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Queens Chronicle

Inside the mind of an active shooter

Special NYPD training on what to do in mass shooting goes public

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:43 pm, Wed Nov 27, 2019.

There hasn’t been a random mass shooting in New York City since 2017, when a disgruntled family physician who’d been dismissed two years earlier opened fire inside Bronx Lebanon Hospital.

One doctor was killed and five other nurses and doctors were wounded, along with one patient.

That is an awkward achievement to be proud of.

But when two mass shootings took place in California in the past week alone, two and a half years without a random mass shooter counts as a win for the NYPD.

At Christ the King High School in Middle Village this week, the department’s Counterterrorism Division staged a rare active shooter training session open to the general public.

Until this recently, NYPD teams have concentrated on offering training to religious and large institutions such as banks, colleges and stadium staffs.

This was one of the first times counterrorism talks have been opened to the general public.

Under stiff security restrictions — no photos, no recording, no one under 18 — about 100 people attended the session Monday night.

Most had learned it was happening from modest notices posted on the Twitter sites of the eight police precincts in Patrol Borough Queens North.

“We don’t want our presentation recorded so that any potential terrorist could easily search the internet for our recommended tactics and strategy,” Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, executive officer of the Counterterrorism Division, told the Chonicle.

The 90-minute talk, punctuated with videos and PowerPoint charts, was something of a tiptoe through the mind of a mass shooter as well as instructions on what to do in a worst-case scenario.

“Why don’t we see active shooters more often in New York City?” asked Officer Stephen Gibbons, a counterterrorism instructor.

“I’d like to take some credit for that,” he said, speaking on behalf of the NYPD.

The average age of mass shooters is 35, he said, but the figure is misleading.

The vast majority are either between ages 15 to 19 — “school shooters,” Gibbons said — or 40 to 44. “Those are the workplace shooters,” he said.

Only 4 percent are women and — the notoriety of the Columbine shootings notwithstanding — only 2 percent involved more than one gunman.

“The profile between a suicide and an active shooter is almost identical — with one exception,” said Gibbons. “The active shooter wants to take as many people as possible with them.”

The shooters who did not die told psychiatrists similar stories in prison interviews, he said.

“They all said: ‘I felt invisible, I felt powerless, I felt unloved,’” according to Gibbons.

Call 1 (888) NYC-SAFE (692-7233) if you have any suspicions or tips for police, he said. “That’s our see-something-say-something hotline.”

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