“There’s no such thing as a random act of violence,” a retired Bellevue police officer said. “Violence always has a meaning, even if it’s just meaningful for the guy doing it.”
Matthew Jarvis, a 33-year veteran police sergeant, addressed an estimated 30 people as part of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training Feb. 23 in the Plattsmouth Fire Hall. The CERT Training educates citizens on what to do in emergency situations, including seemingly unpredictable acts of violence.
Jarvis spent his time on the police force patrolling the streets of Bellevue. “Nobody calls you for a birthday party. I was also on the fire department and I was one of the first paramedics in Nebraska.”
His experience exposed him to the darker side of human nature. “America is unusual in this world. We enjoy freedoms that other people don’t have,” he said. “You can drive all over the country without a passport. Unfortunately, that makes it easier for bad guys to do their bad stuff.”
In Israel, there are no monuments memorializing where violence has occurred, Jarvis said. “There is a guard at every door,” he said.
Law enforcement in the United States is good at catching the criminals, so when something horrific happens here it surprises people. “There is evil in this world. It has always been here and it will always be here. It’s when we don’t do anything to stop it that we have to worry.”
Jarvis cautioned people to stop thinking that tragedies like Nikolaus Cruz killing 17 innocent people in Parkland, Fla., or Robert Hawkins murdering nine people in Van Maur at Westroads Mall in 2007 in Omaha are random, senseless acts of violence.
“If you understand that the acts have meaning you can start predicting it and if you can predict it you can prevent it from happening,” he said. “Terrorists are not super human. They are anti-human and we can defeat them if you are mentally prepared for that.”
Of course, school districts have heightened their security with lockdowns and other measures. “We need to try to come up with ways to prevent the badness,” Jarvis said.
Cruz, he explained, was not much different than the perpetrators in the Columbine school tragedy or the theatre shooting in Aurora, Colo. “He planned ahead. After he was done shooting, he took off his gear, pulled off his gear and was wearing a T-shirt underneath. He then mingled with students,” Jarvis explained.
If someone enters a building with a rifle and plans an attack, “someone is going to get hurt,” he said.
“My suggestion is always be aware of your surroundings at all times. Always be conscious of what’s going on. Check for exits and see if anyone looks goofy. Being prepared for this helps you respond,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis showed a video called “Run. Hide. Fight; Surviving an Active Shooter Event” created by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security. It reenacts various run, hide and fight scenarios in an office.
Jarvis had a differing opinion from the video. He said you shouldn’t have a particular order of responses such as run first, hide second and fight third.
“You could run. Running is a good idea but in actual practice it may not be practical. Hiding is also good, but there may not be a space for anyone to hide,” he said. “If you have no plan at all you will freeze. You’ve got to think, ‘I’ve got options.’”
Looking around the fire station, he asked the CERT students what objects could be used to fight with if an intruder was in the room.
“Chairs? Chairs are difficult to maneuver. Fire extinguishers? You’re not going to knock someone out with a fire extinguisher like in the movies,” he said. “What about a gun? If you disarm that guy, then you’re that guy. You’ve got to be careful.”
Jarvis demonstrated how a person can be stunned temporarily by hitting him/her in the side of the neck.
He cautioned people to never assume that they will be in a violent situation. “You can have active violence in the workplace or whenever, with no guns involved. Don’t get into the mindset that this can never happen to me. It does happen and it can happen.”