By Capt. Shane D. Healey

Headlines across the country rocked the media this month. People eating in restaurants gunned down, struck in the crossfire. They read headlines like, “Gun battle at LA restaurant leaves 3 dead, 12 wounded” (Associated Press, Oct. 15) and “Tyson Gay’s daughter shot, killed in Kentucky” (Yahoo News, Oct. 16). Innocent people out to eat ripped from the world by evildoers with no concern for the sanctity of life. And these tragedies unfolded in restaurants, where most of us will find ourselves how many times this week? Once, twice, maybe five times?

Do you consider your safety when you decide where you are going to eat? Most of us probably pick where we are going to eat based on the menu and where we believe they have the best quality food. Or maybe we are going to a certain spot to meet friends. We do not consider defensive positions, ingress and egress points, lines of sight, cover and concealment, or any of those—dare I say—military or law enforcement “jargon” words. I mean seriously, can we not eat in peace?

‘Most of us probably pick where we are going to eat based on the menu…We do not consider defensive positions, ingress and egress points, lines of sight, cover and concealment. I mean seriously, can we not eat in peace?’

WHAT TO DO? So just what do you do if you are out eating, minding your own business, when World War III erupts at the next table and people start shooting at each other? The absolute last thing you should do (no matter how many Twitter followers you have, or Facebook friends, or You Tube hits) is pull out your cell phone and start videotaping what is going on. The only thing recording will accomplish is to give the police video evidence in your murder. I don’t care how dependent we as a society are on social media and these instant video posts. Taking time to make the video only exponentially raises the chances that you will die.

Let us briefly discuss some food for thought (yes, the pun was intended) about what you can do before an incident to protect yourself. These are just some common sense ideas that make egress from the area quicker:

  • Look for all the exits and identify them. What is the shortest way to get to them? What can you see? Can you see the majority of the area around you?
  • Know your surroundings. Are there unconventional means of escape available? Is it possible to break a window and flee? Can you escape into the kitchen, or some other area, and exit from there? Is there a secure place you can hide, such as a closet or bathroom? Making a quick assessment and developing a plan increases your reaction time and chance of survival in a rapidly evolving dangerous situation.
  • Discuss your plan with the people you are with. No, it is not pleasant dinnertime conversation, but it could save your life.

Once an incident has begun, the golden rule is self-preservation. You are not going to deescalate the situation, so please do not interject yourself into the conflict. Move to get away from the danger as quickly as possible and do not become a part of the problem. Do you have time to run? If you do, get out quickly and safely. Re-evaluate every step of the way in case the situation changes as you move to the exit.

IF BULLETS ARE FLYING: If the situation goes straight to worst-case scenario and the bullets are literally flying, get down! Get under or behind something. Most untrained shooters (which includes the majority of “bad guys”) shoot what they are looking at. If they are not looking at you because they do not see you, you have a better chance of not being shot directly.

Now, just because you get behind or under something does not mean you are protected. Real life is not like television. Thin wood tables, chairs and couches do not stop bullets! Neither do plain sheetrock walls. So just because you make it to the relative safety of the next room does not mean you are in the clear. Stay down as close to the ground as possible and crawl on your belly toward the exit. Only heavy metal or possibly concrete items are going to stop most bullets. And that depends on the type of weapon firing the bullet and the ballistics of the round. So please do not take any chances; stay down.

I only recommend hiding as a potential first option in a situation where it appears there are two people, or groups of people, battling each other. If the situation involves an active shooter or shooters who appear to be executing people at random, the first option is always to flee if possible. If you must hide in an active shooter situation, build a barricade of any kind to prevent the shooter from gaining access even if they get the door open. Make it as hard as possible for someone to get to you. Lock doors. Pile up furniture or whatever you have at your disposal.

Then prepare to fight for your life if the shooter overcomes your barricade. At this point, there are no rules and no fair fights. Anything goes. Do not lay down and be a silent victim. Fight, kicking and screaming like a wild banshee. Do not surrender. You will not be able to talk this type of person out of killing you. Your best chance of survival is to make it too difficult and too time consuming to kill you.

They want to inflict as much harm as possible in a very short amount of time. So, if you can deter them with barricades and fighting they may choose to move on to more docile victims. You may be totally against violence in any form, but it is your choice if you live or die. Make the right choice.

THE QUESTION OF CONCEALED CARRY: Let’s talk concealed carry now. Personally, I am a proponent of concealed carry. As a police officer, I go almost everywhere armed, on and off duty. If you happen to be armed yourself when one of these situations occurs, you have several options. These options depend upon your level of training, your proficiency with your weapon, who you are with, and what exactly is the situation you are facing.

There is a plethora of “professional” opinions on what you should do if you are carrying concealed and are faced with a shooting situation. There is no way we can discuss them all, as they all have their merits. So remember to make a reasonable assessment of the situation and take into account all factors so you make a good decision on how to proceed to protect yourself and your family.

We could spend volumes talking about ways to curb the violence in this country and how we could prevent these incidents from happening. Unfortunately, all it would be is empty rhetoric. This behavior is rooted in our culture and is here to stay until society as a whole changes.

No matter how good our police are, there is no way they can be everywhere all the time. As conscientious citizens we have to start taking our personal safety and security into account when we go out in public. We have to stand up for ourselves and take some responsibility in making sure that we make it home at the end of the night.

Pay attention, plan, prepare, keep your head on a swivel, and absolutely refuse to give into the demons of society. We can go out to eat in peace America!

Shane D. Healey is a captain with the Opelika Police Department in Opelika, Ala.