The deadliest mass shooting in United States history took place in Las Vegas over the weekend, leaving 58 dead and at least 515 injured, at press time, according to the Associated Press.
The shooter — identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, — opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 at an outdoor country music festival. The events remind local law enforcement, as well as entertainment venues, of the potential dangers at events drawing a large crowd.
“While we don't have events of this scale in our area, we are always aware of the potential threat we could face with an active shooter/killer,” Crawford County Sheriff Dan Peak said.
Large events like the Crawford County Fair are patrolled by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office. Peak said these events are sometimes difficult to manage, but local law enforcement has found ways to mitigate risk.
“With our limited resources, we are usually stretched thin at our special events, trying to maintain patrol coverage and event security simultaneously,” he said. “However, we aren't afraid to leverage our partnerships with our local municipalities and neighboring counties should we feel the need to increase our presence at any of our special events.”
Peak is confident in the training and ability of both his men and women, and the men and women of local municipalities and neighboring counties, but said no agency could have known what would happen in Las Vegas.
“We feel that our deputies and our partner agencies are well-trained at engaging an active shooter/killer,” Peak said. “But the Las Vegas incident presented some challenges that no agency, regardless of size, could prepare for.”
Paddock shot into the crowd from a 32nd floor window of a Las Vegas hotel and casino. He had at least 10 guns in the hotel room where he was found dead by law enforcement officers.
Pittsburg State University is one of the largest local venues for sports and entertainment, bringing Broadway performances, speakers, musical artists and more to the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. The university also hosts major sporting events in several facilities and has a large number of students on campus everyday.
PSU Director of University Police Mike McCracken said it is natural to feel less secure after an event like the shooting in Las Vegas.
“Tragic events such as Sunday’s shootings in Las Vegas are difficult to comprehend. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families,” he said. “In the wake of such horror, it’s natural to feel less secure about your surroundings, even in our small community.”
However, McCracken echoed Peak’s assertion that by having plans in place, and working in conjunction with local agencies, Pittsburg State is as prepared as it can if such an event were to take place locally.
“Pittsburg State has plans and protocols in place, and its officers receive regular training to help prepare, as much as possible, for every eventuality,” McCracken said. “These plans include close collaboration with local and regional law enforcement, and security firms during football game days and large campus events. These plans are reviewed regularly, and revised as needed.”
Before Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in June 2016, when a gunman who professed support for Muslim extremist groups opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people.
A suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killed 22 people in May. Almost 90 people were killed in 2015 at a concert in Paris by gunmen inspired by the Islamic State.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.