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Nashville Police Active Killer Response and Relevant Information

Nashville Covenant School Active Shooter

 On March 27th, a very emotionally deranged person drove to an elementary school and started shooting.  When everything was said and done, three young children and three older staff members were murdered.  The perpetrator was killed during a shootout with police.  This is a tragedy, there is no other way to think of this type of situation without immediately feeling empathy for those who lost family members, and for those young lives cut short.  This situation has a lot of information that was brought to the public very quickly, and a lot of it was in the form of video footage.  From this, a lot of questions have come up and it is important a lot of questions get answered, while some misconceptions get resolved.  The goal of this article is to resolve as many of these questions as possible through real-world experiences and inner understanding of LE policy.  

The above spliced-together video is from @officer__involved, and it shows the POS and the body camera footage of two responding officers who took down the POS.  Remember that remembering the name of these losers will only embolden future shooters.  Rather, it is best to remember the victims and the heroes of events like this.

nashville school shooting soft target active shooter glass broken doors

Schools are soft targets:

At around the 0:32 mark, you see the POS start shooting at glass entrance doors.  These doors did not have bulletproof glass, the glass sections in the doors were big enough for an average person to climb through.  This may look good from the outside, but for safety purposes are counterproductive.  If there is glass it should be small port windows, enough to see out of, but not climb through.  

At around the 1:01 mark, you see the POS walking around, you see the emergency lights flashing inside, and although there is not any sound you will learn that there is a loud alarm that is constantly going on.  Loud alarms and flashing lights do not offer any deterrence to a committed actor.  

At the 1:34 mark, you see the POS open a door, and simply go in, unobstructed.  These doors were all open, this is a huge issue.  Open doors allow for loss of life, just like in Uvalde.  All schools should strive to keep all doors locked at all times, the cost is irrelevant to the possibility of life lost.

At the 2:06 mark, you see the POS walking through a hallway with open doors.  At this point, with the information released, it is impossible to know if there were children in those rooms and what was going on inside those rooms.  It is a miracle this POS was not going door to door, room to room looking for victims.  

About 8 minutes:

From the time the original priority calls came out, it took about 8 minutes for responding officers to get on the scene.  This may be considered a long time for some people, however, it is very difficult to gauge the radio traffic without hearing the call dispatched.  There are a lot of fake calls, pranks or intentional "swatting" type calls that occur.  Many officers, especially veteran officers know not to just fly into these types of calls lights and sirens because they may be fake calls, yes even if there are a lot of calls for one situation.  This is the type of situation where having radio recordings would be very informative but we have to do with what we have right now.  The responding officers started heading in, and around the 2:20 mark, in the above video, officers arrived on the scene.

At the 2:35 mark, two officers are on scene, one has his rifle he is slinging up and a female employee of the school is providing them with information.  The fact this is happening is likely because there have not been recent gunshots, or else the average person would have been hiding.  This school also having a pre-laid out plan that they likely would have drilled several times a year, this employee gives them a master key to the school.

At the 2:50 mark, Officer Engelbert racks a round into his rifle.  This is likely because of the departmental policy to have their rifles stored unloaded without a round in the chamber.  

At the 3:02 mark, Officer Engelbert yells "give me three" this is likely from their internal department "active shooter" training that requires them to form some kind of "tactical T" or "tactical diamond" shape before entry. 

At the 3:21 mark, you hear another officer yell "one more" because they are waiting for enough officers before they make entry.  The female employee was giving the officers some information on locations within the school.

nashville metro police department officer engelbert

The Entry Team:

At 3:34 you see a uniformed officer with a helmet that has a face shield and a plate carrier.  These are likely "pool" type equipment given out at the beginning of the shift or constantly stored inside every police vehicle.  These are not personally purchased items, and they are almost always purchased by the department from the lowest possible bidder for the most possible uses.  So the same helmet with the face shield that is worn in the previous years' BLM riots are likely the same that are required to be worn, per policy, for active shooter situations.  That helmet may, or may not, be the correct size for that officer, every department has a different policy on this, and the majority of them do not allow for personally purchased helmets.  It is also impossible to know if that helmet is even armor rated, some are, some are not, though they look similar.

