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Tactics Against Active Shooters

Strategies from the Tactical Professor, Claude Werner

Interview by Gila Hayes

Without judging a person who died trying to save others, it behooves us to learn what we can from incidents in which an armed citizen intervenes, and so the death of Joseph Wilcox, the man who died trying to stop the June 9th Las Vegas Walmart attack offers multiple lessons. Many armed citizens only get so far as to say, “I hope I would make better tactical decisions if faced with a similar situation.” Still, without guidance, the need to plan better responses to interdict an active shooter in a crowded, public venue never gets beyond recognizing that we are unprepared to deal with such a complex armed defense problem.

That’s why we were so pleased to find Claude Werner’s Internet blog at Tactical Professor (, in which he addresses specifics like “proactive positioning,” “cover” and “obstacles,” after he made scouting runs into a CiCi’s chain restaurant and a Walmart to round out his observations. Werner graciously agreed to answer questions about better tactics to survive an active shooter attack of the type perpetrated in Las Vegas. We’d like to share his ideas with as little filtering as possible to preserve the full impact of his message and knowledge, so let’s switch now to a Q & A format.

eJournal: Thank you for speaking with us, Claude. Your blog highlights lessons from two bad situations. In the first, two police officers were shot in a Las Vegas restaurant, and then an intervening armed citizen was murdered in a nearby Walmart store, when he did not recognize the female of the pair as a threat.

There’s much to discuss, so going in chronological order, how can we avoid falling prey to attack in the typical American fast food joint?

Werner: When people start talking about situational awareness, they don’t think through this clearly. At Cici’s, because it is a buffet, there is SO much movement. There is just no way to protect yourself. In many places, not only CiCi’s, for a potential target as is the uniformed police officer, there is just no “win.” It is unacceptable.

eJournal: Still, nearly everyone ends up in a crowded fast food place sometimes, so we need to know what we can use if there’s no cover and it’s so crowded that classic tactics are hard to apply.

Werner: Let’s talk about the idea of terrain analysis, a military concept taught in Army basic training. There’s a simple acronym: OCOKA—Observation, Cover and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain and Avenues of Approach and Egress. When we look at restaurants like CiCi’s, the restaurant fails that analysis on every single point. There are so many people moving around you can’t really observe, there is virtually no cover and concealment anywhere, you do have a fair amount of obstacles assuming you are sitting in an opposite row. There is no way to seize key terrain and there are very easy avenues of approach to you.

In contrast, then, there is an Arby’s right down the road from the CiCi’s that I went to check out that fulfills all those requirements. It is more spaced out, there’s maneuvering room, and there are places where you can sit from where you can tell if people are approaching you.