Katrina Murphy said she woke up Thursday and was shocked as she learned of a gunman’s late-night attack that occurred less than four miles from her alma mater, California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“Did I really hear Thousand Oaks?” Murphy thought.
Thousand Oaks “is the town of yesteryear,” Murphy said. “It’s a quaint town where the people are very kind and welcoming.”
“You don’t envision this thing, [for] the peacefulness to be shattered,” she said.
Late Wednesday night, a man opened fire in a California country-themed bar, killing 12 people, including a sheriff’s deputy who responded, before turning the .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol on himself.
Nearly 3,000 miles away in Howard County, police officers spent the morning discussing ways to respond to active-shooter situations and other emergencies at a session for residents, business owners and church workers.
Murphy was among the nearly 80 people at the presentation at Grace Community Church in Fulton, where Murphy is assistant to the director of adult ministries.
In the last two years, the country has seen the incidents arise at a more rapid rate, according to Officer Steven Mitzel, of the Howard police Department of Community Outreach. FBI statistics show there have been 250 active-shooter cases in the U.S. in the past 17 years.
“The average law enforcement response time to these incidents is approximately 3 minutes,” Mitzel said. “If you’re waiting for us, that is the longest 3 minutes of your life.”
Mitzel, looking to the crowd, said, “until we get there, you are your own first responder.”
The police department’s decision to hold the discussion was in response to last month’s deadly shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as workplace attacks in Annapolis and Harford County.
“These things [active shooter situations] are not just happening across the country, they are happening in our area,” Mitzel said. “Howard County is not excluded from this.”
In 2012, a homeless man entered St. Peter’s Episcopal Church through a back door and killed two church employees, a co-rector and administrative assistant, before ending his own life.