CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On Monday night just after 6:30, shots rang out inside a busy Walmart in Huntersville. A 19-year-old was killed.
Witnesses told WBTV that they heard screaming, then several shots. Most people ran to the exits, some said they ran to the back of the store.
On Tuesday, Huntersville Police Lt. Tyler Medlin, a member of the department’s SWAT team, talked about the best ways for people to respond when caught in dangerous circumstances similar to one inside the Walmart.
“What we deal with with a shooter or active killing type event is the immediacy of action,” Lt. Medlin said. “People’s lack of planning, to be able to have a have plan for themselves or their family, and they just have to react on the spot, whether this was in the hospital for an apartment or in a place like Walmart.”
Medlin says that the Huntersville Police Department regularly offers classes on safety in public places, and urges everyone to develop some kind of plan or what they may do if confronted with such an ordeal.
“People have to be able to understand that there’s gonna be some physical reactions that they have to be able to process,” Medlin added. “Having a plan in place before hand allows them to have a safety guideline they’re able to implement immediately.”
Medlin says there are certain routines or behaviors that are typically followed in active shooter situations.
“When an event like this takes place, what we talk about is that the first thing people do to in any type of event like this, and we saw this last night at Walmart, people say ‘oh that’s firecrackers,’ and the reality is that should firecrackers be going off in the Walmart? No, there should not be gunshots either, but the thing is you spend your time looking around, see what everybody else is doing, how are the people reacting, and you get into that loop of what everybody should be doing versus acting, which means leaving the area immediately.”
Denial is a life-threatening reaction, according to Medlin.
“So we want people to be able to get through that denial and move to a deliberate understanding that this is truly going on and they need to have a plan before this takes place of how they want to react,” Medlin said.
That includes being aware of exits, fire escapes, and other avenues to get out of the situation.
“So we want people to have a deliberate plan of action to say I know that there are fire escapes, I know that they are back room exits, so I know that this is where I want to have my family meet up in the event that something like this takes place,” Medlin added. “Avoid, deny, and defend...they used to call that run, hide, fight, but it’s a deliberate action I can take to avoid an encounter.”
“First thing you need to do is avoid, be able to recognize the situation from the get-go and I need to avoid this situation and I have my family here, I have kids, I have maybe someone with special needs. If something doesn’t look right, you feel it in your gut, that gut feeling, take positive deliberate action to get yourself away from that.”
“If avoiding a situation is no longer possible, that we want you to be able to deny access, so whether that’s locking yourself in a room and barricading the door, turning off the lights, staying in a position where you cannot be seen, that’s the second step,” Medlin said. “We encourage people to be able to have a plan for that before hand because it’s really hard inside of a large store like a Walmart to hide anywhere, but if you thought hey, there are back rooms, offices, stuff like that where you might be able to barricade yourself, it is probably better option.”
The next and last step, Medlin says, is the confrontation with the shooter.
“The last kind of step is is the fight. Let’s not make this a fair fight, you know someone’s coming to take your life, at that point I say it’s anything goes,” Medlin said. “Whether it’s biting, scratching, 15 on one, that is this going to be whatever it takes.”
Medlin also mentioned that in such situations, people shouldn’t stop to try and shoot pictures or video. He says the most important thing is to get away from danger as quickly as possible."
“The first kind of goal that we have for you as the police department is for people to have a plan beforehand,” Medlin added.