At 3:40 Officer Engelbert says "open door" and then squeezes the arm of the officer standing to his right, who has a shotgun deployed.  They begin clearing rooms on the first floor immediately upon entering the school.  This is important to understand, and something I will touch on further in this article.

At 4:03 Officer Engelbert says "door door, with me with me" as the two officers continue to clear rooms.

At 4:21 you see the uniformed officer with the helmet-visor combo standing in the doorway looking both ways, covering the two officers' backs.  Another topic I will touch on further in the article.

At 4:28 Officer Engelbert enters a large hallway area, he says "cover left" to the other officers, large areas like this are very dangerous, especially since only three officers are entering this space.

At 4:49 Officer Engelbert shines a light into a dark classroom and tries the door, it's locked, and he keeps moving forward, unless there is a clear and obvious threat inside that room, there is no reason to make entry into that specific room.

At around 4:59 Officer Englerbert can hear gunshots, they are muffled and he takes a moment's pause to listen.  He immediately begins to sprint to the sound of gunfire.

At 5:08 Officer Engelbert says something like "it's coming from upstairs" and opens the double door.  The officer with the helmet-visor combo was already in this area, waiting for the other officers to come in.  At 5:12 you can see the helmet-visor officer stand aside and let Officer Engelbert by him.  

At 5:16 Officer Engelbert enters the upstairs hallway without clearing it, meaning that he likely saw officers above him while he was in the stairwell, gunshots could be heard in the distance.

At 5:20 you can see a victim on the ground as Officer Engelbert runs by.

At 5:25 you can hear multiple gunshots getting louder, you can see several officers on location, none of them appear to be in uniform, but have plate carriers on.

At 5:30 you can hear someone say "push the LPVO" meaning the low-power variable optic mounted on an AR15, clearly talking about Officer Engelbert.

At 5:36 someone yells "reloading" or something like that.  It is either an officer making the statement that the POS is reloading or they were reloading, difficult to tell.

At 5:38 Officer Engelbert takes three shots at the POS, downing it.

At 5:43 you can hear an officer yell "watch out watch out and stop moving" then fire several rounds at the downed POS.

At 5:49 an officer yells "keep your hands away from the gun" because even if an active killer is shot, and down, does not mean they are neutralized.  All down active threats should be treated as a felony approach.

At 5:55 Officer Engelbert slings his rifle behind him.  This signifies that he does not believe there are other threats.

nashville metro police department officer collazo

The Second Entry Team:

At 6:03 Officer Collazo's body camera video begins.

At 6:17 Officer Collazo tries to make entry into a second-floor stairwell door, he says "locked door" and the four-man entry team turns around.  These are the type of situations that require entry tools, like the Jersey Claw.  Making an entry through locked doors during an active shooter situation should always be an option that is available for any entry team. 

At 6:23 Officer Collazo says "someone hold there" telling an officer to stay by that door, at this point, it is impossible to tell if that actually happened, but tactically the correct move.

At 6:35 this group of officers makes entry into the building and Officer Collazo says "rifle first", this is likely part of that department's training and policies on active shooter responses.  Rifle officers are to go first and make entry first during such responses.

At 6:45 you can see that the second group of officers, in a separate entry team catching up to the first group of officers.  You can also see that Officer Engelbert is in full uniform at around the 6:49 mark.

At 7:00 an officer says "it's locked" but the other door is open, would have been a serious snag if this door was locked as well, unknown if entry tools were available on hand with any of these officers.

At 7:12 faint gunshots can be heard, Officer Collazo says "stairs, go stairs" while holding in the doorway covering the officers who are making entry to the second floor.  Tactically the correct move, no one knows if there is one shooter, no one has confirmation of location on the shooter, and if no one stood to wait for the team(s) to move forward they may have set up a flanking ambush on themselves.

At 7:25 Officer Collazo says "keep pushing" and physically pushes an officer with an AR15 in front of him forward.

