Police Say Gunman at Oakland, California School Opened Fire when Students Failed to Comply With His Instructions

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan stated that former student One L. Goh entered the Oikos school with the intent of shooting an administrator but could not locate her.  Goh then ordered a secretary into a classroom and began lining people up. “Not everyone was cooperative, and that’s when he began shooting” said Jordan.

Jordan stated that the former student had been expelled from the school and that he had complained about being teased at the school because of the difficulty he had speaking English. Witnesses and police reported that Goh did not seem to be remorseful about his actions. Goh is a South Korean national.

The attack on the small college of less than one hundred students was especially deadly in relation to the number of people in the school at the time of the attack. Police say that only about thirty-five people were in the school when Goh opened fire, which means he killed or wounded nearly one third of all the school’s occupants. Dechan Wangzom reported that she was in her vocational nursing class when she heard gunshots; she locked her door and turned off the lights.  According to Wangzom’s husband, the gunman banged on the door several times and began shooting outside the room before leaving. No one in the classroom was injured.

This tragic case illustrates the complicated nature of some of the concerns and limitations relating to schools that are opting to augment the use of lockdowns by teaching staff to attack active shooters by throwing books and other objects at them. While it appears likely that the aggressor was going to shoot people in the classroom regardless of their actions, it is important to note that he fired as soon as he experienced non-compliant victims and that at least one room full of potential victims escaped injury by using traditional lockdown concepts.  While it is probable that the number of victims was reduced when people began to flee, this case illustrates just how fast a person brandishing a weapon can move from threatening people to shooting people.  If even a single person who is present misreads the situation and becomes aggressive, an aggressor who did not intend to open fire may do so.  Though it is highly unlikely that this was the case in this situation, there are many situations where someone brandishes a weapon on campus and does not actually attack anyone. Active shooter situations are extremely rare though deadly school crisis events in contrast to traditional weapons assaults, situations where someone is threatened with a weapon on campus and other types of weapons incidents in schools.

Active shooters in the majority of U.S. targeted acts of violence have not expended much effort to force entry into locked classrooms. Solid proactive prevention measures such as teaching with classroom doors locked can also help to reduce risk from these and other types of situations. Teaching students and staff to attack active shooters is a hotly debated topic with at least one school administrator dead after attempting to subdue a gunman in a Wisconsin high school.

Having served as an expert witness in traditional school shooting as well as active shooter situations and having been asked to assist after dozens of other traditional as well as targeted acts of school violence, I can attest that these are complex situations and that there were many differences between the seven school active shooter cases that I am closely familiar with.  Great care should be taken before making significant adjustments due to one or two unique situations.  Actions that could prevent death in one scenario can cause needless deaths in another instance. 

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.