Opening Comments to Debrief for Oregon District Shooting Survivors – October 23, 2020

By Richard S. Biehl, Police Chief (RET)

*This is an article from the Spring 2022 issue of Combat Stress

Greetings. I am Richard Biehl, Police Chief of the City of Dayton, and I extend a heartfelt welcome to you from the City of Dayton and the Dayton Police Department.

I first want to offer my deepest condolences to those who lost a loved one due to the mass attack in our community in August last year and my wish to each of you for healing and recovery as well as all who were harmed in any way by this terrible tragedy.

We are here today for a solemn undertaking – to try to provide to everyone present, and publicly sometime later, a more detailed explanation and thorough understanding of the tragic events that unfolded in the Oregon District on August 4, 2019, to the extent that such explanations are available.

To do so, you will be hearing details from the investigation of the Dayton Police Department into the mass shooting that occurred on this date, the actions of Dayton Police personnel responding to the attack, as well as the immediate response locally and regionally to render aid to those wounded and injured by it. You will also hear details of the investigation of the actions of the assailant on the evening of August 3rd leading up to his fatal assault in the early morning of August 4th.

This presentation will be followed by a summary of the extensive follow-up investigation by the FBI and the Behavioral Assessment Unit into the background of the assailant and his actions leading up to the attack as well as the actions of anyone else, either directly or indirectly, that contributed to the preparation for the attack. These investigations will add some clarity regarding what happened and by whom.

The deeper question, and one not always answered sufficiently – is why? While the following discussion will provide greater clarity to this looming question, the information provided may not, and for some likely will not, provide an explanation to adequately address it. Sometimes, particularly in circumstances of profound tragedy and loss, words and explanations fail to provide what is most wanted and most needed.

Given the gravity and tragic circumstances that bring us here, I want to encourage all who were harmed that August evening and all who lost a loved one that evening, to avail yourselves of the support available in the room – both from those who accompanied you as well as Salvation Army staff, FBI victim advocates, and others – to foster compassionate self-care, now and always.

If any of the content of the presentation or subsequent discussion is too difficult for you, please permit yourself to direct your attention away from the content to include leaving the room to do so. Your presence and participation are voluntary, and you may choose when and to what extent that you are willing and capable of doing so.

Lt. Jason Hall, Violent Crime Bureau Commander for the Dayton Police Department, will provide the presentation on behalf of the Dayton Police Department and will also acknowledge other Dayton Police personnel in the room.

Before he does so, I want to acknowledge and thank The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center administration and staff for graciously hosting and supporting this gathering.

Closing

I thank you for your patience today and during the lengthy process needed to conduct these investigations as well as the extended time, due to the national health crisis, to plan, coordinate and convene this gathering. It was our collective intention and efforts to provide you as much information as possible that may be helpful to you.

Please know that we will continue to make ourselves available to each of you to further assist you in any way that is needed.

As I close, I offer the following prayer to you:

May you be safe and free from harm.

May you know peace.

May you always be held in love and met with compassion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Biehl is the former Director and Chief of Police of the Dayton Police Department. He was appointed to this position by City Manager Rashad Young on January 28, 2008, and retired on July 30, 2021, after spending 13+ years as Chief of Police and nearly 43 years in public and community service.

Chief Biehl served 24+ years as a Cincinnati Police Officer and for the last six years of his Cincinnati career as an Assistant Police Chief. He commanded both the Investigations Bureau and the Administration Bureau. His principle areas of responsibility included Internal Investigations, Planning & Special Projects, Youth Services, Criminal Investigation, General Vice Control, and Intelligence.

In February 2004, he was appointed as the first Executive Director of the Community Police Partnering Center, a private nonprofit organization. Created in the aftermath of the civil unrest of 2001, the Partnering Center was established to work in partnership with the Cincinnati Police Department to train community stakeholders in problem solving methodologies to address community crime and disorder problems. In addition to leading many neighborhood crime reduction initiatives, in 2006 while Executive Director, Richard Biehl led the implementation of CeaseFire Cincinnati, a neighborhood gun violence reduction initiative using a public health approach for violence reduction modeled after CeaseFire Chicago and which led to reduced violence in the Avondale community.

As Police Chief for the Dayton Police Department, Chief Biehl partnered with the Trotwood Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in 2008 to support community engagement in the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence (CIRGV), a gun violence reduction initiative modeled after the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, which resulted in reduction of group-related homicides in Dayton and surrounding communities.

Under his leadership, the Dayton Police Department received the following professional recognition:

  • Finalist for the 2010, 2011, & 2015 Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem Oriented Policing.
  • Recipient of the 2011 Ohio Crime Prevention Association’s Special Project Award.
  • Recipient of the International Association Chiefs of Police Cisco Community Policing Award, 2011 and 2015.
  • Chief Biehl was the 2011 recipient of the OACP (Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police) Chief Michael Kelly Excellence and Innovation in Policing Award and also the recipient of the 2014 Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau Ambassadors Award for bringing the International Problem Oriented Policing Conference to Dayton in October 2013.
  • In September 2019, President Trump awarded the Department of Justice Medal of Valor to Sergeant William Chad Knight and officers Brian Rolfes, Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel and David Denlinger for their quick, decisive, and courageous engagement of the Oregon District mass shooting assailant, ending the tragic onslaught in 32 seconds.
  • In October 2019 at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, President Donald Trump asked Chief Biehl and Assistant Chief Matt Carper to join him on stage in recognition of the brave acts of the six members of the Dayton Police Department that responded to the Oregon District mass shooting.

Chief Biehl was a former competitive powerlifter and martial artist and his athletic pursuits included regional, national, and international sporting events spanning 1976 to 1992.

Nearly 30 years ago, Chief Biehl began to practice yoga as a means to emerge from two years of chronic depression. In 2015, Chief Biehl authored the chapter, Trauma in the Theater of the Body, that was published in the book, Moving Consciously: Somatic Transformation through Dance, Yoga, and Touch (2015), and which discusses the potential of yoga to mitigate and heal trauma. In 2020, Chief Biehl completed a master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University. He has presented an introduction to mindfulness practice to several conferences and local workshops. He incorporates mindfulness within this yoga teaching.

 

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