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Some police encouraging victims to fight back against attackers

PHOENIX -- In the past, some police agencies urged people to run and hide from violent situations, such as the tragedies in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., until police arrived. That line of thinking may be changing.

Some agencies are advising school leaders and even students to physically confront the attackers as a last resort, but a retired Phoenix police officer said that may not be the best bet for everyone.

"There are people who are not trained, who won't get involved and know they can't do anything and they're better off getting away and getting other people away to safety by running," said former Phoenix Police Sgt. Andy Hill.

Hill agreed with other experts that fighting back remains a last resort. He said attacking the attacker could prevent extra tragedy but you must know exactly what you're capable of doing.

"Since 9/11 we've had more people willing to confront attackers and that's the key."

Hill referred to passengers on United 93 who took on the terrorists aboard the aircraft before it crashed in Pennsylvania and likely saved many lives at the U.S. Capitol.

Hill made it clear: Once someone commits to fighting or dying in trying to stop a violent situation, there's no turning back.

"You go as hard as you can for as long as you can and don't give up. That's your best chance of surviving."

The Police Executive Research Forum recently told USA Today there are times when you must fight or die because sitting on the sidelines could cost lives.

Former DPS Officer Andy Swann works closely with the Arizona Attorney General's Office on law enforcement matters and said each scenario is different.

"If somebody can't do it. They're not willing to do it. An emergency situation is not the time to be thinking maybe I'll give it a try."

Swann said there will be cases where confronting an attacker will just add one more victim: the would-be hero.

"There are also cases where fighting back is a much better option than standing back and taking bullets."

Swann said he is not encouraging going after someone with a gun. That's a judgment call.

"If your only choices are fighting or dying, I think fighting is the best option. That's just me."

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About the Author


Position: Senior News Reporter. Started with KTAR July 4, 1999.

Favorite spots in Arizona: Pinetop-Lakeside, Alpine, Greer.

Have covered some of the biggest stories in Arizona including nine of the top 10 largest wildfires in state history. The Wallow Fire in 2011 became the largest fire in state history. Rodeo-Chediski Fire in June 2002, which is the second largest fire in Arizona. Covered the Yarnell Hill Tragedy in June 2013 that left 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots dead.

Favorite movies: True Grit, both 1969 John Wayne classic and the remake with Jeff Bridges and Lonesome Dove.

Sports Teams: Washington State University Cougars, Texas Longhorns, The University of Montana Grizzlies.

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