Surviving an active shooter - Laconia police advise public on how to handle a mass shooting

LACONIA — "We may like to think it will never happen here," Police Chief Chris Adams told some 50 people attending a class on how to react should they find themselves faced with an active shooter at the Laconia Public Library this week. "But, what if?

Adams explained that several years ago active shooter situations became an element of emergency preparedness in the department's strategic plan. Apart from training and equipping officers, he said the department has also sought to prepare citizens by offering classes at a number of workplaces. Following the shootings in San Bernardino, California, a class was offered to the general public, which was quickly oversubscribed, prompting the department to move it from the police station to the larger venue at the library and schedule a second class to accommodate the numbers.

Capt. Matt Canfield began by distinguishing active shooter situations from other confrontations with potential for violence. He described an active shooter as someone seeking to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, usually in a confined or crowded space. Unlike someone taking hostages in the course of committing a crime, active shooters are not open to reason or willing to negotiate and do not expect to survive. They often seek particular victims, but will take targets of opportunity while searching for them, and after finding them continue to kill and maim until they are stopped or take their own lives. Canfield stressed that these situations occur suddenly, develop rapidly and often end quickly.

In retrospect, Canfield said that active shooters frequently behave in ways that foreshadow their turn to violence. They may abuse alcohol or drugs, withdraw from others, undergo severe mood swings, or overreact to challenging circumstances. Indications of potential violence, he said, should be reported to the appropriate authorities. Likewise, he said that suspicious activity should be reported to the police, noting that after the shootings in San Bernardino neighbors admitted to concerns about the couple, but failed to report them.

Canfield said the tactics of law enforcement in active shooter situations changed following the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 when 13 were killed and 24 injured by a pair of heavily armed shooters, who took their own lives. There, he explained, the school was locked down and the perimeter secured while police waited the arrival of a SWAT team. The result was that the shooters were left to roam the building seeking more victims.

Today, Canfield said, the first officers on the scene, who are armed with rifles, advance in teams of two or four directly to the sound of gunfire with the sole intent of stopping the shooter as quickly as possible. Officers will pass over the wounded in their pursuit of the shooter. Everyone else should raise their hands and spread their fingers and follow the officers' instructions. Canfield stressed that because these situations are "chaotic," every effort should be made to stay calm and not add to the confusion.

For those finding themselves amid an active shooter shooter situation, Canfield said the best response is "Run-Hide-Fight." After showing a video developed by the Police Department in Houston, Texas, he said that the first step is to escape without delay, which requires being familiar with the surroundings and nearest exits. If escape is barred, the alternative is to hide, by locking or barricading a door or taking cover out of view and, above all, remaining silent. As a last resort, with life itself at stake, fight by seeking to distract and overcome the shooter, using anything at hand as a weapon. Canfield emphasized that lives can be saved by a determined group who outnumber a shooter.

Several people asked about how to respond if they were armed and found themselves confronted by an active shooter. Adams replied that citizens are entitled to use deadly force if they believe their well-being or lives are threatened.

Canfield cautioned that the presence of an armed citizen without appropriate training could further confuse what would likely be a chaotic situation.

"Carrying a gun without the training to use it," he said, "can be more dangerous than not carrying a gun at all."

The department is offering a second class on Tuesday, Jan. 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Laconia Public Library, for which they are few remaining spaces. To enroll, contact Cheryl DeTurk at the Laconia Police Department, 524-5257, extension 322.

Lily Pond ice fishers

GILFORD — Two ice fishermen who ventured out on Lily Pond in Gilford Tuesday said that the ice is already 4 to 5 inches thick.
Robert Dabbraccio of Northfield and Alex Delucca of Belmont were the first ice fishermen to try their luck on Lily Pond this year and had landed one pickerel between them by mid-afternoon.
“It’s mostly pickerel and perch in this pond,’’ said Dabbraccio.
The small pond next to Laconia Airport is the site of an annual kids fishing derby held by the Belknap County Sportsmen’s Association. This year the event will be held on March 6.
Dabbraccio said that they checked the ice carefully before venturing out on the pond to make sure that it was safe and, after drilling holes and setting their lines with tip-ups using smelt for bait, walked around the pond to check out the ice in other locations.
They said that Lily Pond is one of the first small ponds in the area to build up enough ice for safe fishing and that they’ll move on to other bodies of water when they are safe.
Dabbraccio, who works at Vista Foods in Laconia, said he likes to fish Webster Lake and checked it out over the weekend but that it wasn’t safe yet.
Delucca, who is seasonally employed at Four Daughters Landscaping in Northfield, said he usually fishes on Paugus Bay in Laconia.
Both of the men said that when they aren’t ice fishing this winter they plan to do lots of snowmobiling.
They said that they have fished in the Great Rotary Fishing Derby for the last six or seven years. Sponsored by the Meredith Rotary Club, the derby awards $50,000 in prizes each year and will be held Feb. 13 and 14.

Gilford School Board of ‘obfuscation, lying’ about default budget numbers

GILFORD — Gilford Budget Committee member Norman Silber last night accused the Gilford School Board of "obfuscation and lying" about the accuracy of the school default budget.
He made the comments at a public hearing on a proposed $2.24 million bond issue for repairs and maintenance at the Gilford Elementary School.
Silber said that he and his wife will vote against the proposed bond issue, citing "obfuscations," which means obscuring the intended meaning of a communication by making the message confusing or willfully ambiguous, at school board meetings.
He added that he intends to review videos of the last two school board meetings to see if public employees are lobbying to support the proposed bond issue and said that if he finds evidence he will take the matter to the New Hampshire Attorney General's office and ask for an investigation.
Silber said that there was "obfuscation and lying" to the elected officials of the budget committee in the school board's recent presentation of its default budget.
School board members did not reply to his allegations during the hearing. Other members of the budget committee present for the hearing did not express an opinion on Silver's allegations.
The budget committee voted 10-0 last week to support the proposed bond issue, which the school board voted 4-1 in favor of last Monday night.
Chris McDonough, the school board member who voted against the proposal, said he is opposed to doing the work at the present time and suggested that the school district wait until a major bond issue which the district will pay $1.1 million on this year is retired.
Budget Committee Chairman Kevin Leandro said the committee and the school district have been talking about the elementary school repairs and maintenance for several years, and in retrospect it might have been more prudent to have prepared for it.
"We have all seen this coming. We should have started a capital reserve fund five years ago," said Leandro.
Christine Lewis spoke in support of the bond issue, maintaining that putting it off would cost the district more in the long run.
"If we don't do it now, when will we do it?" she asked.
She also said that she thinks the school should be equipped with a sprinkler system, which is not part of the proposed package of repairs.
She said that the number of students in the school district is on the rise, a statement which was questioned by budget committee member David Horvath, who asked Superintendent of Schools Kent Hemingway for a history of enrollment numbers.
Hemingway said that 15 years ago the district had 1,555 students and that has dropped to 1,207 in the current school year.