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“It helped me stay calm”: witness uses active shooter training to stay safe during mall shooting

Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 5:35 PM CST
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - A woman who was in the Fox River Mall, near the food court at the time of the shooting, says being there was like having an out-of-body experience.

But she says she knew what to do, because training she’d received at work kicked in.

“There’s kind of a balcony that overlooks the food court, and within five minutes of being upstairs, the gunshots went off, and we kind of looked at each other and we just were like, was that what we think it is? And within ten seconds, people were screaming, running,” describes Ashlie Duchateau.

She says there was a moment of panic, where she didn’t move, as she was trying to convince herself something exploded, not that she was hearing gunshots inside the mall.

That lasted only a second.

“Then to realize our only way out was to where the shooting took place was just... it was crippling,” says Duchateau. “You start to feel like... I don’t have any control over the situation anymore, so what do I do?”

What she did was let her training kick in.

She and her friend ran to the closest store.

“We started throwing stuff in front of the door. We took the sofa and put it in front of the door. There was a little bookshelf. We tried to just get as much stuff in front of the door as we could, and then kind of hung out and waited. We turned the lights off,” says Duchateau.

“You have to do something. When we train businesses and schools and things like that, I always say, I don’t care what you do, but don’t make it easy,” says Officer Jedd Bradley, an active shooter response trainer. “Your chances go up dramatically if you hide under a table. Run. Go to a closet. I don’t care, but you have to do something.”

That message from Bradley, who has years of experience as a De Pere Police officer and trainer for both law enforcement and citizen groups around the country, was exactly what was running through Duchateau’s mind yesterday.

She’s not in law enforcement, but her employer -- like a growing number in the area -- offered active shooter training from Bradley.

The simple tips of always taking action, making a plan and knowing your exits can be applied anywhere you go.

“(The shooter has) a set amount of time to do as much harm as they can,” explains Bradley. “So if I come to an empty room, what am I going to do? I go to the next one. Or if I go to a locked door, what am I going to do? I’m going to go to the next one. The whole thing that’s happening the entire time is time is winning.”

It’s all about control... and who has it.

Bradley explains it with a simple demonstration. “Put your hands up like this,” he says, putting both hands a few inches apart. “If you try to clap before me on 1, 2, 3, who’s going to win? Me or you? Ready? 1, 2.” He claps first. “Okay, so I’m going to win every time, because I’m controlling it.”

Inside the mall Sunday, huddled in a store, Duchateau says her group made a plan in case the shooter came up the stairs.

“We were going to bolt out the back door and then go downstairs. They always say just make a plan and kind of try and figure out what you’re going to do,” she says.

They stayed there until the SWAT team arrived and led them to safety.

She is advocating for others to take training any time it’s available.

Duchateau says it made all the difference for her.

“I think partially, because of the training that I had, helped me kind of just stay calm,” she says.

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