A “poorly planned and executed” base exercise at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base led to an utterly chaotic response for a false active shooter incident in August — resulting in a military service member discharging multiple rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle.
A report about the false active shooter incident on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base detailed how an uncoordinated response from law enforcement could have resulted in “serious injury and property damage.” The incident terrified staff and civilians in a hospital filled with “fog and friction.”
Col. Thomas Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing and installation commander, briefed the findings of the Incident Review Board he ordered to examine all aspects of the Aug. 2 active shooter incident that occurred at the Wright-Patt Medical Center.
The report described an unruly scene that unfolded on base after a report of an active shooter at the hospital in Area A. The Air Force requires installations to hold an active shooter exercise twice a year.
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An active shooter exercise was planned and executed by the base inspector general at the Kittyhawk Chapel. Multiple role players simulated casualties during the exercise, according to the report.
Around the same time, the 88th Medical Group held a completely separate exercise at the Wright-Patt Medical Treatment Facility to test mass casualty response procedures. The exercise was not part of the installation active shooter exercise, according to the report.
The exercise also was not published in the broader list of scheduled scenarios occurring on base that week. A formal risk assessment was not conducted for either exercises being conducted that day, the report found.
Next, a barrage of events caused widespread confusion that resulted in a multiple rounds of shots fired by an Air Force security officer:
• At 12:27 p.m., an 88th Medical Group employee called 9-1-1 after receiving a call from another medical employee, who was screaming and crying due to an injury received while running on base. That jogger was located and brought to the emergency room. At the same time, first responders were present at the active shooter exercise at the Kittyhawk Chapel.
“This was the beginning of the bleed over from exercise to real-world events,” the report said.
• At 12:38 p.m., the Base Defense Operations Center received a call from the medical facility about an active shooter. Hospital staff issued a duress code over the intercom, alerting workers that there was an active shooter in the facility. A lockdown was initiated, and this led to on-base law enforcement responding to the hospital for what they believed was now an actual active shooter.
• At 12:41 p.m., a hospital employee in the Red Clinic called 9-1-1 from a cell phone, which sent the call off base. It later resulted in a “Code 99,” or an officer in distress call among civilian law enforcement agencies, when Dayton Police arrived. Then, a broader call for help was sent to mutual aid responders from: the Dayton region, the state and national agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
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The base requested support from one SWAT Team and three medical aid units, but base officials were unaware of the Code 99 alert or civilian off-base active shooter protocols resulting in the “mass response from off-base,” according to the report.
• At 12:46 p.m., Wright-Patt fire dispatch was notified of three shots fired in the hospital’s Red Clinic. Six minutes later, fire dispatch reported the three to five shots appeared to have been fired by Wright-Patt 88th Security Forces member. When responding, that Security Forces member fired rounds from an M4 through the window of a locked door.
Air Force Security Forces can carry the M4 Carbine assault rifle. The semiautomatic weapon has a three-round burst firing option, according to the Air Force website. The weapon has a 30-round magazine and its attachment options include a lazer pointer and grenade launcher, according to the AF Security Forces website.
Additional 9-1-1 calls were made because of the shots fired. Wright-Patt’s Incident Commander attempted to explain a base security member had fired the shots. But at 1:09 p.m., approximately 50 responders from various law enforcement agencies broke through the locked door of the hospital and entered with weapons drawn, the report stated.
• At 1:39 p.m., responders started to clear the building, and even more confusion occurred. After a team entered a room and determined it was safe, they announced “clear” to indicate to other responders that the room was sweeped. Hospital employees hiding in adjacent rooms thought it was safe to come out, but were instead met by responders with drawn weapons who were still sweeping the building.
After all hospital personnel were evacuated at 1:39 p.m., an all-clear was issued on base about an hour later. Before the all-clear was issued, civilians and employees were waiting in various buildings to hear what was happening. By 4 p.m., base officials had canceled all remaining exercise activities for the week.
The Air Force found that the “poorly planned and executed base-wide exercise” could have led to serious injury and property damage.
“Ultimately the situation was resolved with minimal property damage and one minor injury to an 88 SFS Airman from the weapon discharge,” the report found.
The report found:
• The use of an M4 weapon to breach a locked door was inappropriate. Military personnel must follow weapons safety training at all times, especially during high pressure situations, the report found.
• A breakdown of communication led to a completely uncoordinated and ineffective combined response that could have resulted in serious injury or property damage. A thorough understanding between federal, state and local agencies about command and control to include understanding jurisdiction and response procedures needs to be established.
• All base exercises were not clearly communicated to employees. “While realism is important in training exercises, all personnel must be always be fully aware of exercise vs. real-world situations. Coordinating with all concerned organizations and then sticking with the agreed upon plan is essential to keeping everyone fully aware.”
Were you present during the active shooter false alarm at Wright Patterson? We want to hear your story. Contact reporter Kara Driscoll at 937-225-0551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.