Active Shooter: America Under Fire is a 2017 SHOWTIME series of eight one-hour episodes covering the most serious and disturbing mass shootings in the United States.
10 out of 10 stars. Well done.
Episode 1. Aurora, Colorado. Jul 20, 2012. Century Theater Shooting.
On July 20, 2012, at the Century Theaters in Aurora, Colorado, The Dark Knight Rises was having its opening night.
- At 11:55 pm theater 9 was full with 350 people.
- At 12:17 am, the shooter leaves the theater through the back door, props open the door, and goes to his vehicle parked behind the theater. He gets into full protective tactical gear and loads up his weapons.
- At 12:38 am the shooter goes back into the theater, throws in tear gas, and begins shooting.
- At 12:39 am the first call is made to 9-1-1 that there’s a shooting at the Century Theaters in Aurora.
- At 12:40 am the shooter’s gun jams for two minutes, giving people a chance to run and get away. Many are too injured to move including a female victim whose left side has been eviscerated and her organs are outside of her body.
- At 12:43 am the shooter switches to his handgun.
- At 12:43 am the cops arrive.
- At 12:45 am the shooter leaves the theater through the back and is immediately apprehended by police officers stationed at the back of the theater.
- At 12:49 am the police have moved the most severe victims to the back of the theater awaiting the ambulances, but the 20 ambulances sent to the theater are all trapped in the front of the theater and surrounded by 1100 people who fled the theaters and their vehicles. Now the police being taking the victims in their police cars to neighboring hospitals making multiple trips. Victims who can walk are helped to the ambulances in front of the theater.
Of the 70 people shot, 10 were dead in the theater killed almost instantly, 2 died en route to the hospital, and the rest survived due to the care and swift actions of the Aurora Police Department. In particular, Lt. Redfearn organized the police to transport victims to the surrounding hospitals being careful to send 8-9 victims to each hospital so they would receive immediate care. The police transported 27 victims, the most seriously wounded, to the hospital. The ambulances transported 20 victims to the hospital.
The shooter was a young white male named James Holmes who took a lot of selfies and claimed he thought killing people would give him points like a video game, one point for each person he killed.
From the first call to 9-1-1 until the shooter was arrested, only 6 minutes elapsed. The rapid response of the Aurora Police Department saved hundreds of lives.
On August 26, 2016 the shooter was convicted and sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus an addition 3,318 years. It took twenty-five minutes for the judge to cite the shooter’s sentence.
This shooting, as sad as it was, should be a model for how police should respond to a mass shooting.
Episode 2. San Bernardino, California. Dec 2, 2015. IRC Conference Center Shooting.
On December 2, 2015 the IRC has its regular staff meeting.
- At 10:35 am one of the staff, Syed Farook, gets a phone call, frowns, and leaves the building. He dresses in black and comes back inside and begins shooting. Syed sprays bullets from one side of the room to the middle before he runs out of bullets and has to reload. His wife comes in and begins shooting with him.
- At 11:06 am the first police officer arrives and refuses to go inside. He calls for help and requests an additional three officers. He never goes inside. In fact, it isn’t until Syed and his wife exit the building, get in a black SUV, and drive away that the police enter the building to assess casualties.
Thirty-six people are shot. Most of those who died would’ve been saved if the police officers had followed active shooter protocols and immediately entered the building to take down the shooters. They wasted valuable time trying to get organized and waiting for more and more backup.
When survivors and victims who are able to walk exit the building, the police make them stop and hold up their hands, searching them for weapons as they stand there. The 9-1-1 phone calls made from victims inside as the cops were waiting outside are heart-wrenching to listen to. The 9-1-1 dispatcher was unfeeling, uncaring, rude, and refused to listen to what the callers were saying.
The ineptitude of the San Bernardino Police Department in this shooting was staggering.
As Syed and his wife flee the area, they head toward their home town of Redlands. They are spotted by a Redlands resident who notices their erratic driving. He notes the license plate and calls it in to 9-1-1. The car is traced to Syed Farook, the suspect in the shooting, and the police corner the vehicle on a city street and begin a shootout in Redlands, California.
