Guest Editorial By Stanley I. White IACSP, ATO
On October 31, 2017 Sayfullo Saipov used a rented Home Depot truck to mow down innocent individuals on a bicycle path near Stuyvesant High School as well as ram a school bus of disabled students.
His reign of terror ended when a New York City Police Officer, Ryan Nash, shot Saipov and took him into custody.
In the wake of his attack 8 innocent people died and 11 were injured as a result of his actions.
Siapov who was born in Uzbekistan, holds a green card, resides in Paterson NJ with his wife and children.
(Driver who killed at least eight people and injured 11 is an Uzbeki national who was in the U.S. on a green card, had several expired documents. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 31, 2017)
He also claims alliance to ISIS. As he recovered in his hospital ward he bragged to investigators about the attack and asked if he could hang an ISIS flag in his room.
When neighbors and associates were initially questioned about Saipov’s demeanor they relied with the standard lines.
“He’s a nice guy.”” We’re shocked; we never thought he would do anything like that.”
However deeper investigation into Siapov’s demeanor prior to the attack revealed that he had developed a temper, grew a beard, and became more radical in his views.
He also openly exhibited a growing hatred for Israel.
Siapov seemed to be under the radar but, in 2015 he was questioned by the FBI for association with radical individuals, however they did not have enough evidence to charge him.
The use of vehicles used to assault civilians is not a new tactic, however it is a simplistic tactic that is more continually embraced by ISIS and al Qaida.
The ISIS English language magazine Rumiyah published a recent article titled “Just Terror Tactics,” that says “vehicles are just like knives they are extremely easy to acquire.”
The al Qaida , English language magazine “Inspire” refers to pickup trucks as the ultimate mowing machines to attack westerners with during vehicular assaults.
This tactic requires less monetary funding, prepping and hostile surveillance than the use of explosives and hijackings.
The attacker needs the ability to operate a vehicle and find a gathering of pedestrians.
(The NYPD has confirmed that the terror suspect was planning the Manhattan attack for weeks using Islamic State instructions.. Posted on Nov 1, 2017)
Statistics from 2015 document that in the United States over 200 million citizens have drivers licenses.
Many ‘talking heads’ are acting as if the Siapov attack is the first of its kind on the streets of the United States.
March of 2006 Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar used a sports utility vehicle to execute a vehicular attack on students at the University of North Carolina.
The attack did not kill anyone but injured 9 others.
Mohammed stated to authorities that he attacked the students to avenge Muslims around the world.
Society is bombarded with facts and falsehoods regularly due to a 24 hour news cycle.
However the first thing we as a society must wake up and accept that there is evil all around us.
Whether it be a criminal act or terrorist attack (domestic or foreign) the root cause is evil fueled by hate and manifested outwardly in violent actions.
All terrorist actions are supported by three pillars.
They are as follows:
THE WILL TO ACT
The desire to break moral and ethical codes to fulfill one’s objective
THE MEANS TO ACT
The physical training and access to materials to fulfill one’s objective
THE OPPORTUNITY TO ACT
The right time to execute one’s plans to fulfill one’s objective
If any of these three are missing or countered, the action will fail or have a diminished effect.
The will deals with one’s heart as well as their desire to follow through and the means deals with one’s ability to learn a deadly tradecraft.
In this case the means involved being able to drive, with over 200 million people in the United States licensed to drive, detection of the next Siapov becomes even more difficult task.
- His chosen method of attack did not entail him learning the skills of aviation or bomb making.
- The hostile surveillance for his attack only included several dry runs.
- Just think about how many people drove past and parked next to Siapov on his way to execute the deadly mission.
- Not one had a clue.
The opportunity involves the attacker being to pick the right time and place to attack.
- Interviews by law enforcement revealed Siapov picked Halloween as an attack date because he knew people would be out on the streets.
What does this all mean?
The removal of opportunity is the easiest component of three to counter but it takes work, training and communication.
Society needs to develop an aggressive awareness more than ever before.
(Learn More about the importance of active awareness, courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Jun 15, 2017)
By the time this piece is published a vast majority of the society will be saying Siapov who?
