Private Message to Initial Officers Involved in the Oregon District Mass Shooting Response – August 2020

By Richard S. Biehl, Police Chief (RET)

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

Mayor Whaley opens a press conference wherein Chief Biehl and FBI Special Agent in Charge, Todd Wickerham, announce the formal involvement of the FBI in the Oregon District mass shooting investigation. (August 6, 2019)

  • W. Chad Knight
  • Brian Rolfes
  • David Denlinger
  • Ryan Nabel
  • Vincent Carter
  • Jeremy Campbell
  • Jason Berger

On behalf of the Dayton Police Department and our community, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to you for your collective action, along with other DPD members and law enforcement regionally, that literally saved many lives and prevented further harm to innocent citizens.

This incident involved an intense firefight that is rarely seen other than in combat and in these incidents of active shooters. What makes active shooter incidents extremely challenging is the large number of innocent persons – noncombatants – who are in harm’s way from the assailant as well as potentially from police personnel who are quickly, and under chaotic circumstances, attempting to stop the mass slaughter of those innocent persons present. It is an environment that is unlikely to allow for perfection in execution of tactical response, even if there is such a thing.

You need to keep ever present in your mind that your intent in responding to this rapidly emerging crisis was to try to help, to try to stop the killing. Depending upon the position of a police officer, the position of the assailant and their respective movement over very short periods of time, the positions of innumerable innocent persons and their respective movement over time, the dynamics of the physical environment, the timeframe within which the incident occurs, there is a danger in not shooting and there is a danger in shooting. Either decision can result in adverse outcomes. And that is true in this incident.

Initial reports from the first day and thereafter indicated that more than one of the deceased persons was likely struck by police gunfire.

There was an initial report that one victim had what appeared to be a shotgun wound. (This was later proven to be inaccurate.)

There were reports that a couple of victims likely had .45 caliber GS wounds.

There were 2-3 .223 caliber rounds unaccounted for and all victims died from .223 GS injuries.

The coroner will be making a public statement about the results of autopsies that were conducted on all deceased persons killed in the Oregon District mass shooting to include two victims also struck by police fire (all those wounded were killed by gunshots fired by the assailant).

[Note: The last paragraph was added to the previous narrative on 2/28/2022. I must have just had some of the main message prepared in advance but undoubtedly did not leave the officers hanging regarding victims being struck by gunfire and added additional comments that were not written down at that time.]

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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