- At 3:09 pm Syed Farook stops his SUV on a Redlands, California street and begins a shootout between he and his wife against the Redlands Police Department. Eventually both he and his wife are killed.
Fourteen people died and twenty-two were seriously injured.
After the shooting they discovered there was a history of terrorist behavior by both Syed and his wife who had pledged their support on FaceBook to a known terrorist.
Episode 3. Charleston, South Carolina. Jun 17, 2015. Mother Emanuel Church Shooting.
On June 17, 2015 the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston held its Sunday evening bible study group.
- At 9:05 pm a young while male walks into the church and joins the bible study group downstairs. He sits quietly until the end of the bible group meeting at which time everyone bows their head and closes their eyes as the Pastor says their closing prayer. There are twelve people in the room plus the shooter. As soon as everyone’s eyes are closed, he begins shooting. Among the nine victims is Senator Pinckney, who was the pastor of the church.
On June 18, 2015 in Shelby, North Carolina someone sees the image of Dylan Roof on the news and recognizes him as the shooter at Mother Emanuel Church.
- At 10:44 am the police spot Dylan Roof’s vehicle and pull him over. He is immediately arrested and confesses to being the Mother Emanuel Church shooter.
As the three survivors describe in detail what Dylan did, it becomes clear that he intended on killing everyone except for one woman who he intentionally left alive to “tell the tale”. What he didn’t realize was that a woman and her granddaughter were pretending to be dead and covered in blood. They were not shot and survived.
Among the belongings in Dylan Roof’s home they find pictures of himself standing with a Confederate flag and white supremacist symbols on his clothes. He had applied for his weapons and waited the three day background check. Two weeks AFTER the shooting the state declined his gun permit, but by then he already had the guns. If the waiting period for the background check had been 3 months rather than 3 weeks, he never would’ve been able to purchase the guns used in this shooting.
Dylan was convicted and sentenced to death. As a result of this shooting, the Confederate flag was removed from the state capitol building.
Episode 4. Washington D.C. Sep 16, 2013. Navy Shipyard Shooting.
On September 16, 2013, the employees who worked at Building 197 in the Naval Shipyard showed up for work. Among them was Aaron Alexis, a contractor with a secret security clearance.
- At 7:53 am the shooter enters Building 197 and goes to the fourth floor.
- At 8:14 am he begins shooting.
- At 8:20 am the cops arrive, but the gates are locked and no one can find building 197. The buildings are not numbered in order and building 197 is next to building 5.
The first cop on the scene is a park officer. The second is a SWAT officer in tactical gear. They both have active shooter training and go inside. By the time they entered the building and killed the shooter, he’d been shooting for 69 minutes and had killed 12 people and wounded numerous others.
It’s approximately 11 hours before police are able to evacuate shooting victims. One shooting victim and the employee helping her were evacuated from the roof by a police helicopter who just happened to see them by accident.
The shooter had a violent history including torturing the family dog, trying to shoot his neighbor by firing through the ceiling, and multiple arrests. He had told family, friends, coworkers, and superiors in the military that he heard voices in his head and they told him to do things. Even with this history he was granted a security clearance.
He entered Building 197 with a sawed off shotgun that put massive holes through his victims.
Episode 5. Orlando, Florida. Jun 12, 2016. Pulse Nightclub Shooting.
On June 12, 2016 the Pulse Nightclub opened as usual. It’s an LGBT nightclub filled with mostly gay men in their twenties. There are three dance floors, including one with a DJ, and lots of music.
- At 1:19 am the shooter approaches the security guard and asks him where the girls are.
- At 2:02 am as the club is about to close the shooter begins shooting on the main dance floor. He shoots basically everyone then moves to the side dance floor. He walks up to each person and shoots them at point blank range.
- At 2:15 am the police arrive but they do NOT go inside. They stop fleeing victims, make them raise their hands in the air, and physically search them. The shooter stops shooting.