- The attack was simple and off the radar of law enforcement and the average citizen.
- As our society moves on toward 2018 and beyond we all will be in our own little worlds tending to our daily routines.
- However so will those evil hearted individuals who act out their evil thoughts through death and destruction.
- These individuals have already left their calling cards in San Bernadino, Orlando, Charlottesville, Las Vegas and most recently the streets of New York City.
(ISIS has told followers to use vehicles and knives in attacks. At least 11 attacks have involved vehicles in the last year. Courtesy of Fox News and YouTube. Posted on Oct 31, 2017)
Elevated awareness is a simple mental tool that can assist the average citizen and law enforcement professional in the removal of the opportunity pillar prior to a violent attack.
An elevated awareness can be developed by the use of the WAR Personal Protection System (aka WAR PPS).
This system was developed in 2003 and taught to local, state, and federal law enforcement professionals as well as a number of security contractors and military personnel in 2008 during the Iraq War.
(First aid skills are as important as defensive skills to those who are interested in self protection. This video is a serious reminder of that! Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Jun 15, 2017)
The following system summarized below covers tactical options that can be used beyond that of a hostile vehicular attack.
These can include but are not limited to a physical assault, stalking, harassment and other dangerous situations.
The W.A.R. Personal Protection System (also known as the W.A.R. Personal Protection System) is similar to the Homeland Security National Threat Alert System and the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security (MARSEC) Level System.
W.A.R is an acronym for White, Amber or Red Personal Alert System and it utilizes 3 colors to represent the level of personal awareness and the possible countermeasures to be undertaken.
The user of this system must continually assess and develop realistic countermeasures to combat any possible threat that may be encountered.
These countermeasures include self-defense training, legally carrying and training with a firearm as well as the mental rehearsal of appropriate responses to a variety of threats.
(If you’re a prepared defender and your attitude, skills, and plan are strong, then you might be placed in a position to stop a robber cold like this guy. He was ready, and the robber immediately regretted his life decisions! Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Nov 6, 2017)
The best way to ensure survival on the street is to train regularly, maintain good health and recognize that a violent act can take place at anytime.
This system rests on 2 pillars that are as follows:
- The W.A.R. user must accept the fact that regardless of social position, physical conditioning and training, they can become the victim of violence at any time.
- Once the user recognizes they can become a victim and are faced with a dangerous circumstance, they must resist any state of denial and exert a full effort both physically and mentally to either remove themselves from the area of danger or meet the threat with over-whelming force.
- No half-hearted countermeasure will ever provide enough protection for either you or a loved-one.
- Hesitant and weak countermeasures will only reduce your safety and place you in a state of greater danger.
Would be assailants are always on the lookout for individuals that are both in denial of possible danger and not focused on their surroundings.
(This disgruntled patient wanted to be diagnosed with a bad illness. When the doctor couldn’t find anything and wouldn’t lie, the patient decided this was the answer. This is a reminder of knowing your risks and managing them! Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Oct 31, 2017)
The three tier levels of W.A.R. and examples of possible counter measures are summarized below:
This level of personal security should be assumed once you are certain that both your personal being and surroundings are secure.
It is also the level that allows you to relax and recharge.
One scenario that involves the subject level may be found when you check into a hotel:
- Make mental notes regarding the location of multiple ingress/egress points and their relationship to your room and vehicle.
- Inspect all rooms in your suite, including closets and the area beneath the bed.
- Check to make sure that your room phone is operational and that your cell phone can receive a signal.
- Always sleep with your cell phone next to your bed.
- Inspect the locks on the windows and doors inside your suite.
- Check for interior sprinkler systems and whether the smoke detectors have batteries
- Once you have secured your suite, perform an outdoor assessment of the complex and associated grounds and note any areas of concern.
- Following your assessment you are now ready to lock the door and relax with the confidence you have done all you can to secure your personal safety.
A second example of the White level may involve the habit of checking the doors and windows of your permanent residence prior to turning in for the night.
- These actions can also be supplemented by a monthly inspection of the exterior of your residence and its associated property for signs of trespassing and attempted break and entries.
