Orlando Nightclub Massacre: Is it a HOSTAGE SITUATION or an ACTIVE SHOOTING SITUATION?

By Prof. Isaac Ashkenazi


Should the first responders rush in and save lives or wait for the Hostage Negotiation Teams and SWAT teams to take over?

The Mumbai massacre in November 2008, the massacre at the Bataclan Theater in November 2015, and the Orlando Nightclub massacre where all the same: a violent massacre by extremists with no intention to negotiate – only to kill innocent people!

Hostage Situation and Active Shooter Situation are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Why we must rapidly define between the two situations? Because the response is completely different!

If an active shooter situation is mistakenly considered by the responders as an hostage situation – the first responders will not respond immediately, they will wait for the “professional” responders to confront the attacker, more innocent people will be killed, and the killer will stop killing only after he is out of ammunition.

The three main players in Hostage Situation:

  1. The Hostage-Taker: A violent person that wants to obtain something (for himself or for his group).
  2. The Hostages: Innocent people that are used by the hostage-taker as a bargaining tool. The hostages are the means and NOT the target.
  3. The Third Party: A government, company, group and even a person, which can provide the hostage-taker his needs. The target of the Hostage-Taker is the third party and not the hostages.

The four main sequential phases of the Hostage Situation (ODNC):

  1. Opening Phase: Brief and violent phase. The hostage-taker kills randomly few of the hostages and then stops. A cruel declaration of being serious.
  2. Demand Phase: This phase comes immediately following the end of the opening brutal attack. The hostage-taker presents his demands.
  3. Negotiation Phase: a phase that can last hours and days. It is a mutual cognitive manipulation (emotional basement game) between the hostage-taker and the professional negotiators, which represent the “third party”.
  4. Concluding Phase: Brief, planed in advanced and violent phase. However, this time the police are the attackers and not the hostage-taker. The result should be neutralizing the hostage-taker by his will (surrender) or not (killing him). A non-desirable concluding phase can be in cases where the hostage-takers’ demands are granted, and he vanishes.

Active Shooter Situation: “An Active Shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims” (DHS Definition)

Massacre: “The act or an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings under circumstances of atrocity or cruelty”.

TIME MATTERS: In Hostage Situation – time is your ally. In Active Shooting Situation – time is your enemy!

How you respond to Hostage Situation? By negotiating. In such situation, the time is your ally: the more time you have to lay the groundwork and prepare the better.

How you respond to Active Shooting and Massacre? By rushing into the event immediately, confronting the attacker and neutralizing him. In this situation, the time is the enemy: the longer you take to develop your picture of the event and take action, the worse the consequences.

My deepest condolences to all the families and loved ones involved.

With Much Love and Respect to my US brothers.


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