Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Lesson From Virginia

As you're probably aware, a terrible act of murder was committed near Roanoke, Virginia on Wednesday, August 24, 2015.

This murder was committed while the victims were on live local television.  Shortly thereafter, the murderer uploaded the shooting from his own point of view to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

That's right, this scumbag recorded his murderous act and uploaded it.

I won't link to the videos, as I think many of us have seen them, and honestly, I don't want contribute to the pain being felt by the friends and loved ones of the murder victims - Alison Parker and Adam Ward - and the survivor, Vicki Gardner.  I am also not interested in debating the merits of gun control here, nor racism or whatever else you want to try to blame for this act other than the scumbag who did the killing.

Like me, I hope you are filled with best wishes and sympathy those who loved Mr. Ward and Ms. Parker, and wish Ms. Gardner a speedy recovery.

Before I go further, let me state this very clearly - the victims are in no way responsible for anything that happened.  100% of the blame goes on the scumbag killer.  And no, I will not name him, as I don't want to contribute to his notoriety.

I've seen a lot of people second guessing the situation, and claiming that if any of the three had been armed, they might have survived, etc.  I don't know about that, and honestly, it's not what stood out to me.

These people didn't see this coming, not at all.

First, they were in a quiet, sparsely populated semi-rural area in the early morning.  Not a place most people would expect violence to occur.  I bet most of us wouldn't have been on any special alert for anything bad to happen (if you're honest with yourself, anyway).

Second, all three were focused on each other - Ms. Parker and Mr. Ward due to the nature of their jobs, and Ms. Gardner because she's being interviewed and is focused on the process of that.

It's especially striking as the perp walked up to them, brandished and then lowered his weapon once, before finally raising it again and firing - there seemed to be some time to react before he actually fires.  If anybody had been engaged in situational awareness at all, it's possible that one or more of the victims could have responded in some way.

We'll never know, of course, and it's very possible that nothing they could have done would have changed the outcome.

For me, the lesson from Virginia isn't about carrying (or not carrying) weapons, or anything in the terms of physical resistance to an attack, really - it's the lesson of situtional awareness.

It's unreasonable to expect any of the three would be engaged in being hyper-aware of their surroundings.  The cameraman is not aware of anything he doesn't see through his lens.  The reporter is focused on giving a good interview for the camera.  The interviewee is focused on trying to get her points across to the live audience.

The scumbag killer knows all this, and takes supreme advantage of it.

I can't help but think if there were a third person - a helper of sorts, maybe - for the news crew, that maybe, just maybe, the scumbag murderer's approach may have been noted, and maybe the alarm raised.

Not saying it would have saved anybody for sure, because that's impossible to know.  I just can't help thinking that maybe they'd had a better chance, is all.  I'm sure for people in the business, they'll say that's impractical due to the cost, and that's also something we have to consider, too.

This isn't the first - or only - assault on a reporter in the field, this is just one of the worst.  A helper on the team, maybe even someone with self defense and/or martial arts training, might help alleviate the danger for reporters just doing their jobs.

It also occurred to me that there's a big lesson here for those of us who teach self defense.

We martial artists tend to spend a lot of time on the physical aspects - dealing with physical attacks, hurting the bad guy, and escaping.  I think we could - and should - spend a lot more of our time on situation awareness training if we claim to be serious about self defense.

We can't just stay focused on punching and kicking (or shooting, if we teach people to carry firearms in self defense where it's legal to do so).

I'm sure in the coming days there will be more lessons to learn.

Right now, I'm sickened and appalled that any human being could conceive, plan, and carry through on such an evil act, much less record it for the world to see from his point of view and share it.

I'll leave it to others to make their political and social points in the wake of this tragedy.