What should you do if confronted with a gunman?

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What should you do if confronted with a gunman?
Mourners hug in front of the IV Deli Mart, where part of Friday night's mass shooting took place, on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 in the Isla Vista area near Goleta, Calif. Sheriff's officials said Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a crime spree through a nearby neighborhood. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
This undated photo from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows the driver license photo of Elliott Rodger. Rodger, 22, went on a murderous rampage Friday, May 23, 2014, killing six before dying in a shootout with deputies, in the community of Isla Vista near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in Goleta, Calif., (AP Photo/California DMV)
Mourners gather at a makeshift memorial at the Alpha Phi sorority house where two women were killed during Friday night's mass shootings, on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 in the Isla Vista area near Goleta, Calif. Sheriff's officials said Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a crime spree through a nearby neighborhood. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Santa Monica Police Department shows John Zawahri. Police identified Zawahri as the shooter that killed five people at Santa Monica College on June 7, 2013. Zawahri was fatally shot by officers in the college library in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Santa Monica Police Department, File)
An evidence photo showing the SUV in which Carlos Franco and his daughter Marcela Franco were shot and killed is among several new evidence photos of the June 9 shooting rampage by John Zawahri that were released by the Santa Monica, Calif., Police Department at a news conference Thursday, June 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Santa Monica Police)
One Goh appears in an Alameda County Superior courtroom in Oakland, Calif., Monday, April 30, 2012. Goh, 43, plead not guilty to seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder for the fatal shooting rampage at Oikos University in Oakland earlier this month. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Efanye Chibuko touches a picture of his wife Doris during a memorial at Oikos University Tuesday, April 10, 2012 in Oakland, Calif. Doris Chibuko was among the victims of a shooting rampage at the Oakland school last week. Just over a week ago, a gunman entered the campus of the small Christian college and opened fire in classrooms, killing seven people, before fleeing. Police say suspect One Goh was targeting an administrator who had been involved in his financial dispute with the school, but she no longer worked there. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
FILE - In this April 2, 2012 file photo, Oakland Police cover bodies near Oikos University in Oakland, Calif., after a shooting at the school. One Goh, the suspect in the shooting, was charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder but is being held at a Northern California mental hospital after psychiatric evaluations concluded last year that he suffers from long-term paranoid schizophrenia and is unfit to stand trial. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Visitor stops at a makeshift memorial on Northern Illinois University campus Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008 in DeKalb, Ill. On Thursday,Steven Kazmierczak, armed with three handguns and a pump-action shotgun, stepped from behind a screen on a campus lecture hall's stage and opened fire on a geology class. He killed five students before committing suicide. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
This photo, supplied by Richard Grafer, shows Steven Kazmierczak at 12-years-old in 1992, Kazmierczak, armed with three handguns and a pump-action shotgun, stepped from behind a screen on the lecture hall stage at Northern Illinois University and opened fire on a geology class. He killed five students Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, before committing suicide. Grafer is Kazmierczak's godfather.(AP Photo/Richard Grafer via Chicago Sun Times) **MANDATORY CREDIT ,CHICAGO OUT**
Richard Reilman, left, hugs his wife, Louisiana Technical College Financial Aid Manager Candice Reilman as his sister Elizabeth Reilman consoles staff member Buffy Brinkley shortly after leaving the college campus Friday, Feb. 8, 2008 in Baton Rouge, La. A 23-year-old woman killed two fellow students Friday morning at the school then killed herself, police said. (AP Photo/Tim Mueller)
Baton Rouge Sgt. Don Kelly meets with the media outside the Louisiana Technical College Friday, Feb. 8, 2008. A 23-year-old woman killed two fellow students in a classroom at the school in Baton Rouge, La. The woman then killed herself, police said. (AP Photo/Tim Mueller)
People file past the memorial for the slain students in front of Burruss Hall on the Virginia Tech Drillfield in Blacksburg, Va., Friday, May 11, 2007 on graduation day. Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and then himself on April 16 on the campus of Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Sophomore Kenneth Erisman holds a candle as he pays his respects at a makeshift memorial at Drill field on the Virginia Tech campus Wednesday, April 18, 2007 in Blacksburg, Va. Midway through his murderous rampage, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui went to the post office and mailed NBC a package containing photos and videos of him brandishing guns and delivering a snarling, profanity-laced tirade about rich "brats" and their "hedonistic needs." (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
FILE - This undated file photo released by the Virginia State Police shows Cho Seung-Hui. Seung-Hui, of South Korea, was identified by police as the gunman suspected in the massacre that left 33 people dead at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Virginia State Police, File)
Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, West Virginia. (Photo by: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)
Peter Odighizuwa is led into Buchanan County General District Court Thursday, Aug. 8, 2002, in Grundy, Va. Grundy, a former law student accused of killing three people during a campus shooting spree was found incompetent to stand trial. Buchanan County General District Judge Fred Combs said that Odighizuwa, 43, should be hospitalized for treatment so he can become competent. At left is Odighizuwa's attorney, James Turk Jr. (AP Photo/Andre Teague, Pool)
FILE - In this Aug. 19, 1996 file photo, triple-murder suspect Frederick Martin Davidson, stands during his arraignment in San Diego. Davidson was charged in the shooting deaths of three professors at San Diego State University, and sentenced to three life terms in prison without parole. (AP Photo/Michael Poche, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 1996 file photo, as the hearse carrying the casket of Dr. Preston Lowrey III is closed, relatives and friends comfort his wife Ying, center, following a memorial service in San Diego. Preston Lowrey III and two others were gunned down on the campus of San Diego State University by Frederick Martin Davidson on Aug. 15, 1996. (AP Photo/Michael Poche, File)