At 7:30 Officer Collazo says "shots fired" as they run down a long hallway, a pixelated body can be seen.  At this point in the police response, stopping for victims would be counter-productive to the resolution of the still very dangerous situation.  The fact is that they knew they had to get the POS neutralized before they could take any other actions.

At 7:37 the officers pause at a T-intersection, when they hear more gunshots Officer Collazo yells "right!"

At 7:45 Officer Collazo says "push the LPVO" and Officer Engelbert moves forward toward the sound of gunfire.

At 7:58 Officer Collazo says "watch out watch out" and fires several rounds at the downed POS.  

At 8:05 Officer Collazo yells "watch left" as he holds a radio to call out the information to responding officers.

Nashville Officer Collazo Training Fox News

The Response:

One question that has come up repeatedly is, why did it take 8 minutes for police to get to the location to stop the threat?  There are a few answers to this and they really have to do with a lot of various circumstances that unless you are an officer working that area listening to that radio band every single day for hours on end you may not know.  Most LEO's do not respond immediately to active shooter calls, this is because the overwhelming majority of them are prank calls, or "swatting" type incidents.  This has become such a problem in very large police departments that some actually have anti-swatting investigations units.  It really depends on how the initial 911 call was dispatched over that radio band, and if this particular school, or this particular area, has had previous incidents of false or prank calls for this same thing.  Then we have to consider the goings on in that area of Nashville in realtime.  Did they already have another crime scene that every other officer is at?  Is there something else really big going on, maybe a large crash, or a large fire that was holding up resources that would otherwise have been able to be dispatched to this school?  It is impossible to tell without knowing the above information.  No, an officer would generally not drop holding a crime scene, or processing an in-custody arrest to respond to any other situation, so without knowing what the staffing levels of that particular area of Nashville were at during that shift we cannot speculate on the what-if's on the response time.  What we do know is that two uniformed officers responded and came on scene, one of whom was Officer Engelbert, and several plainclothes officers.  Most often, in large departments, plainclothes officers are not dispatched to regular calls for service and are either working on some type of anti-crime/drug assignment or doing other investigations.  The fact you see plainclothes officers responding means they were available for such a response and close enough to drive into that area for a response.  The other considerations are that since Nashville is such a large area, officers from other areas within Nashville probably never heard the priority call be dispatched, and likely did not even know it was happening due to truncated radio dispatch channels.

Why did the officers immediately start clearing rooms when they got into the building and not run toward the gunfire or other areas inside the school where the shooter was last reported?

This goes back to the initial response and touches on the overall level of training for the officers responding.  It is impossible to tell if all the officers responding were on the same radio band, with that in mind any responding officer may be unwittingly walking into an ambush situation, as well as butting up against policy restrictions.  There is also the consideration that not every single officer is properly trained or has any level of training above that is mandated by their police department.  That is to say, probably the very lowest common denominator type training for several hours every year, or two.  Each individual officer has to follow whatever type of policy that their department has, that is why we see the officers call for more officers before going in, it is a policy requirement, otherwise, if they go in on their own and get shot or killed that department may state that they were outside of policy and limit any possible compensation for them (medically) or for their families (in death benefits), this is the same exact consider from Uvalde.  The only difference here is that the responding officers kept moving forward and did not get stuck with a barricaded suspect in a room.  The body camera videos clearly showed that Officer Engelbert and Collazo showed up to the call looking for work, ready for the fight, and did not stop putting pressure on the POS until the situation was resolved.  The goal of every single LEO when responding to an active killer call is to shrink the time between the initial call and the POS being neutralized, these officers did that, and they did so with very real-world applicable skillsets that they learned through training, and experience.  Their demeanor and aggressiveness are not something that any department training will have taught them, that comes from personal experience and personal development.  There was a clear difference between the officers who showed up looking for work and the officers who showed up because they had to follow policy, which is perfectly normal, and present in every police department in the country.

