Crime: Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis? - PressFrom - US
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CrimeDayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?

21:25  23 august  2019
21:25  23 august  2019 Source:   freep.com

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The festival. The club. The concert. At school. On campus. While shopping.

History repeating itself, over and over, sometimes multiple times in one week — active shooter cuts down victims in another mass casualty incident.

Leaders in cities not yet touched by this kind of violence are left watching the carnage unfold elsewhere, having to answer the same question: Are we prepared?

Detroit says yes.

As mass casualty shootings in public places continue to make headlines, local authorities say they regularly train for a mass shooting in the city, like ones that befell the communities of Dayton and El Paso earlier this month.

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“I would say that we’re as prepared as anybody,” Lawrence Meyer, director of the Detroit Homeland Security & Emergency Management Department, said. “I would say that we have total cooperation from police and fire and all of our partners. I don’t know, basically, if there’s any more prepared city in the country. … This is our, our life. This is what we do. And everybody’s committed to this and we’re all on the same page. We’re all singing out of the same hymn book. We all want to make sure Detroit’s a safe city.”

Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?© Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Inside the Detroit Police Department's crime intelligence center Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Roughly 10 times a year, he said, the city plans scenario-based exercises — including full-scale simulations that can last a day or two — to train for critical incidents. What they’re preparing for is any mass casualty event that demands an organized effort between a cross-section of responders, including Detroit police and fire, EMS, Michigan State Police, FBI and hospitals. Sometimes other city departments are involved.

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Typically, the scenarios include an active-shooter component. They have also addressed the possibility of mass casualties caused by bombs. Training exercises have been specific to places that draw crowds, including sports venues and city buildings. Officials said they have assessed major venues and events for vulnerabilities. Social media is monitored routinely for potential threats.

Detroit officials would not share copies of the city's response plans that have been developed, saying releasing such details could endanger the public by providing information to potential attackers.

But police officials made clear that the top priority in an active shooter situation is to eliminate the threat. Detroit Police Assistant Chief David LeValley said the department’s officers are trained to enter buildings if needed. He referenced the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last year, when a sheriff’s deputy serving as a school resource officer stayed outside while teens inside were being killed. The former deputy is now facing criminal charges.

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“Our protocol is that you go in,” LeValley said. “You want as few people to be injured as possible.”

The fastest response is sometimes determined by where the shooter chooses to carry out an attack. An active shooter will always be a high priority run for cops, but their deployment in areas with robust nightlife or events that draw crowds can mean a response in seconds.

In Dayton, police shot and killed Connor Betts, who had killed nine people in a busy entertainment district, 32 seconds after Betts began shooting. The response, considered to be remarkably fast, was attributed to the focused patrols in the area.

LeValley likened the area of the Dayton shooting to Detroit’s Greektown, where restaurants, bars and a casino draw large numbers of visitors. He said officers are routinely deployed in that area, where police have rapidly responded to incidents, including shootings.

The police presence in downtown Detroit also benefits the area's other gathering spots, like Campus Martius and the Riverfront, when it comes to emergency response. Police would not say exactly how many officers patrol downtown on any given day.

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“If there was an incident that occurred similar to Dayton here, you know, those officers downtown would be there within seconds,” LeValley said, “and it’s just a matter of the incident occurring at a location where we have heavy staffing of police officers.”

On top of the routine downtown patrols, police are deployed during the hundreds of events held in the city each year — from sports games and music festivals to races and the annual fireworks show.

“We’re hopeful that nothing like this ever occurs here,” LeValley said, “but we’re certainly prepared in case it does.”

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The hospitals are, too.

Officials at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Detroit Receiving Hospital said they practice for an influx of critically injured patients. Injuries are likely to be to extremities and would require hemorrhage control and possibly surgery, officials said.

Dr. Jerry Stassinopoulos, a trauma surgeon at Henry Ford Hospital, said an event like a mass shooting can put a strain on the amount of blood available for transfusions. In El Paso, a local hospital that typically goes through about a dozen units of blood a day used more than 100 on 14 patients from the shooting at a Walmart on Aug. 3, according to The Washington Post.

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"That should illustrate just how much these patients bleed and the pure strain they can put on a blood bank on a moment's notice," Stassinopoulos said. "It comes down to communication and just being prepared. We do practice these drills as a Level 1 center. We are capable of taking these patients."

Dr. Stefanie Wise, director of EMS and emergency management at Detroit Receiving, said victims of a mass shooting could be distributed across the area's hospitals. Though active shooter scenarios are part of the organized training exercises, Wise said the hospital is prepared for any major incident, such as car accidents and apartment fires.

"The plan itself sticks to an all-hazards approach, so that it doesn't matter what gave us multiple victims," she said. "We have the mindset and we have the training to improvise on the spot, develop a plan immediately and address it — whatever it is."

Thwarting potential attackers

Beyond being prepared to respond, local and federal authorities say they work daily to identify potential threats before they become a reality.

