Muskogee Police Department Investigator Joe Poffel makes points during an active shooter session on Wednesday sponsored by the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce. About 65 people attended the event.

Staff photo by Mike Elswick

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Mass shooting situations have gotten more common in recent years and while each instance has been unique there are steps people can take should they find themselves the potential target of a shooter to help increase their chances of surviving.

That was the message Muskogee Police Department Investigator Joe Poffel and Sgt. Chris Dean shared with about 65 attendees at an active shooter training session Wednesday. The training was hosted by the Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce and held at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.

Whether it is at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, a movie theater in Colorado, a church in Texas or on the campus of Virginia Tech University there are some basic steps that can increase chances of survival and minimizing death and injury to others, they said. 

“Playing dead is not a good option,” Poffel said. 

In too many instances shooters have returned from one area of a shooting scene to another to randomly fire more shots into the bodies, whether dead or alive. Dean said 40 percent of shooters in active shooting events end up committing suicide.

“They don’t care. They have nothing to lose at this point,” Dean said. “They just want to create as much chaos as they can.”

Often, one person may be the shooter’s initial target, but all too often others are killed in the process as the shooting takes place in a public place, he said.

The training MPD provides is primarily “avoid, deny, defend,” a tactic Muskogee officers learned through a training program developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, or ALERRT, Center at Texas State University.

“These classes are meant to get people thinking about what they should do in a situation such as an active shooter in their building,” Poffel said.

Dean said law enforcement officers are constantly learning from each active shooter situation that arises. Between 2000 and 2013 there were 160 active shooter situations nationally, he said.

For both 2014 and 2015 there were 20 active shooter incidents with more than 20 in 2016 and already in 2017, Dean said.

“We’re constantly re-evaluating what we need to do,” he said. 

Dean stressed that people who find themselves in active shooter situations need to overcome reservations they might have to not become aggressively violent because their life and that of others might depend on the quick actions they take.

“If you are in an active shooter event, property does not matter,” Dean said. “I don’t care what you damage or break in order to try to get out because human life is the only thing that matters.”

The training includes tactics that anyone can use to buy them more time for law enforcement to arrive, such as securing certain types of doors that have no locks with belts or barricades, Poffel said. Dean said normally, people in an active shooter situation have between three-to-five minutes before law enforcement arrives.

Dean said the majority of active shooter incidents conclude before police arrive. That is why it is important to share survival tips with residents.

“None of them are foolproof, but they could buy them enough time to escape,” Dean said. 

Among the Avoid, Deny and Defend tips developed by ALERRT are to attempt to avoid the shooter, deny access to a person’s location and defend it, or defend and fight if a face-to-face encounter with a shooter arises.

“Fear is healthy and normal, but panic will get you killed,” Dean said. “You can’t sit and wait, you need to take action.”

Reach Mike Elswick at (918) 684-2954, @melswickMPhx or


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