Aurora Shooting Dispatch Recording Analysis

An examination of the dispatch recording for the July 20, 2012, Aurora, CO theater mass shooting event.


At the 7:15 mark the call is made for all cars coming in to set up a perimeter around the entire mall. Consider the reality of that for a moment. Do you have or can you get enough cars to set up a perimeter around a whole mall? If so, what is there purpose? Are they observing for more victims and/or shooters? Or do they think they're supposed to not let anyone leave the scene?

At the 7:30 mark Cruiser-26 calls for all victims to be brought to the north end of the theater. Earlier, Lincoln-25 had designated the West parking lot as the staging area for Rescue/EMS. Such confusion is unavoidable in such situations and rather than becoming frustrated, officers have to be flexible and adapt.

At the 8:15 mark a call is made for an ambulance at a street intersection where a victim is out "with the road crew." In such emergencies, as victims are streaming out of the area of the immediate threat, they will go to the closest place they can see that might even remotely represent help. A road crew with flashing yellow lights, radios, etc. might well find themselves approached and asked for assistance. This also indicates how far outside that mall perimeter victims can get and how quickly.

At the 8:50 mark Lincoln-25 calls for as many ambulances as they can get to stage in the Dillard's lot. This is probably better than asking for a staging area in the "west parking lot," or "south parking area." Responding units who know the area will immediately know where the Dillard's lot is even if they don't know what direction it is from the theater.

At the 9:05 mark Lincoln-25 further designates Dillard's Lot as the rally point for responding fire trucks, indicating that the police will start directing fire personnel in to triage victims.

At the 9:20 mark, "302" calls out transporting one victim to the hospital in his patrol vehicle. If your agency doesn't have any policy regarding this, consider at least covering such actions in training. Advisable? Not? Avoidable? Not? Be careful about making absolute policy that restricts officers from taking what might prove to be life-saving actions.

At the 9:27 mark an obviously excited/stressed (and understandably so) officer calls out with "seven down" in theater 9. The dispatcher replies with an acknowledgement of his traffic and reassures him that she will notify "Fire" (EMS). Again, her calm and professionalism need to be noted and commended.

At the 9:50 mark Lincoln-25 calls for Denver cars, voicing the need for more manpower.

At the 10:00 mark a unit calls out with information that "one of the shooters might be wearing a white and blue plaid shirt." Misinformation is inevitable from victims/witnesses and we need to keep that in mind as much as we can in the heat of the moment.

At the 10:40 mark Lincoln-25 calls for the separation of Channels 2 and 3, specifying that Channel 2 will be inside, Channel 3 will be outside. This represents another evolution in the response.

At the 11:00 mark Lincoln-41 calls for mutual aid assistance asking for Arapahoe County cars to help with perimeter around the scene.

At the 11:45 mark we hear that the suspect claims to have worked alone but witnesses are offering conflicting information. Officers on scene have to use their best judgment but always remember the "+1" rule: there is always one more bad guy than what you've secured until you prove otherwise.

At the 12:00 mark Cruiser-11 calls the scene secure and announces that they are transporting bodies out of the back of the theater, with "three to eleven hit."

Between the 12:15 and 13:00 marks Lincoln-25 is trying to find out where all the EMS personnel are. Further communication is given as to where they are supposed to be. This is the inevitable result of cross-communication that occurred earlier.

At the 13:05 mark Cruiser-10 calls out with "one victim eviscerated."

At the 13:25 mark a unit announces that they are going to evacuate all they can out of Theater 9 out the east side. Consider this and the pandemonium the units inside the theater itself and the theater complex are dealing with. Thirteen minutes after first report of the attack, citizens are still inside the Theater, some not wanting to leave downed victims, ALL of them likely suffering the effects of the OC gas that the attacker deployed.

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