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David Hines [userpic]

Alabama-Huntsville shooting tactical assessment

February 17th, 2010 (04:51 pm)
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The Associated Press interviewed associate biology professor Joseph Ng, and ABC News interviewed professor Debra Moriarity, both eyewitnesses (and, in Moriarity's case, the Big Damn Hero) to their colleague Amy Bishop's mass shooting at a University of Alabama Huntsville faculty meeting. Being a woman, Bishop is an atypical mass shooter, but her job worries and track record of instability aren't uncommon in such cases. The fact that she shot and killed her own brother in 1986, in what's looking increasingly like a deliberate crime that was covered up by her mother (in local politics) and the then chief of police (who personally interrupted her booking), is pretty alarming; I remember reading an article (which of course I can't find now) by one guy who had considered committing a workplace shooting in the distant past, decided against it, and went on to lead a productive life, but Bishop apparently started an ineffectual mass shooting, got an absolutely incredible second chance, and went on to commit multiple murders years later.

Ng describes an unusual scenario. A lot of mass shooters start out psyching themselves up -- they start outside their kill zone and come into it, and then start killing. Bishop did something less common; she went to the meeting as normal, but half an hour or so into it she produced a 9 mm pistol (make and model unknown) and began shooting. There were reportedly eleven (NEW YORK POST) or twelve (ABC NEWS) people, besides Bishop, in the room. She shot six of them at very close range, and went for headshots. Three died. Two were, at last report, in critical condition. One has been released from the hospital.

The other five people who were in the room dove to the floor, using the table as concealment. (Remember the difference between cover and concealment? Cover stops a bullet. Concealment doesn't.) Professor Debra Moriarity, reportedly Bishop's closest friend on campus, tried to crawl out of the room but was stopped by Bishop, who pointed the gun at Moriarity and pulled the trigger. The gun didn't fire. Moriarity recalls that Bishop pulled the trigger again, with the same result, which suggests a double-action or DA/SA semi-auto (a single-action, like a 1911, or striker-fired semi-auto, like a Glock, would have gone click once and required cocking or racking of the slide before the trigger could be pulled again). According to Ng, at this point Moriarity led the faculty in a rush that pushed the still-armed Bishop out the door. They then barricaded the door so Bishop couldn't get back in, and called for help. The barricade had been employed with varying degrees of success at VA Tech, and may have been especially effective here because Bishop's targets were people she knew -- with them out of reach, she had little desire to shoot anyone else, so dropped the gun in a bathroom and called her husband for a ride home.

Note what happened here: classic OODA Loop stuff. The faculty was not prepared for an armed assault, so had difficulty orienting themselves and deciding what to do -- but Bishop wasn't prepared for her gun to run dry, and apparently hadn't practiced clearing a malfunction, so she was thrown out of her own OODA Loop, which gave Moriarity and the faculty and opportunity to move against her.


Posted by: The long dark wet t-shirt contest of the soul. (tripoli)
Posted at: February 17th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)

I thought of you when I read that Moriarity interview this morning. (Er, that maybe makes me sound like a weirdo. I guess I should say that I thought of what you wrote about how to react to active shooters after Virginia Tech.) I feel like this story is just going to get more sad and unpleasant as more comes out, but Big Damn Hero is right.

Posted by: Stone of stumbling and rock of offense (wordweaverlynn)
Posted at: February 18th, 2010 07:25 am (UTC)

This is fascinating analysis. Thanks.

Posted by: HJ (hjcallipygian)
Posted at: February 18th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)

I really enjoy reading these tactical analyses of incidents. You hit a nice note between executive summary and detailed breakdown.

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