PHOENIX, AZ - In the aftermath of a deadly shooting at a Maryland mall on Saturday, and following recent mall shootings in the Valley, authorities have some advice for shoppers.
Retired Phoenix police Sgt. Paul Penzone travels the country training people how to react to active shooter situations. He told ABC15 on Saturday that these shootings are happening more and more often.
"If you're a shopper at a mall, do you know what to do," asked Penzone. "Do you have a shelter in [mind], do you know if you should flee?"
The most recent Valley shooting occurred in Glendale when a man fired shots at two shoplifters in a mall parking lot, saying he was protecting his wife.
Last month in Tempe, a woman was shot in the arm when two groups began firing shots at each other at Arizona Mills Mall.
Penzone said shooting situations rarely last longer than 10 minutes, but it could be several minutes before police arrive, so you are really the first line of defense when it comes to protecting yourself.
"Run, hide, fight, are the options in order," Penzone said. "Getting away from the threat, avoiding the threat, are always your best options."
Penzone said people need to be aware of their surroundings and have a plan in place in case something does happen.
"No matter what you do or where you are, you should be cognizant to ask yourself 'if something happened here, how do I get out of the building, or what can I get behind to protect myself?'"
He said your best bet is to run away from the situation, but if you're with children or have special needs you'll need to find a good hiding spot with some sort of barrier between you and the shooter.
"You should be running away from it with your head up, your eyes up, paying attention to where you're heading to, because it's not uncommon for there to be a distraction or a diversion that causes you to run in a direction where you may be running towards a threat or an additional threat," Penzone said.
Penzone said anyone carrying a gun and finding themselves in this situation would have to make a very tough decision about whether they can handle the responsibility of taking someone's life, and the consequences they may face if they miss their intended target and hit an innocent person.