Without knowing for sure if other officers were inside the building first, and without knowing if they already did the clearance, which would be very difficult due to different radio bands, different policies/procedures for different departments that may be responding and different levels of skillsets (chalk, markers, tape, glow sticks, etc etc, etc) there is literally no way to know if a room has been cleared, if it should be skipped or if they should make entry into it.  The last thing any responding officer wants is to skip an open-door room without knowing if it was cleared, moving the entry team forward (the train) and then getting ambushed by the POS or a second POS who is in waiting.  Methodical movements and intentional clearance is important for those reason.  Also in the body camera the only time we heard gunfire is when the two entry teams combined and moved to the second floor.  If the responding officers went into the location and immediately heard gunfire they would have likely ran in that direction, but without that indicates there is no way to know where any of the actors may be.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

Gaps in skill levels:

The first entry team, with Officer Engelbert, had the helmet-visor officer with them, who literally stood in the doorways as Officer Engelbert and shotgun plainclothes officer cleared rooms, even then Officer Engelbert had to give commands on movement, direction, and situational awareness.  The fact that the helmet-visor officer literally stood in the door way in a major training deficit, he was not in and he was not out.  You either make an entry, or you do not.  CQB/room clearance training is something is extremely overlooked for the modern LEO, especially non-special unit, street officer.  This is huge issue that requires resolution.  The lack of CQB training is directly responsible for a myriad of issues within the profession, and the average department in the country does not care. There are companies like Orion Training Group, that do primarily CQB training, and social media pages like @ncswat, which offer great insight into modern law enforcement SWAT / CQB work.  There are professionals who literally wrote the book on CQB like Bill Rapier of amtachshooting.com that routinely teach police departments throughout the US these exact skillsets.  The point is, the resources are available, and out there, all that has to be done is scheduling them to come out and teaching your department.  If you are a citizen that wants your local department to have this top-tier training, you should make it a point to ask your department brass if their officers have this training.  

Helmet-visor officer also did not have a rifle or shotgun, but had a helmet (with a visor) and a plate carrier on, the other two officers had one of each.  There are many departments who do not allow for personally owned rifles or shotguns to be deployed on duty, those that do, allow officers to purchase and equip their rifles with their preferred setup.  This also means that when you see an officer responding to an active killer threat without a rifle that usually means they did not opt to purchase, or even request, a rifle for their patrol duties.  That usually goes hand-in-hand with a clear lack of training for these types of circumstances, which may also indicate a lack of willingness.  I am not saying the helmet-visor officer lacked training, he went in with the first entry team, and he clearly displayed a level of willingness and awareness that is commendable.  The gap is between the other responding officers, not just with equipment but with overall awareness of the issues that need to be understood in order to take on such an assignment and mitigate any safety concerns.

nashville metro police department officer engelbert deploying lpvo ar15

Indicative of a bigger training issue:

Street officers usually know who they work with and who in their daily patrol groups has any level of skill that can be applied to these types of circumstances.  With that in mind, we have to understand that not every single patrol officer, that is to say not every single officer that is currently in a police car driving around an area, can effectively respond to these types of situations.  The majority of patrol officers do not have any outside of their mandated department training.  They do not seek it out, they do not even burn reps of their mandated department training.  That usually means they will do the absolutely minimums to keep their yearly certification requirements and especially not carry any other equipment if it is optional.  The equipment an officer has at their disposal is directly proportionate to their level of competency and capability.   The obvious example here is lack of breaching tools to open the second floor door, not one of them even asked the question to see if anyone responding had a breaching tool of any kind, like the Jersey Claw.  This is also not a problem that will solve itself naturally because the vast majority of departments have policies that are developed by a top brass echochamber that will never be required to experience its limitations and shortcomings.  

For example, some departments do not allow LPVOs because they do not want their officers to think they are "snipers" while others will only allow 3x magnifier setups.  Some departments allow LPVOs but only 1-4x and nothing with more power because those who make the policy believe that officers will leave it on 4x, 6x or 8x and forget, then won't know to change the magnification before use.  Some departments only allow certain types of slings that do not work (like single points, or Vietnam style two points), while other departments do not even allow any type of light on their rifles, let alone on their duty pistols because they do not want officers using the WML to search homes or do traffic stops.  This is all extremely shortsighted and should be immediately challenged when brought up.  Top brass should always error on the side of allowing officers to be more capable, rather than less.  This is only possible with better equipment.  The majority of officers who would volunteer to purchase their own duty rifles, breaching tools, shields, and kit are the same officers who who would show up to these types of situations, first, ready to do work utilizing the outside department training they sought out on their own time and dime.  The top brass should want to cultivate this type of culture rather than completely remove it from ever taking hold.  

