Confronting the Next “Columbine Massacre” in Our Backyard

Local Active Shooting Training Program Draws Sell-Out Crowd

Trevor Phipps

Most people only hear about the fear and chaos created during an active shooter situation from victim recounts seen on the news, with many asserting that “this won’t happen to me,” or “this can’t happen in Teller County or Woodland Park.”

Think again.

The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) recently reported that active shooter incidents are on the rise nationwide prompting many to seek out education on how to be prepared.

This growing concern has infiltrated Teller County.

During a recent seminar put on by the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, a highly publicized active shooter presentation drew a crowd of more than 100 people to learn how to best handle a terrorizing situation that could ultimately involve multiple casualties. In the past, the same session had a much smaller turnout, but that was not the case this year, forcing the chamber of commerce to turn some people away.


The event was hosted by Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler who used his 30-plus years of law enforcement experience to give the residents attending the knowledge they need to survive a terrifying situation. Deisler was joined by the police department’s training officer, Isaac Petterson, who led much of the discussion about exactly what to do when a person is involved in an incident involving firearms.


The presentation started with Petterson telling the crowd about some basics of self-defense, including being aware of surroundings and looking for any behavior that seems out of place. He also stressed the importance of knowing where all of the exits in the building are (especially ones different than the entrance) and listening to a “gut feeling” that may arise when danger is present.


Deisler said that he has always personally taught his wife and daughter to look for exits inside a building, besides the door they entered. “Get out of the mindset that the exit is the front door,” the police chief said. “If the shooter walks in from the front where is he going to shoot from? Think outside the box, break to the back of the store.”


Petterson then gave a brief history about several of the major mass shootings that have occurred in the U.S. since the University of Texas Tower Shooting. This resulted in the death of 15 people in 1966. He then debunked the myth that “It couldn’t happen here,” giving examples of shootings in small towns, including the infamous mass shootings that took place in Colorado, such as the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre and the Aurora Theater shooting in 2012.


Run, Hide and Fight!


The two veteran law enforcement officers then got into detail about what someone should do if they find themselves in an active shooter situation. They also showed a video produced by the FBI, visually depicting the best actions to take (listed in priority by the safest) in an active shooter event.


According to the local police officers and the FBI video, the best step to take if a shooter enters a building is to run away from them and find an exit (if indoors) as soon as possible. Once outside of the building, warn other people to not enter and hold hands up high if police are present outside.


The next best action to take, if running isn’t a possibility, is to hide. The FBI video shows men inside a restaurant hiding behind the bar because running would cause the shooter to see them.


And then if an encounter with the shooter becomes unavoidable and it isn’t possible to run or hide, experts suggest to fight. According to Officer Petterson, the fight step is the hardest to train because people have to give themselves (and their children) consent to be violent and harm others if needed to protect themselves, in a world that constantly promotes kindness to others.


“Don’t just sit there!” Petterson reiterated. “It is ok for you to do something. It is ok for you or several of you to hurt someone. It is ok to throw a book at their face or a chair. Do it and do it mean! A 225-pound man can’t hold a house cat if that house cat doesn’t want to be held.”


He also stressed to the crowd the importance of having a family password. Every family should have a special word to use to signal danger to their family members.


At the end of the presentation the police chief and training officer fielded questions from the audience and took time to talk with people individually. One question regarding a possible local scenario dealt with actions to take, for example, if someone starts shooting outside a public place, such as Woodland Park’s Memorial Park.


The police chief said that running and getting as far away from the shooter is the best option. Officer Petterson said that although shootings mostly happen indoors, so the shooter can trap people inside, the best action is to move to a place that is more solid than a trash can, and that can provide cover like a vehicle.

Overall, the chief reiterated the fact that it is best to call the police if anything looks suspicious before a shooting breaks out. If shots do get fired, then get as far away as possible, then call or text “911.”