When police officers arrived at a suburban Maryland mall Saturday in response to shots fired, they stormed in ready to capture or kill the gunman without waiting for tactical specialists, reports the Wall Street Journal. The officers knew what to do because they had trained for a mass shooting at the popular Mall in Columbia, where two people were killed Saturday by a gunman who fatally shot himself. Landlords and law-enforcement officials are preparing for violent situations in malls. Retail industry executives say some mall owners are hiring more guards and installing sophisticated video surveillance systems as well.
The Council of Shopping Centers, the industry’s largest trade group, estimates that last year a typical mall spent more than $1 million on security, up from about $400,000 in 1996. In the past, the first officers on the scene were instructed to wait for SWAT teams or other specialists. These days, police officers, along with the FBI and property owners nationwide, are training first responders to go after the gunmen. The faster the response, the thinking goes, the fewer the victims. “In the days of Columbine, the mission was to administer aid to wounded people. Nowadays, the mission is to get the shooter, period,” said Jonathan Lusher, founder of i3 Security Services, a San Antonio firm that works with mall operators. “Because if you don’t do that, he has control of the situation, and he’s going to continue shooting people.”