LeValley said the department has a counterterrorism threat assessment team at its crime intelligence center working 24 hours a day monitoring social media for red flags. The analysts, for example, would monitor web postings about an upcoming event, looking for any comments that could be considered threatening.

Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?© Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press A crime analyst looks over several different surveillance cameras positioned around Detroit in the police department's crime intelligence center.

The FBI has its own outfit to monitor potential threats in the Detroit area.

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Devin Kowalski, a supervisory special agent with the FBI overseeing one of the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force’s squads, said the agency’s national threat operations center receives hundreds of thousands of tips each year. His squad in Detroit handles threat response, domestic terrorism and weapons of mass destruction investigations.

Kowalski said the Joint Terrorism Task Force was reorganized in January, in response to the shooting at the high school in Parkland. A threat response unit was created in Detroit, he said, consolidating efforts that were previously spread across several squads.

The FBI's threat response unit is on the lookout for indications a person is on a path to violence. The FBI has documented nearly 50 such indicators, including surveillance of potential targets and attempting to radicalize family members.

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Earlier this month, an 18-year-old in Ohio who had been posting violence-fueled messages in an online forum was arrested and charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer. The FBI started investigating the man's posts in February. In June, during an online discussion about the 1993 siege of a compound in Waco, Texas, the man, according to the court filing, wrote: "In conclusion, shoot every federal agent on sight."

Investigators found about 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a gun vault containing several firearms, including AR-15-style rifles and shotguns, at the house where he was living with his dad.

Authorities also arrested three men in Connecticut, Florida and Ohio this month after each made threats about mass shootings that were reported to law enforcement, according to USA Today.

Because questionable behaviors often are carried out online, the FBI is trying to educate the public about risk indicators so people are more likely to pass along a tip if they see something suspicious.

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Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?© Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press Mallory Crow, a consultant, works in the traffic management center at the Detroit Police Department crime intelligence center.

Kowalski said a sudden change in a person's behavior — such as obsessing over firearms or an increase in substance abuse — can be a warning sign.

"We rely on credible information from members of the public to help identify these individuals because, oftentimes, they spend the majority of their life in a virtual world and a world in which it's very difficult sometimes for us to see,” he said.

LeValley said Detroit police frequently make contact with people who write alarming social media posts. That contact may be a deterrent.

“I think just the fact that we do make contact," he said, "certainly makes them aware that we’re watching."

False alarms teach lessons

A suspected active shooter incident in March taught University of Michigan police that their communication with the public and other agencies could be better.

Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?
Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?

Police agencies in Washtenaw County responded as if there was an active shooter on campus March 16 after several people reported shots fired in the area of Mason Hall. It was later determined a sorority popping balloons sparked the scare.

U-M police considered its response to the purported threat a success. But lessons were learned about communicating with the public.

Other police agencies assisting U-M informed the public that the incident was a false alarm before university police made that determination, said U-M Deputy Police Chief and Public Information Officer Melissa Overton.

Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?© Melanie Maxwell, Detroit Free Press Law enforcement from multiple agencies respond to an alleged active shooter situation at the University of Michigan near the Diag in Ann Arbor on Sat., March 16, 2019.

Read: False active shooter reports spark high tension at University of Michigan

More:Sorority apologizes for balloon popping that prompted false active shooter alarm at U-M

Law enforcement agencies throughout the county are meeting to find ways to ensure the agency with jurisdiction controls the messaging, she said.

“We are working on coordinating that a little bit better," Overton said. "Just making sure that we are pushing out the most accurate information and that other agencies will be able to share that as well and that people aren’t, you know, waiting, and just sitting there waiting for information.”

The university also is expanding notifications from voice, text and email to also include desktop computer warnings and alert systems to be installed in specific locations. Overton said the new system would help alert the community faster.

Although it turned out to be a false alarm, the incident on U-M's campus is the most recent demonstration in southeast Michigan of how police could respond to an active shooter.

Eyes on Dearborn

In Dearborn, police have rapid deployment teams patrolling 24 hours a day and a new dispatch center that has improved communication. With its large Arab-American population, Dearborn has been a target of anti-Muslim protests.

"Obviously with some of the bigoted climate that we see in our country, we're very sensitive to that and we keep a close eye out for that," Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said. "Sometimes people will lash out with hate, with anger and we have to be mindful of that."

Haddad said training and preparedness are the greatest assets for keeping a community safe. It's also important that police have a good relationship with residents.

Recent events have convinced Haddad that such an attack somewhere in the state may be inevitable.

"There's so many (shootings) now, it becomes a question of when," he said. "Somewhere in our community, in our state, it'll happen."

Contact Joe Guillen at 313-222-6678 or [email protected]

Contact Gina Kaufman at 313-223-4526 or [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Dayton, El Paso shootings: Is Detroit prepared for similar crisis?

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