WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The findings of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Incident Review Board ordered to examine all aspects of the Aug. 2 active shooter incident that occurred at the Wright-Patt Medical Center were released Dec. 19.
WDTN reported that an installation-wide active shooter exercise was conducted at Kittyhawk Chapel on Aug. 2, pursuant to Air Force requirements to hold an active shooter exercise twice per year.
A Master Scenario Events List (MSEL) was created for the exercise by the 88th Air Base Wing inspector general to keep track of when exactly every event would occur, and to help take preventative action to stop activities should they go off-script.
Around the same time as the active shooter exercise, the 88th Medical Group was holding its own separate internal exercise at the WPAFB Medical Treatment Facility to practice mass casualty response procedures.
The 88th Medical Group’s mass casualty exercise was discussed with the 88th Air Base Wing inspector general but was ultimately not documented in the active shooter MSEL.
First general finding
WDTN reported that having multiple exercises occurring so close together that were not on the MSEL set the stage for confusion to occur. Coordinating with all organizations and staying consistent with the agreed-upon plan is essential to keeping everyone fully aware.
According to the Incident Review Board’s Executive Summary, there is no evidence that either the 88th Air Base Wing inspector general or the 88th Medical Group conducted or documented a formal risk assessment for either of the exercises.
Confusion began when a real-world 911 call came in about an 88th Medical Group employee receiving a phone call from another employee who was screaming and crying due to an injury sustained while they were running at the base.
The injured jogger was then located and brought in to the emergency room.
The situation started to escalate when simulated casualties from the 88th Medical Group’s exercise were reporting in at the same time as the real-world injured jogger and at the same time first responders were responding to the active shooter exercise at the chapel.
At 12:38 p.m., the Base Defense Operations Center took a direct call from a landline from the military treatment facility of a real-world active shooter event.
Hospital staff also issued an alert over the intercom, indicating to hospital personnel that an active shooter was in progress and the facility should be locked down.
This led on-base forces to respond to what they now believed was a real-world active shooter.
Upon hearing the alert, an 88th Medical Group employee in the hospital’s Red Clinic called 911 on a cell phone, which sent the call off-base to the 911 Call Center.
This resulted in a “Code 99,” or officer in distress call, among civilian law enforcement agencies and prompted a response from mutual aid in Dayton, the State of Ohio and at the national level, including the FBI and ATF.
Mutual aid responders quickly overwhelmed the incident commander’s command and control capabilities due to multiple communication issues including radio incapability between 88th Air Base Wing and local radio systems, mutual aid responders’ failure to check in with the incident commander, and the inability to contact the incident commander for those who tried to check in.
In the meantime, 88th Security Forces Squadron responders breached a locked door by firing rounds from an M-4 through the window of a door, prompting more 911 calls from the hospital reporting an active shooter.
Second general finding
The CDI determined the use of this weapon in these circumstances was inappropriate. A better process needs to be implemented to allow security forces to identify themselves to personnel taking shelter, according to WDTN.
Despite the incident commander’s attempts to explain the situation, approximately 50-area mutual responders bypassed the incident commander and breached the locked front door of the hospital with weapons drawn.
As responders worked to clear the building, it became obvious there was a gap between the tactics, techniques and procedures for clearing the building and those used by Airmen who worked in the facility. For example, after a team entered a room and determined it was safe, they would announce “clear” to indicate the status of the room. Employees hiding in adjacent rooms took this to mean it was safe to come out, only to be met by responders with their weapons still drawn.
The situation was ultimately resolved with minimal property damage and a minor injury to one 88th Security Forces Squadron Airman due to the weapon discharge.
Third general finding
WDTN said 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.
“I want to congratulate Commander Thomas Sherman of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on his leadership on what was clearly a thorough investigation into the active shooter incident in August,” Congressman Mike Turner (R-Dayton) said in a statement issued Dec. 19. “As we expected, this investigation resulted in a number of recommendations that need to be implemented on the base. As this report shows, our community is very lucky that serious injury did not occur on the base that day. I look forward to continuing to work with the base and assist as needed as they implement these new changes to improve safety.”
Our partners at WDTN contributed to this report.