Training >> Browse Articles >> Tactical / SWAT


A Date with Destiny - Part II

Lt. Dan Marcou / PATC

Five Phases of the Active Shooter

A simple view of the active shooter was developed and is being trained by Lt. Dan Marcou retired from the La Crosse, Wisconsin Police Department. He developed the program while working for the La Crosse Police Department and was able to apply the philosophy with real world success. One of the successes earned Officer Bob Michalski and Lt. Marcou the Associate of SWAT Personnel Officers of the Year in 2004 for their response to an active shooter, who was killing innocents with an Uzi in a hotel in Oak Creek Wisconsin.

In the discussion of the active shooter “he” will be utilized because generally these are males, but the killing of innocents is not a male-only club any more. The five phases of the active shooter are:

The Fantasy Stage

During the fantasy stage the shooter pictures himself doing the shooting. He fantasizes about the headlines he will receive. The shooter might draw pictures of the event and make web site postings. He has been known to write stories about the shootings and turn them into schools for a grade. Often he predicts, promises and warns people about the impending event. If law enforcement is notified in advance and takes actions there is a strong possibility tragedy will be averted with zero casualties.

Planning Stage

In this stage the subject is deciding on the who, what, when, where and how of his joyful killing spree. He most often will put his plans down in writing. He will decide the time and location of the event and what weapons they will need to carry out the carnage. He will design his response to inflict as much death and suffering as possible. He may prepare a shopping list of items needed to carry out the plan.

The shooter will determine how to travel to the location and how to conceal his weapons. He will decide on whether to commit the crime alone, or to confide in and utilize an accomplice. The internet affords the opportunity for dangerously unstable persons to communicate.

If a police officer is notified by a family member, friend, teacher, school liaison or anyone else who discovers the plans, then the officer will have an opportunity to intervene before the event – with once again zero casualties.

Preparation Stage

During this stage the suspect will buy, beg, borrow and steal items that he needs for the event. He might buy guns and ammo. He might purchase materials for explosives, which when observed separately look innocuous, but when combined is deadly. He often steals what he cannot buy, often stealing from family members.

He will assemble his improvised explosive devices and train with his weapons. He may detonate some explosives to insure that they will work.

The active shooter will visit the sites he will attack and do drawings and schematics of the areas. He will conduct reconnaissance as if his is preparing for a military operation.

The potential shooter might be arrested by police after they receive a call from a friend, family member, or suspicious citizen. The potential shooter might be apprehended by an alert officer, after a traffic stop or during an in-progress theft or burglary. If done with caution and alertness the suspect can be taken into custody with zero casualties.

Approach Stage

The closer to the event, the more dangerous it will be, when officers take action. When the subject is approaching the target he will be very dangerous, because he has his eyes on the prize. He has made his plans, armed himself and he has made his decision to kill. He may be walking, riding, or driving to the target carrying his implements of death.

Officers might be prompted to contact the subject because of the sheer alertness of an officer or as a result of a traffic stop by an officer practicing interdiction. A citizen might make a call of a suspicious person.

The officer or officers making contact, during the approach stage are in danger, but as long as the officer(s) keep an open mind on every stop they can be kept safe by their superior tactics, skills, and will to survive. There is a fine line between an officer having his/her name etched into an award or his/her name etched into a wall. This contact, handled in a tactically sound manner can save many lives, prevent carnage, and end with zero casualties.

Implementation Stage

When the active shooter opens fire immediate action needs to be taken. The ingredient that ties all of these incidents together is the active shooter will continue to shoot until he run out of victims or ammunition, or his is stopped by his own hand or an effective and efficient act of courage.

The quicker the actions of an honorable gunfighter in the guise of an on-duty officer, off-duty officer, armed retired officer, or armed security guard the fewer funerals there will be. People ask, “How many gunfighters should you have before you advance?” The answer to this question could be answered by potential victims who are about to succumb to the mad man’s desire to achieve “Top score.” The potential victims would say, “six is better than five, five is better than four, four is better than three, three is better than two, two is better than one and one honorable gunfighter is better than none.”

There is an old cavalry adage that goes, “when the battle begins and you do not know what to do, Ride to the sound of the guns.”

Police officers have the following advantage:

* They are highly trained, honorable gun fighters.

* The active shooter will be focused on his dastardly deed.

* The active shooter will be creating a scene that will be loud and chaotic — the perfect diversion.

* The initial responder(s) can use the chaos to identify the location of the shooter.

* The initial responder(s) can use the chaos to move quietly to a position of advantage.

* Terrified victims will be able to direct officers to the location of the shooter.

* If the shooter is located in the act of shooting, officers do not have to verbalize they can take the shot and make the shot.

* If the shooter is contained by the actions of the officers in a non-violent pose, officers may initiate a classic SWAT response.

Part: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.