Religious extremist whether Al Qaeda or ISIS have long called for the use of Vehicles as Weapons even going back to 2010, when we saw an article in Inspire Magazine titled, “The Ultimate Mowing Machine.”
The article featured a picture of a Ford pickup truck on the cover, the idea was to use a pickup truck to mow down the enemies of Allah.
These vehicle attacks are a part of larger category of weapons called “Momentum Weapons.”
When we think back to September 11th of 2001, we saw the incorporation of one of the most impactful integrated uses of momentum weapons when terrorist utilized planes to fly into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. While the global intelligence community has done a good job collectively thwarting many post 9/11 planned aerial attacks, we can’t be totally confident that some of the success may not have also been attributed to a change in terrorist strategies and tactics calling for an increase in low profile homegrown terrorist activities.
Momentum Weapons can be defined as anything from cars, trucks, buses, bulldozers, and planes etc. World leaders remain increasingly concerned about vehicles being used as weapons of mass murder after an onslaught of similar attacks around the world. In the December 2016 issue of Rumiyah, the Islamic State’s magazine, similar to the Al Qaeda inspired article again spoke to the virtue of using large trucks and included instructions on how to maximize casualties in a truck attack, potential targets and planning tips. The techniques in conjunction with calls to activate local cells or operators to lower the profile and minimize exposure. By simplifying the techniques and tools they hope to avoid detection while funding their low budget terroristic activities.
Just this year alone we have seen both Muslim and Christian inspired extremist use vehicles as weapons in Melbourne, Australia; multiple occasions in London, UK; Columbus, OH; Stockholm, Sweden; Charlottesville, VA; Edmonton, Canada and in Lower Manhattan where a terrorist drove a rental truck drove down a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center.
In addition to the initial death and injury caused by the vehicle attacks, we have also seen secondary attacks by the drivers which incorporated the use of edged weapons (particularly knives) and firearms.
Why are vehicles becoming the weapon of choice? Because they are easy to secure, they require limited planning, a minimal skill set to deploy, and minor preparation. They risk little chance of detection as they can make it through traditional weapons and explosive check points and random searches. Outside of the USA that is also the same reason knives have become the primary weapon for the secondary attacks because of the ease in securing and limited training required to cause injury. Care should be taken any time you are in densely populated areas, particularly around traditional tourist locations and on holidays of religious significance or on the anniversaries of historic events. If frequenting those areas, look for the presence of traditional and improvised barricades to enhance your safety and protection. Stay away from long lines and try and avoid choke points with available vehicular access.
Defenses Against Vehicles as Weapons:
- Stay aware of your surroundings, situational awareness is key.
- When using your electronic devices don’t wear both earbuds when walking outside as you lose focus on the natural environmental sounds or sounds of distress.
- Walk on the sidewalks facing the traffic particularly near roadsides. You have a greater chance of avoiding a vehicle used as a weapon if you see it coming or recognize the signs of distress ahead of you (people running away, horror or people’s faces etc.).
- When walking on the sidewalk street side take advantage of available improvised barricades (high curbs, parked cars, big trees, cement planters etc.).
- When visiting high trafficked tourist attractions again be aware of improvised or permanent barricades (high curbs, cement reinforced barricades and fences, cement planters, mature trees, statutes and monuments etc.) that can serve as cover from small arms fire or vehicles used as weapons.
- Also be aware and alert at choke points (park/venue entrances, bicycle rack barricades for funneling people, escalators etc.) which restrict pedestrian movement, create congestion and limit your quick escape as they create prime areas of opportunity for those with evil intentions.
- If something makes you uncomfortable follow your intuition and leave the area.
- Be extremely conscious of all rental trucks or any trucks which don’t fit the environment. Pay attention to how people are dressed do they look like movers, workers or does their attire not fit the potential work description.
Defenses Against Firearms
When it comes to defenses against firearms remember the tactical triad of Cover, Concealment and Distance:
- Cover – Can stop a bullet, (i.e. brick wall, engine block, large tree etc.), seek hard cover as you plan your escape or countermeasures. Not getting shot is more important than shooting – shooting is extra credit.
- Concealment – Can’t stop a bullet but can hide you from the shooters view (i.e. hedges, drywall, mailbox etc.). Use concealment as you plan your escape.
Distance – Put as much distance as possible between you and the bad guy (most people don’t shoot well over distance), as you move away from the threat.
Defenses Against Edged Weapons (Knives)
- Since edged weapons (i.e. knives, box cutters, machetes etc.) are primarily contact weapons, unless thrown, rule number one is distance is your friend. Below are some additional considerations:1. Run escape the kill zone immediately.2. Stay out of contact distance. When I talk to people I try to stay at least a step and a lunge away from them to give me time to react.
3. Be conscious of the grab hand. Most street knife attacks are not traditional martial arts dojo encounters. Most attackers often will attempt to grab their targets with their non-weapon hand to use it as leverage and control. The weapon attacks often resemble a prison shanking or a sewing machine repeated cycling action not the traditional martial arts weed-whacker approach.
4. If I can’t increase the distance, then I want to close the gap to contact distance to allow me to jam the reach of someone trying to access their knife.
5. Incorporate your own distance weapon. Your distance weapon is all relative and does not necessarily have to be a firearm. If the attacker has a 4 – 6 inch folding or fixed blade knife a broom sticks used like a lance, a broken pool cue, swinging your belt at the attacker all provide you with your own weapons that keep you outside of blade range. A fire extinguisher also becomes an effective distance weapon.
6. Use a shopping cart as either a battering ram or as a barricade to keep the attacker away from you.
7. If you don’t have your own weapon and you must fight at contact range consider wrapping your coat, sweater, towel etc. around your arm to make an impromptu shield. Remember at this point it is going to take both your own extreme motivation and focus on injury to your attacker to allow you to prevail in this encounter.
The 21-Foot Rule has historically been a benchmark used in both firearms and edged weapon defense training. The rule stated that most adults can close 21 feet in 1.5 seconds. So, from seven yards when met with unwelcomed force you had 1.5 seconds to respond accordingly. I often explain to most protection specialists, law enforcement officers as well as civilians that I train, that the 21-foot rule however has long been an outdated paradigm.
Since 65% of police officers are killed inside of 10 feet and most civilian attacks are ambushes, from the moment of recognition to the moment of reaction you often have less than .75 seconds to react. Since most adults can close 21 feet in 1.5 seconds. 1.5 divided by 21 = .07142857 x 10 feet = .71 seconds to respond.
So thus, increasing your reaction distance or closing the gap to contact range to jam the draw of an attacker with a knife or a gun or prudent considerations. Stay aware, stay focused and stay safe, and always remember a tactical escape beats a tactical encounter every time.
Vehicles Used as Weapons – Protecting Against the New Normal
By Mark “Six” James CPO, EPS, CAS
For additional safety tips visit www.pantherprotectionservices.com. Mark “Six” James is Founder and Executive Director of Panther Protection Services, LLC. He is an internationally published author, keynote speaker, security consultant to educational institutions and frequent contributor to a number of print, broadcast and online media, and the author of a number of security, firearm and protection publications. Panther Protection Services is a full-service protection agency focusing on Risk and Crisis Mitigation, Protective Services, Self-Defense Training, and Firearm Instruction.