- This type of field assessment should include the inspection of windowsills, exterior molding around doors and windows, door locks, shrubs and plantings under windows, etc.
(Awareness in transitional spaces is the biggest self-defense tool that any of us have as this convenience store purse snatching caught on camera reminds us. It is the biggest preventer of problems, as awareness buys you time and time buys you options! Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Nov 28, 2017)
The secondary assessment level is assumed when the user either feels uncomfortable (that gut feeling that says something is wrong) or is placed in a situation that could result in physical danger.
Amber is also the stage where the user accepts the existence of danger and chooses a countermeasure that will either involve the evasion of the threat or the overwhelming of it.
This level requires the user to consistently assess his or her surroundings not letting down their guard until a White level is warranted.
- At this point, the user should look for escape routes and attempt to identify possible would-be assailants.
- Always seek to resolve any dangerous situation through avoidance and verbal de-escalation.
- However, always bare in mind a safe situation can deteriorate into pure chaos within seconds.
- (Note: always be prepared to take action)
One scenario that involves the Amber level of awareness may come into play when you either enter a room or step onto a dark street.
- At this point always note anything that appears out of the ordinary, raise your level of awareness
- Quickly make mental notes on possible escape routes and how to evacuate the area
- Pay close attention to who is around you and how close they are, as well as the same individuals who continue to appear in the same location as yourself
A second scenario may involve you and a loved one seated at a public venue.
- You hear a commotion in the distance that involves screaming and individuals using foul language.
- At this point, you should shift into a heightened Amber level (Amber/Red) assess where the commotion is located in relationship to your proximity.
- Then locate the nearest exits.
- Then secure your safety and that of your companion(s).
- Now monitor the situation and be prepared to move to a Red level of awareness.
- Many people who are prone to “sleepwalking” through life would ignore a nearby commotion and assume it had nothing to do with them and order more drinks and appetizers.
When your not asleep or executing a physical countermeasure, you’re level of awareness should always be at the Amber.
(Police are looking for the car and perps involved in this possible kidnapping caught on camera. If you have any information please contact the authorities! This woman is taken against her will regardless, and that teaches us a lot. Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Nov 18, 2017)
Is the action level assumed once the user has determined he or she is in danger and committed himself or herself to act.
Once it is understood that the situation cannot be resolved with a non-physical solution, the user must immediately clear their mind of any distractions that will slow their response time.
- Such distractions include, but are not limited to, hurting the attacker’s feelings, making a commotion, embarrassment, drawing unwanted attention to the situation, etc.
- The fact of the matter is another individual is attempting to either seriously injure or kill you.
Users must always remember that they are not the judge and jury when engaging an aggressor, but rather an innocent individual attempting to protect themselves from an unwarranted attack.
One scenario involves you walking and you find yourself being followed.
- At this point you should take the following countermeasures to neutralize the threat.
- Stay calm and remain in a populated and well-illuminated area, cross the street if possible and observe the movements of the individual(s) following you.
- Attempt to utilize either the reflections of storefront windows or other reflective features to look for a suspicious individual(s) positioned behind or next to you.
- You should then immediately seek assistance from the local authorities.
Now that the W.A.R system has been explained in some detail, a basic review of the 4 options to a physical confrontation should be explored.
The 4 possible options and recommended levels of awareness is as follows:
- See a dangerous situation developing, remove yourself from the conflict and seek help. (AMBER)
- Engage your attacker(s) in an effort to create enough space to escape and seek assistance.
- This option is usually undertaken when an assailant blocks your path and refuses to move following your verbal requests.
- At this point the user should either scream for help or forcefully push the assailant out of the way while screaming for help and flee the scene.
- These actions are performed to attract the attention of bystanders (aka creating a witness) and provide you with enough time to escape the threat. (AMBER/RED)
- Engage your attacker(s) with over-whelming force and restrain him or her for either law enforcement or assistance from bystanders. (RED)
- Engage your attacker(s) with over whelming force and either seriously incapacitate or terminate them.
- (This final option is only to be used if either your life or the lives of others are in danger (RED)
Note that none of the options recommend the White level of awareness.
