It has now been 15 months since the March 4, 2017 attack on Anytown Elementary School in Anytown, Anystate. As an anxious nation waits for the next attack, an attack the serial assurances of the Hillary Clinton Administration assure us cannot possibly happen due to the application of “brilliant diplomacy,” there are, for the first time, reliable answers to many of the unresolved questions about the Anytown attack.
On June 29, the Attorney General of Anystate, Wilson P. Sloane, released his report on the attack. It is the result of 15 months of investigation by the state police, and if rumors are to be believed, benefits from considerable information leaked through a variety of unnamed, authoritative federal sources, made necessary by the Clinton Administration’s virtual public embargo on details, particularly relating to the killers, their means of entry into the United States, and their planning and execution of the attack. For example, while the Administration has refused to confirm that the attackers were, with two exceptions, foreign-born Muslims and known members of terrorist organizations, the growing outrage of the public has not allowed it a denial. Reliable sources have confirmed a general, panicky Administration search for the identities of leakers in federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
I will, of course, continue to report on this case as the discovery of new information warrants. This article will focus on a summary of the the attack and its immediate aftermath. Those wishing to read the entire released report–it is 683 pages long, including notes–may find a PDF version here.
The prologue of the report adopts a scheme of referring to the five terrorists as the terrorist leader (TL), and terrorists 1-4 (T1, T2, etc.). The prologue also makes clear that all of the terrorists were Muslims, and that the TL and T1 and T2 were battle-hardened Jihadists, having been trained in terrorist camps in territory controlled by ISIS, and having fought in the many conflicts throughout the Middle East against American and western interests. According to the report, these three terrorists entered America illegally across the Southern border at least six months prior to the attack. Sloane believes that the Clinton Administration has far more specific information on these people, including their identities, terrorist connections, and precisely how and when they entered the United States, but has thus far refused to cooperate with the investigation citing national security and executive privilege.
The final two terrorists, T3 and T4 were American-born citizens of Iranian descent, apparently radicalized at a mosque in Anytown City, some 60 miles from Anytown. It is believed that T3 and T4 served as hosts and an advance planning cell for the attack, and that TL, T1 and T2 provided not only the military expertise necessary for the attack, but the weapons, explosives and other materials without which the attack could not have been so deadly. All of these materials were also apparently smuggled across the southern border.
It is known that the T3 and T4 traveled to the former Iraq near the Syrian border approximately a year before the attack. They were there for approximately two months, and returned to the United States. Sloane speculates that it was there they received training and were briefed on the attack, probably meeting and working with the TL and T1 and T2, however, he is careful to state that this is speculation informed by information leaked from unnamed government sources.
Before I provide excerpts from the report and comment on them, there are some initial observations that may be useful to readers:
(1) There can be no doubt, no matter how hard the Administration tries to deny or minimize it, that the five killers were Jihadist terrorists. This was not workplace violence, any kind of “contingency operation,” or common citizens of a foreign country aggrieved by any US policy or video and spontaneously striking out. Their tactics, weapons, rhetoric and the propaganda materials released after the attack, as well as the multiple, specific claims of responsibility, remove all doubt from the minds of reasonable Americans.
(2) The fully automatic weapons, and explosives, used by the terrorists are not available from commercial sources inside the United States, and their methods of employment were consistent with well-known terrorist tactics used against American troops and interests. Anonymous sources indicate the AK-47s were never shipped to or sold in America and the same was true of the remaining explosives.
(3) The involvement of two possibly local citizens in helping the police to kill two terrorists and disarm explosives were instrumental in saving not only the lives of children and teachers–as tragically small as those numbers were–but in saving the lives of responding police officers.
(4) The terrorist organizations likely responsible for the attack are well-known and trained and financed by known state sponsors, the most prominent of which is Iran.
(5) The death toll, as horrible as it was, was not higher primarily due to luck rather than anything the Anytown schools, the local police or any responding agency did.
From the report:
March 4, 2017, 1000 AM local time: A unmarked white panel van parked at the curb in the Anytown Elementary School parking lot near the NE corner of the school. It is believed the terrorists chose this point because the North face of the school has few windows and those windows do not provide a consistently clear view of the parking lot.
Using an aluminum extension ladder, T3 and T4 climbed to the roof of the single-story school, and pulling up the ladder, then climbed to the roof of the gymnasium. Because the school is at the outskirts of Anytown, surrounded by open land for at least 200 yards in every direction, and set back at the end of a driveway nearly 300 yards in length, this is probably why the terrorists choose the school. The school’s remote location gave the terrorists a 360° commanding view of the surrounding area and unrestricted fields of fire.
