Saving lives: resident’s actions make a difference
By Wesley Gardner
When Niederwald resident Alan McMullen first signed up for the Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) course offered by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department, he did it because he was concerned about his family.
“I have a daughter in high school, and I was just wanting to become more aware of what was going on with her,” said McMullen. “With all the active shootings, all the deaths that have happened in the past, law enforcement has been able to take those situation and learn from them.”
What started off as a precaution for his family, though, turned into something much more. Within a month of taking the course, McMullen’s actions saved lives.
Created in 2004, the CRASE course provides strategies, guidance and a proven plan for surviving active shooter events, with topics including the history and prevalence of active shooter events, civilian response options, medical issues and other considerations. The course also covers risk factors for individuals to look for to prevent a shooting before it occurs.
“Some of the risk factors include whether they’re a violent individual or have been exposed to violence if they grew up in dysfunctional home,” said McMullen. “Maybe they have substance abuse issues, maybe some mental illness.”
In February, McMullen said he noticed some of these risk factors in a co-worker. His concern was further heightened after the individual had said he intended to “come back the next morning to the workplace and shoot people.”
McMullen said one the biggest risk factors taught in the class was recognizing when people who know the individual or family members confirm that the threat is credible.
“In the situation we had, this person actually worked with relatives in the same location,” said McMullen. “The relatives said, ‘Hey, this is pretty serious. This is legit.’
“This guy checked all the boxes. Everything we were told to look out for, this guy checked out every box.”
McMullen took his concern to the owner of the company, who subsequently called the Austin Police Department (APD).
“He called to file a police report and he called me back and said, ‘Man, they’re not doing anything,’” said McMullen. “They said he hasn’t committed a crime yet, and there was really not a whole lot they could do.”
Undeterred, McMullin remembered a resource he’d learned about in the CRASE course called iWatchTexas, a community reporting system that allows people to report suspicious activity. Within moments of filing the report, they’d received a call back and the case was escalated.
The following morning, McMullen and his boss arrived at the work site around 5 a.m. with APD officers. They waited until around 7:45 a.m. but still hadn’t seen or heard from the individual, so they went back to the office. The individual eventually called McMullin’s boss and told him he wanted to meet him at a separate location.
When the individual arrived, he found Austin police officers waiting for him. During the arrest, officers found a loaded handgun, a spare magazine and ammunition.
Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jeff Ferry, who teaches the county’s CRASE course, commended McMullen’s actions.
“It is extremely likely that this weapon was possessed with the intent to carry out the threat to ‘kill people,’” said Ferry. “It is my considered opinion that Mr. McMullen saved lives.
“I am confident that the potential for violence was curbed by the actions of one of our citizens and, again, I believe, it is our duty, to honor and recognize Mr. McMullen and his actions, so that other citizens will feel empowered to trust their instincts and do their share.”
McMullen was honored with a civilian commendation award at a recent county commissioners court meeting, but he said he believed the recognition needed to go to the sheriff’s office. He also urged others to sign of up for the next available CRASE course.
“Show your support to the community and attend this class,” said McMullen. “Maybe somebody can also save some lives.”
Ferry said the sheriff’s office currently doesn’t have any courses planned, but noted groups can request the course by contacting the sheriff’s office.