- At 2:21 am the shooter has moved into the womens bathroom with several injured women and is waiting for the police to enter the club. Several of the women in the bathroom with the shooter call 9-1-1 and tell them the shooter is in there with them. The 9-1-1 dispatcher is rude, offers them no comfort, and hangs up on them. The police still do NOT enter the club.
- At 4:26 am victims trapped inside the club are still calling 9-1-1 begging for help. The dispatcher ignores them, tells them to calm down, and hangs up on them. The police eventually come inside when they are told the shooter is putting bomb vests on the women in the women’s bathroom with the intent of blowing up the block.
What was very obvious from this episode was that the Orlando Police Department didn’t care about the victims in this club. There are videos of fleeing victims being manhandled and harassed by the police and there are voice recordings of the numerous calls to 9-1-1. When an an entire police force and dispatcher ignore dying people and leave them to die rather than doing the jobs they are paid to do, something is seriously wrong.
The only reason the police finally entered the club and took down the shooter, a homophobic Muslim man, was because they feared a bomb would go off and kill them. The shooter was shot eight times and died instantly.
Of the 102 victims shot that night 49 died and 53 survived. The death count was high because of the large number of wounded left in the club to die by the Orlando Police Department. The shooter was a 29 year old American born Muslim male born to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan.
Episode 6. Santa Monica, California. Jun 7, 2013. Santa Monica College Shooting.
On June 7, 2013, President Obama was visiting the city of Santa Monica, California. The city was aware of his visit and police were particularly alert.
- At 10:45 am the president is where he’s supposed to be.
- At 11:52 am at the corner of Yorkshire and Kansas Streets there are gunshots and a house on fire. A young white man comes out into the street and hijacks a blue hatchback and its driver. He shoots the driver behind the blue hatchback and the car takes off.
- At about 11:54 am while stopped at a stop light the shooter shoots at a bus behind them.
- At about 11:56 the shooter tells the car’s driver to drop him off at Santa Monica College and says she’s free to go. She gets out of her vehicle and runs away.
- At about 11:58 the shooter shoots an approaching vehicle killing the driver and his daughter. He then enters the library of Santa Monica College. He tells people he is the police but they are skeptical since he has no badge.
- At 12:05 pm police enter the library and kill the shooter.
The shooter is found to be 23 year old John Zawahri. It was the day before his 24th birthday. He started that day by killing his father and his older brother then setting the family home on fire. He left his mother a note that he hoped she would get money from his father’s estate and live a happy life because she deserved it. His mother was in Lebanon visiting family.
In September of 2006, seven years earlier, the shooter had threatened to kill other students in his high school. A police officer responded and spoke to the shooter who said he would kill his classmates. He was handcuffed and taken to a psychiatric facility then ordered to attend a treatment facility in Houston for one year. A year later he returned to Santa Monica.
He had 1500 rounds of ammunition. If the police had not killed him 13 minutes into his shooting spree he would’ve killed hundreds of students.
The shooter didn’t buy his weapons. He made them. He’d tried to buy weapons but he couldn’t pass the background check. So he ordered parts, including an unfinished receiver, and made the assault rifle himself.
Five people were killed including his dad, older brother, the groundskeeper of the college and his daughter, and one other.
Episode 7. Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Aug 5, 2012. Sikh Temple Shooting.
On August 5, 2012 the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin was busy with women cooking in the kitchen, kids playing out front, and men in the living quarters.
- At 10:22 am a white male comes up to the temple and shoots two men out front. Two children playing outside witness the murders and run inside to warn everyone. There are 13 women in the kitchen cooking. Along with the two children, they hide in the pantry. The children’s father, the head of the temple, goes down the hallway of the living quarters warning the men to hide. The shooter enters and immediately starts shooting men in the living quarters including the head of the temple.
- At 10:23 am the first police officer arrives, Lt. Brian Murphy. The shooter is standing outside of the pantry, about to open fire on the 15 women and children inside the pantry but sees the cop car and immediately rushes outside to shoot Murphy 15 times. Murphy keeps coming and coming at the shooter until the 15th bullet takes him down. But that has given other police officers valuable time to arrive. The second police officer shoots twice at the shooter. The second shot hits the shooter’s pelvis and he drops. Then the shooter shoots himself and dies.
