Columbine’s “Boy in the window” Patrick Ireland speaks at active shooter awareness event
Columbine survivor Patrick Ireland spoke Sept. 27 at the Shooter Awareness Presentation in the Cone University Center, McKnight Hall.
Ireland was shot twice in the head and once in the foot during the school shooting. He described the start of that day as a normal one in the library, being shushed by librarians for talking too loudly and then suddenly being warned of two gunmen.
“Within seconds, I found myself crouched beneath this library table,” said Ireland.
Ireland had gone to apply pressure to the wounded knee of a friend who had been shot. When he did so, his head raised a few inches above the table and the gunmen shot him three times.
“In my subconscious, I continued to hear the screams, the pleas for mercy, the ongoing gun shots and the horrific cackles of the shooters- their laughter as if it were just a game.”
On his back, Ireland pushed his body using only his left leg towards the nearest exit.
“I thought about how much easier it would be just to give up … those were just negative thoughts,” said Ireland.
Nearly three hours passed before Ireland was able to successfully reach a second floor window, no more than 50 feet away. First responders noticed his exit and helped descend his body.
After much rehabilitation, Ireland returned to Columbine High School, where he graduated as valedictorian.
“The journey from that day to this one was not easy,” said Ireland. “There were many times where I was discouraged, angry but we as a community learned a tremendous amount as a result of the shootings.”
Next to businesses, schools are where you are most at risk for active shooters.
Chief of the Police and Public Safety Department Jeff Baker and Coordinator of the department’s Community-oriented Policing Division Jerry Lecomte were both speakers at the event.
Since Columbine, police training for active shooter response has changed drastically. Today, police policy is to “rush” to the scene and “follow the noise” when a shooter has been reported.
Baker shared the equipment UNC Charlotte officers have available to them in the case of an active shooter. Breaching kits, which can be used to break down doors, were put in all on campus officer vehicles after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, where the shooter chained doors shut. Officers also have shields to protect themselves when rushing towards the danger.
UNC Charlotte’s police department has the ability to lock 98 percent of doors with the push of one button, a feature that only a select amount of schools have.
Statistic say that only 3.1 percent of shootings end with armed citizens exchanging gunfire with the gunmen.
“If you listen to the rhetoric, what do we hear most often? That everyone should be armed because they could end active shooting situations, but really what we see is that isn’t what happens,” said Baker.
Baker and Lecomte highly encouraged students to download the app LiveSafe, designed by a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting. The app includes a feature that allows users to text on-campus police, which would be a discrete form of communication in an active shooter scenario.
If an active shooter enters a building, “exit quickly but carefully” with hands up and fingers spreads. Do not make sudden movements towards officers. Give detailed descriptions of the suspect and their weapons, if possible.