With active-killer incidents seeming to dominate news cycles with increasing frequency these days, we revisited Ohio trainer Ron Borsch, who keeps statistics on these events, to see if the behavior pattern of these offenders is changing.
In the year since we first wrote about Borsch, who manages the South East Area Law Enforcement (S.E.A.L.E.) Regional Training Academy in Bedford (OH) [Click here to read it now], he’s added steadily to his database. But he reports that the m.o. of the typical active killer is staying consistent, reinforcing his belief in the value of immediate single-officer entry in response to these murderous calls.
Borsch tracks primarily instances of “rapid mass murder,” where 4 or more victims are intentionally killed in the same episode and location in no more than 20 minutes. “But in lower-body-count events,” he says, “this research may be valid, as well.”
From reviewing close to 100 active-killer outbursts, Borsch has found (in rounded figures) that:
- 98% of the offenders act alone
- 90% commit suicide, usually on-site (with most exceptions seeming to occur in cases with domestic-violence overtones)
- 80% use a long gun (rifle, shotgun, or carbine of pistol caliber)
- 75% bring multiple weapons to the scene, sometimes with hundreds of rounds of ammunition
- the offenders typically are “preoccupied with a high-body-count plan, racing to complete it and avoid police”
- increasingly, they are wearing body armor
- they almost never take hostages and do not negotiate
- they are “dynamic and quick,” finishing their slaughter in a post-Columbine average of 8 minutes.
Borsch has found only 6 mass-murder incidents that were successfully stopped in progress by LEOs. “The majority of these were initiated by 1 officer,” he says. Single, unarmed civilians have proven most effective at intervening, most likely because they were already on the scene when the attacks started and had the courage to take action. About half the successful interventions were by solo unarmed citizens, according to Borsch’s figures.
“Police are handicapped by both time and distance” on active-killer calls, he says. “These murderers are typically cowardly amateurs, not highly trained Rambos. The average officer should be in a superior response position. But the first responder needs luck to arrive in time to prevent further killing.”
The offender behavior pattern he has identified, Borsch told Force Science News, demands an immediate entry into the location, even if only one officer is present initially. “The incident may well be over by the time police arrive. But with some of these suspects attempting as many as 8 murders a minute, we don’t have the luxury of waiting before entering. These are extraordinary events that warrant an extraordinary response.”
He cites the case of a lone officer, Justin Garner, who earlier this spring acted alone in confronting an active killer who had slain 7 elderly patients and a nurse at a North Carolina nursing home. Garner’s chief had told his 6-officer force not to wait for backup “when there are many lives on the line.”
As the only officer on duty, Garner entered the home and encountered the suspect reloading his shotgun. When the killer refused to put his weapon down, Garner shot him once in the upper chest with his .40-cal. handgun, stopping the bloody rampage.