By Sadie Gurman

When a gunman menaced a small Seattle college, a student pepper-sprayed the attacker, ending his rampage. Police say his actions likely saved lives.

When an armed couple who had already killed two police officers entered a Las Vegas Wal-Mart, a shopper with a concealed weapon tried to confront them and got killed. Police say he died "trying to protect others."

And when an Oregon high school student fatally shot a classmate and wounded a teacher, the teacher made his way to an office and alerted officials. Police say he probably prevented additional deaths.

These scenarios, which all unfolded over the past week, demonstrate the risky and potentially life-saving decisions faced by anyone in the path of an active shooter. At a time when shootings seem to happen almost daily, how should Americans react if someone opens fire at work, at school or at a theater or store?


A: Bo Mitchell, president of 911 Consulting, tells his clients that their first goal is to run away. "If you see this happening far enough away from you that you don't have to be part of it, we want you to run," Mitchell said. If that's impossible, he advises hiding in a room and locking the door. "Find a place that you can close up and barricade so a guy with a gun can't come after you."

Fighting back is a last resort. "You want to act with speed and total surprise, and you want to get a fire extinguisher or a pair of scissors or a chair and go after that guy because you have no other choice."

The Department of Homeland Security also suggests fighting back, but only as a final option. "Act with aggression. Improvise weapons. Disarm him. And commit to taking the shooter down, no matter what," the department advises in an online video.


A: No, Mitchell says. "The threat defines the response. These kinds of threats have been going on for a century or more, but the number of events is going up and that's troubling," he said.

In each of the recent cases, victims had to make swift choices about their own safety and protecting the people around them.

When the gunman opened fire June 5 at Seattle Pacific University, killing one student and wounding two others, a student building monitor named Jon Meis rushed out of his office, pepper-sprayed the gunman, grabbed the weapon and hid it in his office. The monitor and another student held the gunman down until police arrived.

After the Las Vegas couple shot and killed two police officers at a pizza parlor, they went to a nearby Wal-Mart and were confronted by a shopper carrying a concealed weapon. Joseph Wilcox was killed by the wife as he attempted to stop the husband. The husband was later fatally wounded by police, and the wife committed suicide.

A 15-year-old shot and killed a 14-year-old classmate Wednesday at a high school in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, and wounded teacher Todd Rispler, who was able to get to the school office and alert others to the situation. The gunman took his own life.


A: Before the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, police response to mass shootings was slower and more deliberate. Patrol officers would often wait for a more heavily armed SWAT team to arrive and clear a building. But with active-shooter situations on the rise, authorities have changed their tactics to respond faster.

Now more local officers know how to fan out in teams to quickly eliminate the threat of a gunman, said Thomas Aveni, executive director of the New Hampshire-based Police Policy Studies Council.

Paramedics and firefighters are receiving the training, too, "to respond as quickly as possible, rather than wait for additional resources."

Unlike 20 years ago, school-resource officers are commonly stationed in high schools and middle schools, with the goal of stopping problems before they become deadly, Aveni said.

Since the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting in 2012, officers have been carrying "go bags" containing medical supplies such as tourniquets and gauze, so they can also act as paramedics, said John Firman, director of research for the International Chiefs of Police Association.

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