In a small Iona auditorium on a chilly Thursday afternoon, law enforcement from around the Lower Hudson Valley gathered to learn how they can—hopefully—proactively avert the next mass shooting.
Lt. Dan Marcou, a retired, lifelong police officer who ran security detail with four presidents, delivered a seminar titled, “The Five Phases of the Active Shooter” at the New Rochelle college campus. The lesson educated officers on how to identify possible acts of mass murder before they come to fruition.
“We do not have to wait for the battle,” Marcou said. "There are things we can do to prevent the shooting. If you intervene in the early stages, no one dies."
The timing of the lecture was accidental, but relevant—the seminar was booked before the tragedy in Newtown, CT, where 20 children and 6 adults were slain by a lone gunman.
Marcou outlined the five periods shooters experience before embarking on their rampage: the fantasy, planning, preparation, approach and implementation stages.
These stages apply to a slate of infamous shootings, Marcou said, from the Texas Bell Tower killings in the ‘60s to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Other grisly details are uniform, as well.
“The shooters tend to dress up,” Marcou added. “[It] adds to the terror.”
Marcou stressed the importance of taking action during the initial stages—fantasy and planning—through an “effective, efficient” act of courage.
In these cases, courage isn’t approaching the gunman while he’s armed—it’s approaching the shooter well before, but after red flags have emerged.
“They tell people days before, weeks before,” Marcou said.
Marcou also offered advice to authorities who may be forced to deal with shooters in the final stage, delving into tactical maneuvers and weapon choices should the situation ever occur.
"[The shooters] don’t stop until they are caught, run out of ammunition or are cornered by an honorable gun fighter,” Marcou said.
And though discussion of late has turned to the Second Amendment and gun privacy in the United States, Marcou said mass shootings are not uniquely American—and span countries and continents.
“Mass killing is a worldwide phenomenon,” he said, pinpointing incidents in India and Norway, Canada and China.
Still, when it came to the polemic nature of debates raging here in the Lower Hudson Valley and beyond, Marcou was laconic.
“I have my opinion, [but] I’ll keep it to myself,” he said.