This is due to the fact that the White level is only to be assumed once an individual is safe, in a secure locale and is certain they can let down their guard.
(Against multiple robbers, unarmed resistance is difficult at best. When those robbers are themselves armed, it can quickly prove to be a mistake with grave consequences as it is here. Covering our Active Self Protection means knowing not only HOW to defend ourselves, but WHEN. Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Nov 22, 2017)
When choosing either Options 2,3 or 4 remember justification always comes before action. In short, have justification for your actions before you execute them.
- Stay calm, as hard as it may be at the time.
- Remain aware of your surroundings and footing.
- Make sure no one is behind you, create room to move and either execute a protective countermeasure or rapid escape.
Always try to resolve the matter verbally and without violence.
Make this case loud and clear so witnesses know you are not the antagonist.
Before your attacker begins his or her assault, take them out of their pre-conceived game plan by using the following questions:
- “What are you doing?”
- “Why are you staring at me?”
- “Why are you clenching your fists?”
- “Why are you moving so close to me?”
- “Back up!”
- “Are you thinking about hitting me?”
- “Why don’t you put your hands down?”
This tactic will either remove the attacker’s preconceived notion that he or she can surprise you or that you’re in a state of denial about being attacked.
However, always bare in mind this form of verbal jousting may not remove the threat, but give you time to react. So stay on guard.
As stated before, asking these questions will enable you to:
- Break the attackers concentration
- Interrupt his or her build up to aggression
- Send a message through speech and non-verbal communication that you are prepared to execute a countermeasure with over-whelming force
- Draw the attention of onlookers and make the case that the assailant is the aggressor
(These officers needed every tool in the toolkit to successfully navigate this confrontation with an angry domestic disturbance suspect. Some really important lessons to be learned here about verbal, decision-making, marksmanship, and first aid skills! Courtesy of Active Self Protection and YouTube. Posted on Nov 27, 2017)
This system must be continually practiced until it becomes second nature.
PPS users must sleep in the white level, live in the amber level and react in the red level.
This component is further supported by a continually development of personal awareness skills and further training to detect/react to a threat.
The user must always be alert and prepared to take some form of action when confronted with danger.
The application of these concepts can greatly enhance your personal safety and that of your loved ones.
The training and application of the WAR PPS involve simple techniques that if executed can counter a simple yet deadly attack like that of Siapov in New York City.
The main component of this system is to recognize that regardless of your status and street smarts you can still become a victim of violence, crime and terror.
So stay alert and aware of the ever changing threat environment both at home and abroad. What happens overseas usually migrates to our shores.
Knowledge of current threat environment goes beyond the verbal threats made on the internet and media.
All citizens must continually stay knowledgeable of enemy tactics, capabilities and current methods of attack (ie. use of explosives, edged weapons, firearms, vehicle assaults, etc.)
The elevation of everyone’s knowledge will lead to preparation, confidence and the ability to act if needed during an emergency.
Greg Myre, ”As ISIS Promotes Vehicle Attacks, Terrorists Strike in Europe and US,”November1,2017, NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/01/561327621/as-isis-promotes-vehicle-attacks-terrorists-strike-in-eur
Pamela Engel, “ISIS and Al Qaeda have Specifically called for the type of attack that just happened in London,” March 22, 2017, Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/isis-alqaeda-londonattack-2017-3
Stanley White, ”W.A.R. is Personal Security,” January 21, 2008, CTP Advantage, http://iacsp.com/members/news
Stuart K. Cameron, ”Low Tech Terrorism: The Threat of Vehicle and Vehicle Assisted Attacks, ”August 17, 2017, Police Chief Magazine, http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/lowtech;terrorism-vehicles
“Vehicles as Weapons of Terror”,2017, Counter Extremism Project, https://www.counterextremism.com/vehicles-as-weapons-of-terror
About the Author:
Stanley I. White is currently the CI Advisor for the IACSP as well as a defensive tactics instructor who has trained personnel from numerous local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
He is a certified Anti- Terrorism Officer and also holds an active membership with the AFIO.
He is also an internationally published author on the topics of personal security and counter terrorism. Mr White can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.