Colorado police have successfully arrested Scott Ostrem, the 47-year-old man suspected of shooting three people dead inside a Walmart yesterday.
— Thornton Police Dept (@ThorntonPolice) November 2, 2017
However, authorities say their investigation was hampered by one critical factor: a number of other shoppers drew their own weapons during the incident, complicating police operations.
Thornton police spokesman Victor Avila said Ostrem was identified as the suspect more than five hours after he fled the department store, because each shopper who drew their weapon had to be eliminated as a potential lead.
Avila told The Denver Post once authorities determined the building to be safe, they immediately looked at the store’s surveillance footage. Officers quickly ascertained that more people than the shooter were armed.
“At that point, as soon as you see that, that’s the one you try to trace through the store, only to maybe find out that’s not him, and we’re back to ground zero again, starting to look again,” Avila said.
“That’s what led to the extended time.”
Avila did not confirm nor deny if the any of the shoppers fired their own weapons, and couldn’t elaborate on how long the investigation may have taken if those weapons remained holstered.
Regardless, the incident has been seized upon as evidence armed civilians may only serve to complicate the response to active shootings.
You mean to tell me more guns didn’t solve the problem?
— poljunk (@poljunk) November 2, 2017
Well that’s interesting. Not to mention the risk to everyone else around them (unless they were all professionally trained).
— Amie King (@MileHiCityGal) November 2, 2017
The police statement has been seen as a rebuke to the National Rifle Association (NRA), the gargantuan lobbying wing of the firearms industry, which has long advocated for lax gun control laws.
In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting, which left 20 children and six staff dead, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre advocated for more armed guards, saying “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Hell, if you so choose, you can even purchase NRA-branded shirts bearing the same message. You shouldn’t so choose, but you could.
That stance was also rebuked in the aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting. Pete Blair, of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University, said “if you were in the concert venue, concealed carrying, it’s not likely you could effectively respond.
“Most people with a pistol aren’t accurate or effective beyond 25 yards [23 metres].”
As for Ostrem, Avila says his motive for the killing is not yet apparent. He’s being held on three charges of first-degree murder.