Retired Colonel: Lessons from VA Tech saved lives at Navy Yard

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The former head of the Virginia State Police says the Virginia Tech tragedy has changed the way police respond to mass shootings, such as Monday's at the Navy Yard.

Col. Gerald Massengill was head of Virginia State Police through the 9-11 attacks, the D.C. sniper chaos, and he oversaw a review panel after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. He says those lessons saved lives at the Washington D.C. Navy Yard.

"It's just so difficult to stop and very challenging to deal with," said Col. Massengill after authorities almost textbook response to the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.

"Law enforcement has learned from what we've been through," said Col. Massengill. "Fast responses are key."

A review panel chaired by Col. Massengill after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. The panel made more than 72 recommendations.

"Prior to Columbine and Virginia Tech law enforcement secured the scene, contained the environment, and waited for appropriate resources," said Col. Massengill. "We learned that while that was going on people were being killed. So, we began to train for active shooters... go immediately to the active shooter."

Massengill says the recommendations covered everything from how officers responded to the scene to how soon public briefings should be held.

"A lot of times they say very little, sometimes nothing," said Col. Massengill. "But the fact that they are talking to the public... it removes that stigma of there is something that is being hidden."

Col. Massengill says the panel also made recommendations on outreach for the victims and first responders.

"We learned after Virginia Tech and Columbine you have to talk," said Col. Massengill. "You have to open lines of communication with the families and the victims because the families that are left behind are just as much victims as the ones that were killed."

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