As T3 and T4 took their positions atop the school, The other three terrorists used a crowbar to pry open a door on the North side of the school and immediately moved toward the south in the school, booby-trapping every exterior door they could reach with Semtex, a common plastic explosive. As they set these bombs, they did not attempt to directly attack anyone, but moved quickly and quietly.
1006: A secretary stepped out of the front office and saw the armed terrorists setting explosives on the series of front doors, screamed and was immediately shot and killed. A terrorist, believed to be the TL, entered the office and shot and killed two other secretaries, the school counselor and principal. The assistant principal was at a meeting at the school district administration building.
A later portion of the report reveals that the secretaries were seated behind a reception counter. The terrorist shot through that counter, apparently with fully automatic fire, killing them instantly. He killed the counselor and principal at their desks by firing through the walls of their offices and the open doors. All were hit multiple times.
The report also notes that the terrorists dropped their empty magazines throughout the school rather than keeping them. This suggests they had no intention of a drawn-out conflict and expected to die. Soldiers do not abandon magazines in combat. Each of the terrorists carried at least seven readily available magazines and many others in backpacks. The terrorists on the roof of the gymnasium carried at least 25 loaded magazines each. The terrorists also did not carry radios, indicating their attack was planned with no escape.
It was these gunshots that alerted others in the building and allowed nearly an entire hallway of classrooms at the Southwest corner of the building, some 210 students and 14 teachers and aides, to escape the building and run to the nearby sports stadium, where they hid behind the bleachers, eventually running across the fields, in classroom groups, to the safety of a nearby housing development.
They were led by a first-year, 26-year old female, 3rd grade teacher, a Marine veteran of two Afghanistan deployments. She immediately recognized the gunfire for what it was and organized the evacuation. Without her, it is unlikely those students and teachers would have escaped. She is one of the heroes of Anytown.
1009:22: The first report of the attack from a teacher reached the 911 line of the Anytown Police Department.
1010: The police dispatcher made the first radio call of the attack. A town of 18,000, the Anytown Police Department (APD) had only five officers on patrol. One was investigating a traffic accident with multiple serious injuries and could not immediately leave. The other four immediately headed to the school.
1012: By this time the terrorists had begun systematically rounding up teachers and students by classroom and forcing them into the school cafeteria where one kept them under guard. In that process, at least two teachers argued or resisted—by accounts of surviving students—and were immediately shot and killed.
1015:19: Officer Johnson of the APD was the first to enter the driveway. As he reached about the halfway point between the highway and parking lot, an improvised explosive device left at the side of the narrow entrance driveway detonated—it was later determined to have been detonated by a cell phone signal, probably sent by T3 or T4—and flipped Johnson’s vehicle on its side, instantly killing him and blocking the driveway.
This is, by the standards of school attacks, a very rapid police response. However, in this case, unlike virtually all prior attacks on continental American schools, the killers made specific provisions to hold off any police response. The police were entirely unprepared for their tactics and weapons.
1007:42: Officers Barkley and McQueen, driving separate vehicles, arrived and radioed their observations. As McQueen stopped to check on Johnson, Barkley jumped the curb, continuing off the pavement, and as he neared the building, was engaged with fully automatic AK-47 fire that penetrated his vehicle and his body armor, killing him instantly. Twenty-three bullet holes were later counted in his vehicle. He was hit five times.
Using his portable radio, McQueen notified the dispatcher of Johnson’s death and that Barkley’s vehicle had taken fire and he could not raise him by radio. McQueen was also immediately taken under fire. As he was running back to his vehicle, he was shot in the left thigh and his femoral artery severed, but he managed to crawl behind his vehicle and continued to transmit his observations for a short time.
1011:52: APD officer Millian was engaged with automatic fire as soon as he turned into the entrance driveway. He managed to continue to McQueen’s vehicle by ducking below his dashboard, though he was shot in the right forearm. He turned his vehicle around–it took 41 hits–and got to his first aid kit, which he used to bandage his arm and McQueen’s leg, but McQueen was already unconscious from blood loss, and died long before medical personnel could reach him. Millian’s car was disabled, and he was pinned down behind McQueen’s vehicle and would stay there until after the destruction of the cafeteria. He did fire several rounds from his handgun with his left hand at the two terrorists on the roof, but they were approximately 140 yards away and protected by a brick and concrete cornice approximately 18” tall at the top of the gymnasium. Millian realized his rounds might hit the housing development behind the school, so he held his fire.
