Shooting threat stirs community

International School - cropped

According to the Feb.18 issue of the Bellevue Reporter, on Thursday, Feb. 12, a 17-year-old senior at the International School in the Bellevue school district texted his friend saying, “24 hours from now we’ll be dead.”

The unnamed 17-year-old senior allegedly made similar threats earlier that week. As a result, the International School was shut down on Friday, Feb. 13, and the student who issued the threat was arrested that morning.

In response to this incident, the Bellevue school district and the Bellevue police department held an “Active Shooter Preparedness Discussion” at the Bellevue High School Performing Arts Center. Scott Montgomery, who has been part of the Bellevue Police Department for eight years was the main speaker. Several issues were covered, but the focus of the discussion was a description of the three primary responses that can maximize safety in an active shooter situation, run, hide or fight.

Montgomery gave a presentation that included a short video titled “Run, Hide or Fight.” The video said that warning signs could vary, depending on the situation and the individual’s needs, and Montgomery told the audience that it was important to always be prepared to transition from one method to another, to maximize chances of survival.

“If you can get out, get out,” said Montgomery. He said to leave all belongings behind except a cell phone, unless retrieving the phone would put the individual in a dangerous environment.

Warning and helping others get away was advocated by Montgomery, but he also promoted developing a survival mindset. He advised that getting students as far away as possible from an active shooter situation is more important than keeping track of each individual at all times. When hiding, it is recommended to find a place with options for escape, so that a potential transition to running or fighting isn’t restricted. Additionally, barricading doors from the inside can slow down or discourage an active shooter.

Montgomery advised that hiding behind objects or furniture was also safer than getting trapped or cornered with no protection.

“This is the biggest thing,” said Montgomery, “Do whatever is necessary to survive.” As a last resort, sometimes survival in an active shooter situation depends on the ability to fight. Montgomery said that if this is the case, full commitment to one’s actions is important, whether as an individual, or if possible, as a team. Improvised weapons such as chairs used to knock a criminal off his feet were shown in the video as an example.

Most active shooter events end with either the shooter getting killed or committing suicide. Montgomery said that most people don’t often think about taking another person’s life in a crisis if they are not a police officer that often deals with similar situations. He told the audience what to expect from first responders in the event of a school shooting.

Since first responders are meant to find and stop the shooter rather than tend to the injured or escort anyone out to safety, Montgomery said that keeping hands in the air, staying visible and sharing knowledge in a succinct and helpful way would assist them in their mission more efficiently.

Although the Bellevue College Public Safety Department is trained for nonviolent crisis intervention and do not have arrest authority, officers at the college, according to the BC Public Safety website, work closely with the BPD, which has jurisdiction on campus. BC students are encouraged to report criminal activity to the school’s public safety department, which refers incidents to the BPD if necessary.

In the case of an active shooter situation at BC, students are to call 911 as soon as they safely can, and to not assume that someone else has already called. Once safe to do so, they are to evacuate the area, but driving is warned against, since it can block the path of emergency responders trying to enter campus and stop the threat. However, if it is not safe to leave campus, then students should try to find a safe place to hide, stay out of sight and not go near windows.

“We’re now taking the first steps in education,” said Brian Herschberger, a SWAT team leader also present at the discussion. Herschberger said there needs to be ongoing education for students about safety, which teaches and trains each new generation of students what to do to keep themselves safe.