daily News: Truck driver Omar Thornton kills 8 in Connecticut, rants about racism to mom before taking own life

At a 7 a.m. meeting, he [Omar] was shown the videotapes [of Omar stealing from the company] and offered the choice to quit or be fired.
Which would lead to a confrontation. I'd think that the manager would have one or more security guards around just in case old Omar got frisky. I guess the management thought they could take care of themselves, which is usually a major mistake. Case in point, why do police call for back up? Then there's the reality factor. Although I can't say for sure, I think it's reasonable to believe that none of these men who initially confronted Omar has been in a knock down, drag out fight since grade school. Maybe one pushing match and an occasional shouting contest, but the wade in and slug it out complete with knee to groin and head butt to nose just is not a part of their everyday activities. Now then, let's take that factoid to the next level. How many have been in a knife fight this week? How about a gun fight? Me, I've never been in a gun fight. I don't want to be in a gun fight, either. Knives are also out. In fact, I do not want to get into a fight at all. Omar isn't put together this way. After looking at the video and signing resignation papers, Omar stepped aside for a drink of water and to get his lunch box. Then the pellets hit the windmill.

The normally quiet truck driver started firing about 7:30 a.m.
Got that? The lead hits the air at 7:30 in the morning. Someone (people will do this) dials Nine One One, which the government will have you believe will put a stop to all this shooting and killing. It doesn't. So what happened?

Thornton shot himself in an office area after SWAT teams entered the building and closed in about 9 a.m., Manchester Police Chief Mark Montminy said.
Nine in the morning. At 7:30 the police were called, and at 9:30 the SWAT team entered. My point here is not to hammer the police response time or lack thereof. My point is that the commercial media is very carefully ignoring this two hour period and the ramifications of same, which are pretty obvious. You are on your own. From the time some homicidal fruitcake reaches for his weapon until the time the threat has been eliminated, you have no help. There isn't anyone to take care of you except you, and that's it. I've never seen this appear anywhere in commercial media and I doubt I will.

We have fire drills in the office. We never have medical emergency drills or deranged shooter drills. Management refuses to think about the problem because there are no easy solutions or drills. And, as I pointed out in the beginning, it's rare. We'd do better practicing lightning strike drills, or flood drills. Better yet, tornado drills.

Obviously, these events are unpredictable. In this case the shooter had a family and plans for the future. Again from the NY Daily News: Kristi Hannah, girlfriend of Omar Thornton, recalls gunman's goodbye, racism concerns
"We were engaged, we were talking about having a family," she said. "I fell in love with him because he was the most gentle man I had ever met. His eyes were so kind. He would never hurt another creature."
Clearly Omar had a few surprises for Hannah, one being conclusive proof that he would hurt another creature. Still, what else would we expect her to say? That she lived with a violent border line personality for eight years?

Hannah also backed up claims by Thornton's kin that the 34-year-old gunman finally snapped after years of being subjected to racist taunts by co-workers.

"Everyone of [the victims] was a person I heard Omar mention," she said. "He didn't go around randomly shooting people. He knew these were the people who harassed him."
So if the friends and family couldn't spot something of this magnitude on the immediate horizon, who could? I have no real answer for this one.

For no particularly good reason, here are a two links to timelines of mass shootings in the US:
The proposed theory that Omar snapped because of harassment at work is very likely true. As everyone knows, unless you are a member of a protected class and can prove you are being harassed because of your membership in that class, there isn't much you can do to stop harassment in the workplace.

As for my position, given the odds that favor my having to deal with a workplace shooter up close an in person, I'm not worried. That said, if I did have to deal with a mass murderer the things I'd want the most in order of preference are:
  1. To be somewhere else. Nothing beats a disaster of any kind better than not being there when it happened.
  2. A fully armed and ready special forces team between me and the shooter who have been ordered to take out the shooter.
  3. Some acceptable variant on the special forces team scenario.
  4. Betsy. In my right hand, one up the pipe with a half-dozen spare clips riding in my left prat.

'nuff said.


Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


If just one of those coworkers had been skilled in and carrying, lives could have been saved.

(I have to add, WITH the proper training...)

Mad Jack said...

Good catch Hooda. Read part two, above.