- At 10:38 am Murphy is taken by ambulance to the hospital. The first shot was to his face, another bullet went into his voicebox, and two other bullets entered his head including one that almost hit his carotid artery.
The shooter is found to be Wade Michael Page, a Neo-Nazi white supremacist that was part of the Hammersmith Nation.
The hero here quite obviously is the police office Brian Murphy who immediately headed toward the shooter and engaged him. He took 15 bullets before he finally was unable to function. That gave the police precious time to arrive and shoot the shooter. Those 15 bullets would’ve been used to kill the 15 women and children in the pantry if Murphy had arrived even a minute later.
Episode 8. Littleton, Colorado. Apr 20, 1999. Columbine High School Shooting.
On April 20, 1999 Columbine High School was having a regular school day. Little did the staff or students know that two of their students had been planning a mass shooting for more than a year and were about to carry it out.
- At 11:14 am the two shooters put two propane tank bombs in the cafeteria set to explode at 11:17 am.
- At 11:19 am the two propane bombs still haven’t gone off and the two shooters gather their weapons and enter the cafeteria. Teacher Dave Sanders helps more than 100 students escape the cafeteria before he is shot.
- At about 11:30 am the two shooters go into the library and start shooting students. Before shooting each student, they make fun of them and bully them with guns to their heads. They shoot 32 students in the library then roam the school.
- At 11:44 am the two shooters return to the cafeteria and try to make the propane bombs explode. One of them sort of half explodes.
- At 12:00 pm the two shooters return to the library and look out the window at the parking lot. They’ve set two bombs in their two vehicles to explode at noon but they don’t go off.
- At 12:06 pm the cops enter the building and go door to door. There’s 200,000 square feet of space to cover.
- At 12:08 pm the two shooters shoot themselves.
- At 2:38 pm the cops reach the library where most of the victims are. Dave Sanders, along with several other victims, has bled to death while awaiting the police to come and save them.
During the 49 minute attack several students and at least one teacher were shot and left alive. But during the more than three hours it took the police to reach them, they bled to death. Thirteen died.
One of the most disturbing things about this tragic event is that the kids’ bodies were left in the school overnight. The police would not allow their families to see them or the bodies to be moved. If those had been the bodies of fallen police officers, no doubt they would’ve been taken care of promptly. The LIttleton Police Department was not prepared for a shooting of this magnitude, but they waited more than three hours before entering the school, precious time that was wasted and resulted in thirteen dead.
After the shooting, Columbine received a great deal of media attention that distorted and fabricated “facts” about the case. The shooters were not bullied. They were not part of the “Trenchcoat Mafia” which was a nerd group that did nothing but meet together and talk about nerd stuff. They were the bullies, often making fun of other students and insulting them. Eric Harris was a psychopath and Dylan Klebold was suicidal. They each had different reasons for carrying out the shooting. Both of them led active social lives and Klebold had attended the prom three days earlier. They weren’t hunting the “jocks” at school. The jocks always had off campus lunch and weren’t even at the school. They killed randomly, not with any “list”.
Harris and Klebold had a three act plan. Act 1 was to set off the two propane bombs in the cafeteria which would force students into the parking lot. Act 2 was them shooting the students as they rushed from the cafeteria. Act 3 was a shootout with the cops as their cards exploded in the parking lot. When the bombs didn’t explode as they had planned, the two shooters seemed confused and didn’t know what to do. They literally stopped shooting people and walked around doing nothing.
Because the media focused so much attention on the murderers at Columbine, mass shootings became a way for disturbed individuals to become famous in the United States. Now there’s a mass shooting every 19 days. More than 80 shootings were directly inspired by Columbine. Even the thwarted school shootings always find references in the planner’s materials to the Columbine shootings.
One of the victims of the Columbine shooting had said to his dad days before the shooting that there were loopholes in the Brady Bill that allowed unstable individuals to get guns. One of these loopholes was used to purchase the guns used in this shooting.
10 out of 10 stars. One of the best true crime series I’ve ever seen. Filled with facts, not fiction.