This month's featured ShadowBox scenario is an abridged version of a scenario from our de-escalation course for law enforcement.

Welcome to our featured scenario of the month! We use this format to share a unique scenario that highlights an interesting problem, an emerging topic, or a new scenario format. As you read through the scenario, think carefully about how you would handle the situation – what stands out to you, what do you think is going on, and what would your priorities be if you found yourself in this situation? We suggest recording your choices and decision rationale so that you can compare your decisions with the experts at the end of the scenario.

This month’s featured ShadowBox scenario is an abridged version of a scenario from our de-escalation course for law enforcement. Read on to find out how you stack up against expert decision makers for this exciting scenario.

The Situation

Along with several other officers from your small-city police department, you are assigned to patrol Summit View College’s annual spring music and arts festival, SummitFest. You will be augmenting Summit View’s Department of Campus Public Safety, which consists of four officers.  Summit View is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 2,100 students.  You and Officer Erickson will be conducting foot patrols of the school’s West Quad, where the SummitFest main stage is located.  Other officers are patrolling other parts of campus. 

SummitFest usually attracts most of the student body. And this year, the Student Activities Board has managed to book Werewolf Holiday, the pop-alternative band that are the new darlings of the college music scene, which has drawn a lot of interest beyond the student body. A social media campaign by the band has the college administration expecting much larger crowds than usual for the free concert, including many local “townies.” Relations between the student population and the townies have been strained.  There have been a few altercations in Campustown pubs, shouted insults in both directions, and one incident of profane graffiti painted on one of the frats.

To account for the larger crowds, the college has sectioned off various areas of the quad for concertgoers to watch the show. All areas are designated for standing room, although some students have placed beach towels and blankets on the ground in the morning to reserve spots near the stage. Unsurprisingly, this has caused some minor disputes, but those seem to have been resolved.  See Fig. 1.

It’s approximately 1945 hours and the opening acts have just finished. You’ve been informed Werewolf Holiday will take the stage around 2000. The crowd has steadily grown over the past hour as many students and locals try to get as close to the stage as possible (Sections A and B). You are largely staying out of the thick of the crowds. You’ve found you can monitor the situation by staying on the sidewalks, which are mostly roped off to break up the large crowds and to keep foot traffic flowing. 

Around 1955 hours, you are near the Norris Administration Building on the west end of the quad.  You hear some angry shouting and cursing coming from a group near the west end of section C, where the crowd is thinner. There seems to be a group of 10-15 people circling around two men.  

“We can make this happen right now if you want it!” somebody is yelling.  “I don’t give a f—! Come at me, Fratboy!”

As you make your way to the scene, you see a heavy-set man wearing a white T-shirt and a Warriors cap pull a handgun out of his waistband. The group immediately around him scatters, but most of the concertgoers within the vicinity are attending towards the stage and are unaware of the firearm. You draw your weapon, but you have no shot because of the crowded background.  You report the visual on the firearm.  The man suddenly sees you and bolts east into the crowd and towards the stage. The man he seemed to be confronting, in a blue sweater and black sweatpants, also begins to run, but in a northwest direction towards Teller Library, Officer Erickson’s last reported position. You immediately make a report—two men running, one of them armed with a handgun, with directions of movement and brief descriptions of both.  You request additional backup.  

Decision Point #1

How do you allocate your immediately available resources? 

Rank the following options from 1 (best) to 4 (worst).

a. You and Erikson should both pursue the man with the gun on foot.
b. You should pursue the armed suspect on foot while Erikson attempts to build a perimeter and contain the suspect.
c. Erikson should pursue the other man while you chase the armed suspect on foot.
d. Both pursue the other man.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

The Scenario Continues…

The armed man is 50-75ft ahead of you and is gaining distance as he disappears, heading east still in section C.  The crowd is more congested in the eastern portions of section C, requiring you to slow down. You spot the Warriors cap (you think) and are able to track the man as he pushes through the concertgoers. You are aware of growing concern you and the gunman are causing as you push through the crowd.

Officer Erickson reports he has a visual on Suspect #2 and is pursuing him east from the library. 

Decision Point #2

What actions will you take at this moment? 

Rank the following options from 1 (best) to 5 (worst).

a. Look for your best clear shot to apply lethal force before Suspect #1 enters further into the crowd.
b. Continue your pursuit to apprehend the suspect as quickly as possible.
c. Instruct Erikson to break off the pursuit and link up with you to pursue the suspect on foot together.
d. Track the man at a distance while waiting for the other backup to arrive.
e. Instruct Erikson to break off his pursuit and instead move to the walking paths between sections C and B.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

The Scenario Continues…

The suspect continues to make his way through the crowd and hops the temporary fence line to cut across the walkway from Section C into Section B. Some of the crowd don’t seem to notice, but many are anxiously watching you now.  You are still in Section C, so it becomes difficult to keep the gunman, now in Section B, in your sight. You radio Erikson to head east to the main walkway, Mountaineer Way (i.e., between sections A and B) and watch for the gunman coming out of Section B. You also request a supervisor to the scene immediately.

As you make your way to the walkway between Sections C and B you are joined by Officer Springer from Campus Public Safety. You quickly update him on the situation and the both of you enter the west portion of Section B with the intention of protecting the concertgoers but keeping your distance so as not to provoke the armed suspect.

As the situation continues, more and more people become aware of your presence. You start to sense some growing panic as people realize something is amiss.   Then, suddenly you hear screaming. There is a loud shriek coming from Mountaineer Way somewhere between Sections A and B. 

Decision Point #3

What concerns you the most at this moment? 

Rank the following options from 1 (greatest concern) to 4 (least concern).

a. Losing sight of the armed suspect.
b. The suspect may start shooting.
c. The suspect may take hostages.
d. The suspect may escape

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

The Scenario Continues…

The screaming draws even more attention to the developing situation. You and Springer begin to direct your attention to the concert-goers in Section B. You order them to move toward the library and to stay there until more help arrives. You both continue to move cautiously east.  As you get closer to Mountaineer Way you see the gunman, handgun still visible in his right hand, making a break towards Schuett Hall, the dorm building located just north of the stage.  

Next, you hear officer Erikson report over the radio that he is trailing the other suspect east towards Schuett Hall.  Erikson reports that the suspect is jogging east and now appears to be armed as well. See Fig. 2.

Decision Point #4

What is your assessment of the situation now?

Rank the following options from 1 (best) to 5 (worst).

a. The situation has become much less dangerous now that Suspect #1 is out of the crowd.
b. Suspect #2 has become the more immediate threat and you should focus on apprehending him.
c. Suspect #1 remains the primary threat so you should stay on him.
d. The situation has become more dangerous with the approach of a second (potentially) armed suspect.
e. This situation is larger in scope than can be handled by three officers and requires additional resources.

Take a moment to consider your reasons for your decision.

Click the link below to see how your choices compared with a panel of law enforcement experts!