Ready. Aim. Truth: 'Good Guys' vs. 'Bad Guys' Part 1

Mary Bannan reacts to her performance in the first scenario in our active shooter simulation.

National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre made a famous quote following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Many Texans choose to arm themselves, but how prepared are the "good guys" to protect their own families... and even the public? How would they would perform if a "bad guy" with a gun starts shooting? 

We retained two experts to help us create an exercise that would put their readiness to the test.

Our "good guys" — all of whom have concealed handgun licenses — are: 

  • Brian Martin, 30, of Lewisville, who has 10 hours of training 
  • Matthew Beeman, 41, of Denton County, who has six hours of training
  • Mary Bannan, 67, of Lantana, who has 25 hours of training
  • Royce Hardin, 68, of Lantana, who has the most experience -- 50 hours of training

In charge of the exercise was Travis Bond, the managing member of the DFW Shooters Academy in Highland Village, an instructor with 32 years of training and law enforcement experience. 

Our "bad guy with a gun" was Shawn Clary, a SWAT team member and tactical instructor with 22 years experience.

WFAA conducted the exercise at a vacant office building near Lewisville. All of the volunteers admitted they were nervous, but eager to see how they would perform.

They all knew they would be involved in three different scenarios in which they would have to encounter an assailant with a gun. Everyone was armed with helmets, goggles and training pistols with plastic pellets.

Our "bad guy," Clary, was carrying a semi-automatic AR-15 that also shot plastic pellets.

No other details were provided to the participants. They were not given details about any of how the scenarios would play out. 

They were not told Clary would be wearing body armor. That meant in order to kill or wound the assailant, they would have to score a hit to the head, neck, or pelvis.

SCENARIO # 1: Busy office space

Our first scenario was a busy office space with tall cubicles in which workers could not see each other. Our participants were located in the fourth cubicle.  The assailant, Clary, was playing the role of an angry co-worker who first fired warning shots and then methodically made his way past the first three cubicles, pretending to kill workers along the way. 

It meant the participants would have time to make a decision on whether to run or bunker in and shoot it out with the bad guy.

Brian Martin went first. He responded well, staying in his cubicle, but crouching and using his chair as cover. As the assailant came to his space, Martin opened fire, striking Clary with what would have been two fatal rounds. 

"He put rounds right into my upper torso and head area above where the body armor is," Clary said. "He did very well." 

Beeman was next. When he heard the gunshots from the far end of the office, he bolted from his cubicle and scrambled into a darkened cubicle several feet away. He took cover and opened fire, scoring a couple of fatal wounds. 

"I received some rounds in the arm and got one in the head," Clary said. "That would be a kill shot."

Bannan was up next.  She decided to remain in her cubicle when the gunman began his rampage. But when she opened fire on him, she either missed or hit his vest.

Finally, her husband, Royce Hardin, was up. Hardin also chose to stay in place. When he heard the assailant coming toward him, he crouched and when faced with the gunman, he opened fire.

Each of his shots hit the body armor. "I shot him in the vest on purpose," Hardin said afterwards. "I didn't want to hit him in the head, because it wasn't real life to me."

Since Royce did not score a critical hit, he failed his objective. He likely suffered a fatal wound. He got another chance in the second scenario.

SCENARIO # 2: Crowded conference room

In this setting, Hardin and seven other volunteers were sitting around a conference room table with co-workers, about to be confronted by a "terrorist" who stormed into the room. 

Clary, again the bad guy, began by telling everyone to put their hands on their heads. His plan was to shoot workers one at a time until stopped.

Hardin at first complied, putting his hands on his head. But as the "bad guy" issued threats to others in the room, Hardin saw an opening, took one hand off his head, and quickly reached for the gun hiding in a holster on his hip. 

Hardin made the right move and scored a fatal wound.

"In his particular case, not only did he engage me at the right time, he made a good hit," Clary said. 

Hardin's wife, Mary Bannan — who missed her target in the first exercise — was next.

Her pistol was under the conference table, in her purse. She also waited for the right moment when the attacker was looking away, and then carefully made her move — grabbing her gun and firing several shots. 

While her response was good, her accuracy, again, was off. 

"She fired a lot of shots, but she didn't hit me until well after I had hit her," Clary said. "The only thing was her marksmanship. She didn't hit me, but she kept shooting, which was good." 

Next up, Beeman, with the least experience, but who took out the "bad guy" in the first round. Very quickly, the conference room scenario turned deadly as the terrorist entered the room and shot one of Beeman's co-workers. The others scrambled to take cover under the table.

Beeman held steady and waited for an opening. 

As the shooter contemplated his next victim and turned his back, Beeman went for his pistol, also hidden in a holster on his waist. He scored hits to the assailant's arm and head. 

"He did a good job," Clary said. "Plus, his weapon was concealed, so I didn't know he was a threat."

But the "terrorist" gained the upper hand when it was Brian Martin's turn. While Martin — with 10 hours of training — did well in round one, he made what turned out to be a fatal tactical decision in the conference room. 

He chose to "open carry" his pistol on his hip. 

Clary said he spotted the weapon as soon as he entered the room. "If you want to take that as an open carry kind of scenario, that's exactly what I would have done as a bad guy coming in," Clary said. "I saw that he was armed  — he's my first target."

Martin knew immediately that he had made a mistake by exposing his weapon. "I usually conceal carry, and I would have liked to have taken some more time with the bad guy," Martin said. "I feel like that probably did escalate the scenario quicker than I would have liked." 

It was a lesson learned for Martin — and for the other participants. 

Weapons trainer Travis Bond said the best way to overcome the unknown is to prepare for it. "By going through the training and experiencing different things — and specifically looking for opportunities to engage, and knowing when not to engage — is as important as anything," he said.

Use the hashtag #GunsInTX to join the conversation with WFAA investigative reporter Brett Shipp on Twitter.

 

Participant: Mary Bannan

 

Pre-Scenario

Active Shooter Scenario 1

Post Scenario

 

 

Participant: Matthew Beeman

Pre-scenario

Active Shooter Scenario 1

 

Post Scenario

 

Participant: Royce Hardin

Pre-Scenario

Active Shooter Scenario 1

Post Scenario

 

Participant: Brian Martin

 

Pre-Scenario

 

 

 

 

 

Active Shooter Scenario 1

 

Post Scenario

 

 


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