With a swift, fluid motion, Deborah Carleton did as she was instructed and disarmed the “gunman.” She moved in quickly toward the shooter, pushed the rifle barrel up so as to point it away from other people and ripped the gun from his hands. As Carleton and half a dozen others completed the drill at Franklin Square’s Battle Zone Gym on April 7, she felt a little more secure.
“I’m a middle school teacher, and I’m trying to find something else to do besides sitting in a dark corner,” Carleton said of the active-shooter lockdown drills that schools routinely run through. She asked that the name of her school not be shared.
Her husband received a notice about the two-day course at the Battle Zone Gym, so she decided to attend and take Defense Techniques Academy’s Active Shooter Course. The Arizona-based Defense Tech sends weapons and defense instructors across the U.S. to teach people proper gun use and self-defense. Pete Lanteri, a Marine Corps veteran and tactical firearms instructor, founded Defense Tech three years ago after his friends kept asking him to teach them proper weapons use. He grew the company and eventually found customers who were interested in a specific type of self-defense: how to confront an active shooter.
“There has definitely been an increase in the interest of our active-shooter course because of all the recent events,” Lanteri said.
The course lasts several hours and teaches individuals how to react during an active-shooter situation. Instructors emphasize the importance of staying alert and evaluating the best course of action, with its mantra of “Run! Hide! Fight!” Carlos Roman, a former member of the U.S. Army military police and a Defense Tech instructor, used American kenpo techniques to help his students find quick and effective ways to disarm and tackle a potential assailant and retrieve a weapon from an active shooter. Roman played the role of the gunman, and after his students at the Battle Zone had had enough practice snatching the rifle from him, he raised a point.
“Once you overpower the shooter, you’re faced with an important question,” he said. “Should you shoot?”
In the class, Roman reviews the history of mass shootings, as well as the legal issues of using force for self-defense, explaining that there is a “very fine line between self-defense and murder.” He told his students that when they overpower an active shooter, they must assess whether the person demonstrates the means, opportunity and intent to continue to attack. He also stressed the importance of communicating with law enforcement during mass shootings and the techniques that can facilitate communication.
Keeping a steady hand and a level head is what Battle Zone Gym founder and Franklin Square native Tommy DiLallo echoed during the course. DiLallo, a Marine Corps veteran, has taken many courses with Defense Tech and teaches similar classes at his gym, which sees clients from throughout Franklin Square, Elmont and Valley Stream. He said he often has teenagers come into his gym and ask him to teach “the cool stuff.”
“We screen our people because we don’t want to teach the wrong people this stuff,” DiLallo explained. “We don’t want to create the next active shooter.”
A Gallup poll last October found that 1 in 4 Americans fear being a victim of a mass shooting. There have been more than 20 mass shootings in the U.S. since the massacre in Parkland, Fla., last month, which left 17 students and teachers dead.
Since then, the Sewanhaka Central High School District has begun to assess its security and safety protocols to protect students from an active shooter. The Sewanhaka Board of Education elected to create a security subcommittee last month to evaluate the district and come up with an updated security plan.
“This board takes it as a serious priority,” Trustee David Del Santo said.
Carleton said that schools are soft targets, and it would be hard tto stop 12- and 13-year-olds from “screaming their heads off” if they were ever to face an active shooter. She figured she is better off learning the skills that might protect her students rather than depending on security if her school were locked down for real.