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How Would Imperial Valley Respond to a Mass Victimization Incident?

-Editorial

Salvador Rolando Ramos, 18, killed nineteen students and two teachers and wounded seventeen other people, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Earlier in the day, he shot his grandmother in the forehead at home, severely wounding her. Outside the school, he fired shots for approximately five minutes, before entering with an AR-15 style rifle through a side-entrance door without encountering armed resistance. He then locked himself inside a classroom, killed nineteen students and two teachers, and remained there for around one hour before a Tactical Unit fatally shot him. 

“My daughter was terrified of going to school the day after what happened in Texas,” said Ramon  Beltran, a parent of five children who go to Brawley schools. His children are in a similar age range to the kids that were killed at Rob Elementary School and are concerned about the safety of his family. “All this is happening too often and I can’t even imagine the suffering parents that lost their children are going through right now.”

There could be a mass victimization incident at a grocery store, a church, a school, or a public event. With those incidents happening all over the place and more frequently, it is safe to assume that Imperial County is not exempt from a situation like this happening here. The Imperial County District Attorney’s Division of Victim Services is prepared to respond in the event of a mass victimization incident and to bring a ray of hope to the victims during their darkest hour.

At the request of a law enforcement agency, the Victim-Witness Unit in conjunction with Red Cross and other allied partners would deploy and set up a Family Reunification Center where victims and their families would be provided with information as it becomes available from law enforcement. They would be offered support from mental health counselors, and chaplains, and would be provided resources to help them cope with the aftermath of victimization. This would be done so that the families of the victims don’t disrupt law enforcement’s efforts which could compromise the crime scene or investigation. The agency already has agreements with law enforcement in the event of a mass casualty incident.  If they request the help of the Victim Witness Unit, they will have their mobile office on-site ready to go.

“Everyone goes to the crime scene to look for their loved ones, we get that, but since it’s a crime scene we want law enforcement to be able to do their job, but still have a place where victims and their families receive information directly from law enforcement and law enforcement has access to the families,” said Rebecca G. Singh, Mass Victimization Advocate at the District Attorney’s Office.

“We would encourage families to come to the Family Reunification Center, to obtain appropriate services through our program which may include funeral burial assistance, vouchers to cover immediate needs, victim disability home or vehicle modifications, mental health services, income loss, and relocation through the California Victim Compensation Board,” Singh said.

After a traumatic event, many situations can disrupt the normal process of grieving, raising the risk of grief trauma. The loss of loved ones may be compounded by sorrow and anger at the loss of home and possessions, as well as fear or anxiety about the loss of a sense of safety and security in the community. In some cases, meeting immediate physical needs after a disaster may take priority over grieving the loss of life, which can delay, prolong, or complicate the normal grieving process. 

According to a report by the Center of Victim Research, the most immediate harms following an act of mass violence are injury and mental distress. In addition to physical and mental injuries, mass victimization can also have financial consequences as survivors often become responsible for hospital bills they were not prepared for, while communities and city governments may face unexpected reconstruction costs or additional demands on law enforcement budgets.

These events also affect first responders, family members of those involved, and residents of the community spaces affected by the event, the report added. 

FBI Active Shooter Incidents in 2021

A majority of the mass victimization incidents have been through gun violence which went up last year.

The FBI defines an active shooter as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The FBI has designated 61 shootings in 2021 as active shooter incidents, according to the FBI report on Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2021. 

Of the 61 active shooter incidents in 2021, 55.7% (34 incidents) occurred between 12 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Data shows that an active shooter incident is more likely to occur between 6:00 a.m. and 5:59 p.m. (39 incidents occurred during this timeframe). 

Sixty of the shooters were male and only one female. The youngest shooter was 12 years old; the oldest one was 67. Thirty of the shooters were apprehended by law enforcement while fourteen were killed at the scene or another location. Eleven shooters committed suicide (four at the scene before law enforcement arrived, four after police arrived, and three at other locations.) 

Uvalde, Texas is a predominately Hispanic town with a close-knit community similar in population to a city in Imperial County and never imagined it could have happened to them. Tragedies like that have ripple effects in the community and Imperial Valley should be ready if that dreadful day comes. 

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