Policy does not matter when the chips are down:

The little secret of police department policies is that they are not written in stone, and are subject to the "reasonable" actions of any officer who finds themselves responding to any given situation.  Not all situations are the same and not all situations can have policies written for them.  No officer in the above video will ever be written up for being out of uniform, for being without a helmet or a plate carrier (Officer Engelbert did not have a helmet or plate carrier on even though policy likely states he is supposed to), this is where the credibility of the top brass who seek to limit the equipment, and by proxy training, choices of any officer who wants to carry possible non-policy equipment or optional equipment, crumbles.

Let's go through a what-if scenario (completely made up, this is NOT the case, but it's a good mental exercise) - Officer Engelbert responds to this situation, nothing changes from the video or his response, except that his rifle is completely out of policy, meaning no policy allows for personally owned, and LPVO outfitted, rifles.  He intentionally carried his own rifle, that he did not qualify with, and that he did not get approval for from his department, but he responded the same way and took down the active killer threat saving lives.  Would the top brass push for formal discipline against him?  Would they write him up?  Would they try to suspend him or get his fired?  Would there be any possible negative repercussions from his department if this was the hypothetical case?  A reasonable, and logical, person would say, "of course not, he's a hero! they should change the policy to reflect what he did because it obvious works".  But the fact of the matter is that in the average department within the US Officer Engelbert would not just be reprimanded he might even be fired for such a policy violation.  Yes, that is correct, I am not making this up.  They would give him a medal and then give him his pink slip, probably the same day.  If this is confusing to you then you do not understand how the average top brass thinks in the typical police department in the US.

every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves

Will departments change policy to allow for optional personally owned rifles or other equipment?

The departments who do not allow their officers to have personally owned rifles are usually the departments who are so regressive in their approach to training and equipment that they are solely concerned with liability (risk) aversion.  They are so scared of being sued, and then having to fight it in court, that they simply do not even step into the ring.  Theses are usually the same departments that do not allow optics for duty pistols, even though there is not one iota of data that speaks to the negatives of such equipment.  These are the same departments that refuse to allow WML for duty pistols.  The same departments who refuse to transfer officers who have applicable skill sets to special units, probably officers like Emgelbert who were likely turned down repeatedly for special assignments.  The same departments do not provide any type of less than lethal weapon other than tasers or spray.  These are the same departments that are almost always within large blue strongholds, and they are the same departments that are constantly struggling to hire officers.  All of these things have connections with each other, but the top brass do not care, and the citizens do not care as an extension of these choices.  Yet crime rates skyrocket, and none of the people in charge want to listen to the street officers who know what is going on.

Why the Nashville Body Camera Footage is Important:

In LE we have a handful of really important pieces of video that we can always go back to in order to see what was right, what was wrong, what looked good, bad or what we need to do to become better.  We must always be striving to become better, not just as a professionals, but as individual LEOs.  Bill Rapier and Tuhon Tom Kier give talks on this very topic, of being a professional at what you do, in its entirety, given your choice of profession.  This means you have to seek out be good at everything your job requires of you.  Then by the time you are in a senior position, you will be called upon to teach the next generation.  In the LE profession and industry, standards change with new threats, technologies, and experiences within the profession as a whole.  They changed after Columbine, they changed after the North Hollywood Shootout, they changed after George Floyd, and I believe that the body camera from Nashville will be another catalyst for change.  Unfortunately, change in the LE profession is slow, and sometimes incremental, unless it's pushed by the general public, and extremely forward-thinking top brass (unicorns?), like it was with body cameras.  If you are reading this and believe that any of these changes should be made in your particular department, be the catalyst that starts moving the needle forward.  Write the memos, talk to the brass, take them to the range and show them what works or does not work.  Bring skilled and experienced instructors out so that they can show those who make the decisions and policies what needs to be changed and why.