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Police training expert shares active shooter protocol when multiple people are armed

Arvada Police Department
Posted at 8:14 AM, Jun 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-24 10:17:17-04

ARVADA— On Wednesday, three reliable sources confirmed to Denver7 Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski that an officer’s bullet killed John Hurley, the Good Samaritan involved in the Olde Town shooting on Monday, raising questions about how officers should respond to an active shooter scene when multiple people are armed.

On Monday, dispatch received a 911 call for a suspicious incident near the Arvada Library. Veteran Officer Gordon Beesley responded to the scene around 1:15 p.m.

Bill Troyanos was working at the Arvada Army Navy Surplus when he heard gunshots outside. Hurley and Jeremy Weist, two customers, were inside the store. Troyanos says they both turned on their heels when they heard the gunshots. He said he vividly remembers Hurley head towards the shooter with his gun in hand, he said. Weist said he ran for cover outside and saw Officer Beesley hit the ground. Troyanos said he witnessed Hurley confront and shoot the gunman.

Fifteen minutes after the initial 911 call, the department received a call for shots fired and that an officer was shot.

READ MORE: How to help victims of the Olde Town Arvada shooting

Responding to an active shooter situation where multiple people are armed can make it difficult for officers to distinguish the good guy from the bad guy, said Mylan Masson, a former director of the police training program at Hennepin Technical College. She also served on the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and training board for more than 20 years. Her expertise was used to analyze video of police force used in the high-profile case of George Floyd, a man who died at the hands of a Minnesota police officer.

Masson said officers sometimes respond to a scene with limited information.

“They may not have been updated as to the fact that the citizen who helped them out,” Masson said.

She said officers are trained to take cover when they arrive to an active shooter situation so they can give commands from a location that provides some protection. But she added that officers must change tactics in open spaces like Olde Town Square and prioritize gaining control of any weapon that may pose a threat to help secure the scene.

“They are going to command the person to put the gun down,” Masson said.

She said where the gun is held plays a vital role in how police officers react.

If Hurley was holding the gun with his hands in the air, officers must quickly assess if he plans to actually lower the gun or point it at officers, she said. She added that various situations could also arise, like the Good Samaritan potentially not understanding police commands.

“If that Good Samaritan didn’t put the gun down and came towards the officers then that’s where some confusion could come in and that’s where the officers may shoot,” Masson said.

In tense situations, Masson said officers must make a decision in a matter of seconds.

“Maybe five seconds, but you know, sometimes you have to make that decision to shoot in 1.5 seconds,” Masson said.

There are two ongoing investigations into the shooting to determine what happened.

In a statement, the Arvada Police Department said they will not confirm that Hurley was shot by a police officer until the investigations are complete.

At this point, it’s not clear what situation officers found at the scene, if Hurley was holding his weapon when they arrived, and if officers follow protocol.

Taylor Rhodes, the executive director with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, said people who carry a concealed gun or open carry are trained to holster their weapon once the threat is over. He said it’s also vital for 911 callers to provide dispatch with an accurate description of the Good Samaritan to help eliminate any confusion when police respond to the scene.

"The gun community is not one to go out and say, 'Hey, we just want to kill for killing,'” Rhodes said. “That's not us. We want to protect. We want to protect ourselves, we want to protect our families, we want to protect our friends and our community. I think that's what this great hero did."

On Wednesday, the Arvada Police Department tweeted that they want to be as transparent as possible and said they still need to complete all of their witness interviews and are waiting on forensic evidence before releasing any more information.

While little is known about the encounter between Arvada police officers and Hurley, the police chief hailed Hurley a hero on Tuesday during a press conference, adding that he likely saved others' lives.