A day after the fatal Tennessee shootings of four Marines and the wounding of another by 24-year-old Mohammod Youssuf Abdulzeez, the local U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Station, located in State Fair Shopping Center, remained open Friday. The Sedalia Navy, Army and Air Force Recruiting offices, also located at the shopping center, were closed.
Since many military recruiting stations are located in strip malls such as Sedalia and Chattanooga, questions arise: Are these the safest places for these offices? Is there enough security? Will the recent events change how the military handles recruitment and where they place the offices? Are recruiters allowed to have weapons to defend themselves against such an attack?
Sedalia Marine Recruiter Sgt. Jeremiah Suchomel said Friday he was unable to speak for the military and referred all questions to the Marine Corps Kansas City Area Marketing and Public Affairs Representative Sgt. Kenneth Trotter Jr., of Kansas City.
Trotter was unable to give a statement by phone to the Democrat, but issued an official Marine Corps statement by email, although it did not address questions of safety of recruiting offices.
“The Marine Corps can confirm four Marine fatalities at the Navy & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Names of these Marines will be released upon notification of the next of kin. We can also confirm one Marine Corps recruiter suffered a wound to the leg while working at the Chattanooga recruiting office, was treated at a local hospital and has been released. Our priorities are focused on supporting the families of our Marines involved and assisting local investigators.”
Sedalia Police Department Cmdr. Larry Ward said extra precautions will not be taken immediately, as recruiting offices are not open on weekends, but the department will be contacting local recruiting offices Monday.
“It’s the weekend so no one is there this weekend, but Monday morning we will talk to them, give them extra patrol,” he said. “At this time I don’t know if there’s anything you can do; it’s unfortunate that it came to this, but we’ll certainly let them know we’re there and give them extra patrols so they feel comfortable doing what they’re doing.”
Ward said all SPD officers have active shooter training to help prepare them in case a similar incident happens in Sedalia.
“We do have regular active shooter training. Everyone in the department goes through it. The new guys get it in the academy and they go through it once the get to the department as well,” he said. “Unfortunately we have to train for those things in our country and city, but times have changed and we need to be proactive rather than reactive.
“I tell folks to practice situational awareness — know what’s around you, don’t walk around with your head looking down at your cell phone, don’t walk in or out of somewhere without know what’s on the other side of the door. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.”
At present, military recruiters are not armed while in the office, according to information provided by the Associated Press.
“Tucked in strip malls in small rural communities and in high-traffic city spots like New York’s Times Square, military recruiting and reserve stations are designed to be open and welcoming to the public. The troops inside aren’t allowed to carry weapons. The ban is largely due to legal issues, such as laws that prohibit the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement, so troops don’t routinely carry guns when they are not in combat or on military bases,” the AP article states.
AP went on to say Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters that arming recruiters could present additional problems.
“We’re always going to be somewhat vulnerable to a lone wolf, or whatever you want to call it, a surprise shooter, because we are out there with the population and that’s where we have to be,” Odierno said. “We can’t separate ourselves as we continue to recruit and interact with the population.”
While Ward isn’t involved with military recruitment, he did say that the placement of recruiting offices in strip malls or other highly public places may become a topic of discussion in the near future.
“It’s not my decision, but I’m sure there will be some national thinking on that scenario and maybe, back in the old days (recruiting offices) were always in federal buildings or you went on base somehow and did your enlistment stuff there,” Ward said. “In the past several years, it’s been made a matter of convenience. I’m sure it’s something they’ll be looking into.
“There’s been several (shootings at recruiting offices) in the last four or five years. They’ve been sporadic, all over the country, so they’re hard to predict.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss. Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.