Three local Any County Sheriff’s Deputies were also on their way, and so were the two Anystate Highway Patrolmen within range. Three APD detectives, Chief Crowe and Assistant Chief Sheridan were also on their way. This represented all of the on-duty area law enforcement assets immediately available.
1016: Two APD detectives, Smith and Radford, armed with shotguns and handguns, tried to approach the school from the west, but were caught in the open fifty yards from the building and killed. One was shot four times, the other, seven.
1018:14: Chief Crowe and Assistant Chief Sheridan were able to take a concealed position behind the athletic field bleachers and reported that the terrorists had automatic weapons and were in superior positions atop the gymnasium. Seeing no movement from the two detectives and unable to raise them by radio and cell phone, they did not attempt to reach them.
1020: The three terrorists had quickly searched the building and forced most of the students and teachers, as well as two custodians, into the cafeteria. Huddled in the cafeteria were a total of 197 students and 13 teachers. They quickly booby-trapped the only exit doors and shot and killed two teachers, and at least 23 students that would not stop screaming and crying.
Fortunately, they missed a teacher who was able to hide her 12 special education students in a bathroom, and she was able to escape with her students through a door on the south side of the building that had not yet been booby-trapped. Crowe sent Sheridan to lead them to the bleachers, and ultimately, to safety at the nearby housing development.
As additional officers were called out from home and wherever they could be found, the terrorists continued to wire exterior doors with explosives, eventually setting eight charges throughout the cafeteria.
1031:18: Several off duty-APD officers and local sheriff’s deputies arrived in the area, but were forced to remain out of rifle range. However, they were able to find positions that allowed them, with the help of binoculars, to confirm there were only two terrorists on the roof armed with automatic rifles. None had rifles and their handguns and shotguns lacked the range to threaten the terrorists on the gymnasium roof. Their observation made it possible to coordinate, to some degree, the few available law enforcement assets and a loose perimeter was established outside of rifle range around the building.
1033: In the cafeteria, the terrorists were angry and hostile and becoming more agitated by the minute…
NOTE: The report eventually explains that these observations were gained from survivors from the cafeteria.
…and with no apparent provocation, brutally beat, raped and beheaded a young teacher.
1042:36: T4, firing at the officers pinned down in the driveway on the east side of the school, was shot and killed by a police marksman.
This matter-of-fact declaration is one of more interesting parts of the report. A local blogger was recording police radio traffic over a scanner, and reported that an officer radioed Chief Crowe, telling him that “some guy who says he was an Army sniper just showed up, and he has a sniper rifle and spotting scope with him. He says he can take the guys on the roof.”
According to the blogger, Crowe initially refused, but the officer told him the man appeared to know what he was doing, and Crowe grudgingly authorized the shot. The blogger described the conversation between the officer and Crowe as “heated” and “intense.”
This is likely correct. Police executives will do almost anything to avoid admitting they are not in control of any situation. Allowing a citizen to do what the police cannot is virtually unheard of, even though most states have laws that allow the police to call on citizens, when necessary, to assist them, providing immunity for such situations. What likely changed Crowe’s mind were the gunshots that continued to be heard from time to time from inside the building. At the time, the police had no idea what was happening inside. Though they knew the terrorists had explosives, they did not have the training and experience to predict how they might be used.
To protect them and their families, the former sniper and the blogger’s names have not been released to the public.
1043:10: A deputy watching the south side of the Gymnasium reported that the terrorist at the SW corner was moving toward the East side of the gym.
1043:16: The second terrorist was killed by the police marksman.
1048:33: Covered by the police marksmen, deputies and APD officers were able to recover officers Millian and McQueen. Officer Millian was evacuated and eventually recovered. Officer McQueen was pronounced dead at the scene.
1050:02: A long burst of automatic gunfire inside the school was heard. It could not later be determined whether anyone was shot or injured by this fire. Virtually all of the children and teachers killed by gunfire were struck so many times it was impossible to determine when they were shot.
1051:46: The first of two highway patrolmen arrived, and armed with an AR-15 rifle, led two off-duty APD officers and two deputies in an assault on the front doors of the building. They were armed with two shotguns, their duty handguns and a breaching bar borrowed from a fire truck staging some distance from the school. This was necessary as the school doors were locked.
1053:20: After running approximately 100 yards, the team of officers gathered at the door. As soon as a deputy pried it open, the explosives, later estimated to be approximately one pound of Semtex, detonated, killing all but the officer at the end of the entrance stack. He was partially shielded from the blast and shrapnel by the bodies of his fellow officers and a brick wall adjoining the doors. He was, however, rendered unconscious and thrown several yards by the blast. He suffered several broken bones. The entrance of the building was significantly damaged.
