In the US it is rare for an active shooter to be stopped by a bystander
A spectator’s decision to shoot a man who opened fire on him Indiana Mall was a rare occurrence where someone entered to prevent multiple victims before police could arrive.
police on Monday commended the quick actions of 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken, an armed shopper who killed 20-year-old Jonathan Sapirman after Sapirman killed three people and wounded two others at a mall Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood.
“Many more people would have died last night if there hadn’t been a responsible armed citizen,” Police Chief Jim Ison said Monday, repeatedly calling Dicken a “good Samaritan” and his reaction “heroic.”
It is not usual for mass shootings to be stopped in this way. According to Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, between 2000 and 2021, less than 3% of the 433 active attacks in the US ended in a civilian recoil. The researchers define the attacks as one or more people targeting multiple people.
According to the center’s national data, recently cited by the New York Times, it was far more common for police or bystanders to overpower the attacker, or for police to kill the individual.
A quarter of the shootings saw the attacker leave the area, similar to the July 4 parade in Highland Park, Illinois, which killed seven people.
“There was this statement, ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’ That’s factually inaccurate because of the word ‘just’,” said Adam Lankford, a criminal justice expert at the University of Alabama who has written books and research papers on mass shootings.
Nonetheless, gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association, used this phrase on social media to draw attention to the events in Indiana.
Since July 1, Indiana has allowed anyone age 18 and older to carry a handgun in public, although private owners may ban firearms. The Greenwood Mall has a gun ban as per its Code of Conduct.
Gun Owners of America hopes the mall will reconsider saying gun-free zones create a false sense of security.
Greenwood Park Mall, owned by Simon Property Group, did not respond to a request for comment, but released a statement praising the first responders and the “heroic actions of the Good Samaritan who stopped the suspect.”
Lankford believes it would be a mistake to believe that armed civilians can be relied upon to stop mass shootings on a regular basis.
“While it’s certainly a good thing in this mall shooting that someone was able to stop it before it proceeded, we shouldn’t think we can substitute for that outcome in all past and future incidents,” Lankford said. “If everyone carries a gun, the risk of something bad happening just becomes that much greater.”
There were other examples of armed individuals defending large groups. In May, a woman fatally shot a man in Charleston, West Virginia, after he fired an AR-15 rifle into a crowd at an outdoor party. She was praised by police, not charged.
2017, Devin Patrick Kelley crashed his car and killed himself after bystanders, including one of the gunmen, chased him after he massacred 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
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