When a gunman menaced a small Seattle college, a student pepper-sprayed the attacker, ending his rampage. Police say his actions probably saved lives.
When an armed couple who had already killed two police officers entered a Las Vegas Wal-Mart, a shopper with a concealed weapon tried to confront them and got killed. Police say he died "trying to protect others."
And when an Oregon high school student fatally shot a classmate and wounded a teacher, the teacher made his way to an office and alerted officials. Police say he most likely prevented additional deaths.
These scenarios, which all unfolded over the past week, demonstrate the risky and potentially life-saving decisions faced by anyone in the path of an active shooter. At a time when shootings seem to happen almost daily, The Associated Press asked experts: How should Americans react if someone opens fire at work, at school or at a theater or store?
Q: WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE DO IN AN ACTIVE-SHOOTER SITUATION?
A: Bo Mitchell, president of 911 Consulting, tells his clients that their first goal is to run away. "If you see this happening far enough away from you that you don't have to be part of it, we want you to run," Mitchell said. If that's impossible, he advises hiding in a room and locking the door. "Find a place that you can close up and barricade so a guy with a gun can't come after you."
Fighting back is a last resort. "You want to act with speed and total surprise, and you want to get a fire extinguisher or a pair of scissors or a chair and go after that guy because you have no other choice."
The Department of Homeland Security also suggests fighting back, but only as a final option. "Act with aggression. Improvise weapons. Disarm him. And commit to taking the shooter down, no matter what," the department advises in an online video.
Q: HAS THAT ADVICE CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS?
A: No, Mitchell says. "The threat defines the response. These kinds of threats have been going on for a century or more, but the number of events is going up and that's troubling," he said.
In each of the recent cases, people had to make swift choices about their own safety and protecting others around them.
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