1056:08: Realizing the entrance of the school was no longer booby-trapped, APD Chief Crowe and two of his officers entered the building through the thick smoke and dust that still hung in the air.
1059:17: Three massive explosions shook the school and broke windows in a one-mile radius. Half of the roof of the cafeteria collapsed, accounting for a number of the dead. Chief Crowe and the two officers that entered the school were killed by a bomb wired to the doors of the cafeteria.
1103:52: The second Highway patrolman available arrived and led a team comprised of the police marksman and a citizen volunteer with explosives experience. They conducted a very quick search of the building and cleared a path to the cafeteria through a portion of a collapsed wall, and cautious and slow rescue operations began.
The “citizen volunteer,” according to anonymous sources– probably federal law enforcement–was a Navy EOD technician that served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whether he knew the “police marksman,” where he lives and how he found out about the incident and turned up when he was most needed are not known, but make for an interesting, and fortuitous, coincidence. His name, too, is being withheld to protect him and his family.
1218: A SWAT team from Anytown City arrived, and as rescue operations continued, conducted a complete search and clearance of the building, including the roof where the bodies of T3 and T4 were found, both killed by single shots to the head. They had over 600 remaining, unfired rounds of ammunition loaded in magazines.
1412: All remaining explosives were accounted for and disarmed, and the building was declared cleared, however, due to severe structural damage, only absolutely necessary rescue personnel were allowed to remain inside.
It was only the near miraculous arrival of the former sniper and EOD technician that saved untold lives and allowed the rescue of children and teachers that would have otherwise died. The report notes that the APD and local Sheriff’s Office did not have a SWAT team, nor did they have firearms and training appropriate to the situation.
The Anytown City Police SWAT team arrived more than two hours after the attack began–Anytown City is 57 miles from Anytown–and had no role in stopping the attack or in saving lives. Though they did have more appropriate weapons and training, all of the terrorists, and those they wanted to kill, were dead long before SWAT arrived. No available law enforcement agency, nor the SWAT team, had anyone trained in explosive ordinance disposal.
This portion of the report is incredibly sad:
Dead and Injured:
Anytown Elementary School Principal Sarah Constanza, 38, was killed.
AES Attendance Secretary Maria Hernandez, 54, was killed.
AES Reception Secretary Anna Kowalski, 27, was killed
AES Principal’s Secretary Stephanie Liu, 43, was killed.
AES Counselor Rachel Silverman, 58, was killed.
Thirteen AES teachers were killed (names in appendix).
183 AES children, ages 5 to 11, were killed (names in appendix).
Two AES teachers were wounded, but recovered.
14 AES students were wounded, but recovered.
APD Chief William Crowe was killed.
Six APD officers were killed, and two APD detectives (names in appendix).
Two APD officers were injured, but recovered (names in appendix).
Two Any County SO Deputies were killed (names in appendix).
Anystate Highway Patrolman Stephen J. Wilson was killed.
All five terrorists were killed, two by the “police marksman” and three by their own explosives. Only portions of those three bodies were recovered. Anonymous sources indicate those three were conclusively identified via DNA, though their identities have not been released by the Administration. There is a persistent rumor that at least one of the five was released from Guantanamo Bay during the last few months of the previous administration, but this is not confirmed. If true, it would certainly help to explain in part why the Administration is so reluctant to identify the terrorists and their affiliations.
Of the 197 children and 13 teachers held in the cafeteria, 11 teachers died by gunfire, beheading, and injuries from explosive blasts and shrapnel, and the collapsing structure of the school. Of the children, 171 were killed by gunfire and explosives. Twenty-six children were pulled, alive, from the rubble, though 12 died within a few weeks. Of the fourteen remaining, all survived, though two lost limbs, one was blinded, one is a paraplegic, and three suffered injuries that will hamper them the rest of their lives.
That any of them lived is miraculous. Those that survived were shielded, by sheer chance, by the bodies of classmates, fallen tables, inexplicable gaps in blast patterns, or other twists of fate. Only four of the eight explosive charges set in the cafeteria by the terrorists ultimately detonated (the report explains why they likely failed). Had they all exploded, it is unlikely anyone would have survived.
The survivor’s statements indicate that when Chief Crowe or one of the officers accompanying him tried to enter the cafeteria, the booby-trap wired to that door exploded, but the force of that explosion destroyed only the door and area behind it in the school hallway. One of the surviving teachers believes a terrorist began yelling “allahu akbar,” and pressed a button on a cellphone. A blinding flash overtook her and she remembers nothing else until awakening in the hospital several days later.
