The flier for the Active Shooter Symposium set for mid-February at the State Theatre in Modesto reads, “It’s not if you observe an active shooter, it’s when.”
That’s a dire prediction.
Yes, though mass shootings have occurred in schools, workplaces, houses of worship, shopping malls, movie theaters, nightclubs, outdoor music festivals and elsewhere, the probability remains very low that anyone will find himself in an active-shooter situation here, said Modesto psychologist Philip Trompetter, who will co-present the symposium.
But such shootings have been on the rise since records began being kept in 2000, said Trompetter, who specializes in police and forensic psychology. And when a community has an interest in learning how to help prevent such attacks, and be prepared and respond effectively, it’s worth putting in resources, he said.
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Having prevention and response plans in place is “similar to why we have TSA screenings,” Trompetter said. There’s a low probability of a terrorist taking an airplane, “but when it does happen, it’s so catastrophic.”
The free symposium is hosted by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, Rank Investigations & Protection and the State Theatre. Trompetter will lead it with James Yandell, a Ceres police lieutenant and Rank employee.
Trompetter will talk about the history and scope of active-shooter incidents. His interest in the field dates back to an “almost incident” at a Modesto high school in 1995. A student brought a gun to school with the intent of killing students and teachers and then dying in a gunfight with police, he said. The student even called 911 himself to say what he planned.
A school security officer quickly identified the student, who was taken into custody and evaluated by Trompetter. Handled quietly and with no violence, it never made the news, he said.
Over the years, evaluations of people who planned or perpetrated shootings has led to profiles and “pre-incident indicators,” some of which Trompetter will share at the symposium. “People leave clues” through the things they say or do, he said, but too often the clues are dismissed by those who see or hear them.
At least when it comes to school campuses, there’s been a great increase in awareness and preventive reporting over the past couple of decades, Trompetter said. Just last week, staff at Beyer High in Modesto were informed that a video was circulating on students’ phones of a gun being carried on campus. Twin brothers ended up being arrested.
But when it comes to pre-incident indicators in workplaces, Trompetter said, “I don’t know that there’s any diminished bystandership” — people not acting upon troubled colleagues’ words or actions.
It’s all too common to become complacent and adopt an “It can’t happen here” attitude, said Steve Rank, owner of Rank Investigations. But venue operators, event promoters, houses of worship, schools, malls, businesses and office buildings all should have plans on preparing for and responding to shooters, he said.
Touching on what will be presented, Rank said, “First of all, scenes become very chaotic and people panic. So we’ll talk about tactics employees can use to minimize exposure to a shooter. Equally important is we will talk about what happens when law enforcement arrives, what victims can expect. When law enforcement is on scene, it doesn’t mean the chaos will subside, but they have very specific tactics they employ.”
Though the symposium is one in a series of events the Chamber of Commerce has been offering to help educate business owners and operators, it’s open to anyone, Rank said. If it’s well attended and received, he said, additional symposiums might be offered to dig deeper into the topic, he added.
The symposium will be Feb. 12, 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the State, 1307 J St. It is open to the first 535 to register and will include free coffee and doughnuts.
To learn more or to register, call the chamber at 209-577-5757 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.