It's not just going postal anymore. Identities going crazy, with a gun, in almost any workplace. So, how can you defend yourself? I found out on a tour through our very own "20/20" offices. But a... See More
It's not just going postal anymore. Identities going crazy, with a gun, in almost any workplace. So, how can you defend yourself? I found out on a tour through our very own "20/20" offices. But a practice run is nothing compared to being in the middle of it, in real life. It was a bustling friday morning on the sidewalk in front of new york's iconic empire state building. Irene timan and a colleague were walking to their office together when, in an instant, they were confronted by a deranged coworker with a gun. He looked like he was possessed. And it was just like a blank stare. Reporter: The shooter was 58-year-old jeffrey johnson, an aloof and eccentric man from the design company where they worked. Very withdrawn, very isolated. Didn't talk. Reporter: So you were basically all walking on eggshells around him. Yes. Reporter: Johnson was an office rival with one worker in particular, steve ercolino, a confident and outgoing salesman. Jeff just, for some reason, did not like steve. Reporter: After johnson was fired, the bad blood between the two erupted in a confrontation in the elevator. Jeff threw an elbow into him and I think at the point steve grabbed him and threw him up against the wall. And jeff said, "get your hands off of me, I'm going to kill you." Reporter: He actually said that. He said, "i'm going to kill you." Reporter: Months later on that fateful friday morning, irene was walking to work with ercolino when johnson came out of nowhere, pistol in hand, to make good on that promise. He put the gun right into steve's chest. Reporter: So, took the gun, pointed it and tugged the trigger. Uh-huh. Reporter: Ercolino was killed instantly. Chaos erupts on the sidewalk and surveillance video shows police moving in and gunning down johnson. As for irene? What did you do? Nothing. I couldn't even scream. I couldn't warn him or anything. I basically just froze. Reporter: Irene's reaction was hardly unique. Shooting four employees before -- Reporter: Experts say 80% of us freeze when confronted with disaster or danger. Even though hundreds are killed every year in workplace shootings, most employees are clueless about how to react when confronted with a coworker turned killer. Like these panicked workers at a kentucky plastics plant in 2008. Much more rare, the cool-headed response of school supervisor bill husfelt dung this wild incident. A deranged man pucks out a gun and threatens a school board meeting. I don't want anybody to get hurt. It was the only tool or weapon i had was my tongue. And so there was nothing else we could do but talk to him and try to calm him down. Please don't. Please don't. Please. Oh. Reporter: The gunman fires point blank at husfelt and inedibly, he misses. Fortunately, an armed security guard arrives and wounds the shooter, who then kills himself. The game has changed. You need to react. The first five seconds of an active shooter incident is paramount. Reporter: Workplace safety consultant john bruner says in moments of crisis, our brain's deliberative function can be overwhelmed. On the other hand, our muscle memory, things that we've practiced over and over, can kick into overdrive. And that's how you can save your life. This training video produced by safety officials in texas shows what you should do. Gone is the old advice to wait in place for help to arrive. Now, there's a new strategy. Option one? Run. If you're in this situation, elizabeth, and you know that the shooter is pretty far away right here, we have an exit. We're going to tell people, we have a shooter down the hall. Let's exit over here. Reporter: If there's no quick way out, use anything to create a distraction. A fire extinguisher can create a literal smoke screen. If you train for these situations, you will strengthen that muscle memory. Reporter: It's sort of like the fire drill, right? We should be doing gunman drills? We're getting to that stage. Reporter: But say you're trapped and there is no way to run. Option two? Hide. In the bathroom without a lock? Bruner says improvise by using a belt to slow down entry. And if you have to hide inside an office -- we lock this door. If you have any secondary devices, these will be, these will assist you. Reporter: Like a doorstop? Like a doorstop, absolutely. Reporter: Okay. But what if you're cornered in your office and the gunman finds your hiding spot? If you're hearing him bust through this door, you have to quit the hide and you have to attack. Reporter: Option three? Fight. The minute he comes in the door I go at him? You need to be aggressive. You have to fight for your life. Reporter: Look around for anything that could be used as a weapon. Taking those scissors and where, what do I do? Do I go for their throat? You go for any piece of body you can. Maybe you need to stab him in the shoulder, maybe you need to stab him in the face. It becomes survival. You have to develop a survival warrior mind set. Reporter: Great advice to be sure, but what if you are literally out of options and you're looking down the barrel of a gun and defenseless? Can you still survive? Zach emenegger is living, walking proof that you can. In 1999, zach was a 21-year-old worker on the overnight shift at a supermarket in las vegas. In a case of random violence, a deranged gunman named zane floyd walked in through the door with a loaded shotgun and started shooting everyone in sight. He comes around the far corner and he points the gun at me and he takes a shot, over the produce table, it goes over my head, so, I'm staying low. And he's basically chasing me around the table, almost like a sick game of tag. It was almost right on topf me and shot me, pretty much at point blank range. I felt the blood pour out of my body. finished with zach. He shoots him a second time, hitting his arm. Wounded, desperate and cornered, zach is out of options. But in an instant, something clicks in his head. There's just something I do remember being a little kid, something just stuck in my head. If I was in a situation like that, to where there was nowhere to go, you play dead. I jerked my whole body and i played dead and he actually said, yeah, you're dead. Reporter: And z was smart enough to keep playing dead because after killing another worker, floyd doubles back in zach's direction. You see it on the video tape that he actually steps over my body and, you know, just to make sure. Reporter: By this time, police havee supermarket and floyd surrenders. He was convicted of murdering four people and is currently on death row. While every workplace shooting scenario is different, whatever the reaction made in the instant of a crisis, all survivors are like little to share one common sentiment. I'm happy to be alive. The good days and the bad days, you know? It's something I got through. I'm blessed. Next -- a knock on your
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