Anytown Elementary School was a very soft target. A school resource officer, an Any County Deputy Sheriff, is assigned to the school, but he is shared with the four other Anytown School District elementary schools, and was in Anytown Elementary only one day out of five. He was in another school the day of the attack. It is likely the terrorists learned of his schedule simply by calling and asking for him. There is no security protocol in the schools protecting such information. Anytown SD policy also prohibits school employees from carrying firearms, and “gun free school zone” signs are prominently posted around every school.
Anytown Elementary School did have remotely locked entrance doors and locks keyed to magnetic cards, and there were video cameras focused on the area of the front doors, but no one was assigned to watch the monitor displaying that feed on a continual basis. There were no cameras on the doors the terrorists entered.
All interior classroom doors were lockable from the inside, and the school did practice, twice a year, “run and hide” lockdown drills. The investigation revealed that some teachers were not able to lock their classroom doors before their students and they were captured and herded to the cafeteria. Those that were able to lock their doors found only seconds of sanctuary. All of the doors had glass panels next to them, and several were smashed in, allowing the terrorists to reach in and unlock the doors. Several doors were pried open, and the locks of several others were destroyed by gunfire. In each case, it would have taken only seconds to breach the doors and reach the children and teachers within.
NOTE: While the structural damage at AES was significant, it could have been rebuilt. The School Board decided, however, to demolish the school, and only a memorial with the names of all that died, including the police officers that tried to rescue the students and teachers, remains on the site.
The attack on Anytown Elementary School is the most destructive terrorist attack on an American School to date. It was all but foretold by the Beslan attack of September 4, 2004 where some 385 died, and the Peshawar attack of December 16, 2014 where 145 were killed.
There are persistent reports that federal and state authorities have been aware of credible terrorist threats against schools since the 1990s, but little has been done to protect children and teachers. The Beslan and Peshawar massacres, as well as a great many, less successful attacks around the world, made clear that terrorists were willing and anxious to attack schools. It was only a matter of time before an attack of this magnitude took place in America.
The Anytown Elementary School attack was, by the reckoning of terrorists, a great success. President Clinton has sworn to “better understand and empathize with those compelled to violence,” and has promised to bring the “guilty parties–whoever they may be–to justice.”
What remains is encouraging to terrorists, and horrifying to rational Americans.
There are thousands of Anytown Elementary Schools, protected only with thin metal “gun free school zone” signs, a smattering of video cameras and locked doors. None of these things deter those bent on murder. “Run and hide” drills offer no protection from those willing to seek, find and kill.
Those determined to keep adults charged with protecting children disarmed argue that the police could not save the Anytown children, but they deceive and distract. The time to stop an attack is at the time and place it occurs. While the Anytown police response was relatively rapid as such things go, it failed because the terrorists were not immediately stopped and were able to establish commanding defensive positions.
The responding officers could not immediately help anyone because they were armed only with short-range weapons. The terrorists were able to keep them outside effective handgun and shotgun range. Handguns are effective at the ranges experienced inside schools, and multiple armed teachers could have stopped the terrorists at many points during the attack. The deterrent effect of an unknown number of armed and prepared adults at any school is considerable, and is far, far better than the nothing that is currently all the protection afforded the innocent at most American schools.
We know now, without a doubt, what terrorists can do and what they intend to do in the future. There will be more school attacks. The only question that remains, that must be asked of every school board, is when an attack takes place at any school, what are they willing to do to save the lives of children and teachers?
Consider this conclusion from an article from November, 2012:
The ability to immediately confront and stop an armed attack, potentially before a shot is fired at innocents, is priceless, yet in the name of ‘safety’ and particularly ‘feeling safe,’ that ability is denied those who could save the lives of our children.
Few solutions to real education problems are so simple, so readily implemented, and will cost so little. Arming those school staff members who choose to be armed—who with concealed carry licenses already are armed and trained–is a solution whose time has come. The continuing cost of failing to implement true protection will be calculated in the lives of children.
“Those that cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Attributed to George Santayana
NOTE TO READERS: This is, of course, a work of fiction. However, there is nothing preventing such a terrorist attack, and the mention of intelligence indicating terrorist desires to attack soft targets is accurate. All of the actions attributed to the fictional terrorists and police officers are likewise based in real procedures and capabilities. As to a politician’s great concern for empathizing with those that would kill us, go here.