Last Friday, November 20, a teenager shot eight people, none fatally, at the upscale Mayfair Mall in Milwaukee suburb Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.  The shooter escaped, leaving carnage behind, but was later apprehended and charged.  A Board Game Barrister store, one of several in the Milwaukee area, is located at the end of the mall where the shooting occurred.  We interviewed owner Gordon Lugauer, who was in the back of the store when the shooting started, about his experience and his recommendations for other retailers.

ICv2: When did you realize that something was amiss?
Gordon Lugauer:  Immediately.  I was on the phone with one of my stores, troubleshooting a bizarro online order problem when I heard the gunshots and said a couple of choice expletives [laughs] right on the phone there.

I was at Mayfair; I was in the back office.  I was just starting to get up out into the back part of the sales floor when the second cluster of gunshots rang out, and I just knew immediately what it was.

We saw in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that there was someone shot in front of your store; is that right?
That's correct.  Yes, one of the eight people who were shot.  Everybody was in the area of the mall, but in front of our store.  Macy's and I, we formed this corner.  Of those, one of them was actually inside the threshold of our store.

What did you do?
I didn't know that at the time, of course.  My staff, we do an annual active shooter training.  Training is too strong of a word.  We review verbally what you should do in an active shooter situation.  We tend to do that every January.

By the time I had gotten out of the office, everybody who was near the back of the store was on the floor.  The people who were near the front of the store were all running to the back.

I had my keys on me, so I unlocked the door into the back stockroom, which has an exit into the parking lot.  I unlocked that and made sure that everybody was getting out towards the parking lot.  When I was exiting, I realized that I had one employee who wasn't there, so I went back in to see if they were OK, and that employee was helping the wounded customer. They got them to the back.  I set up the chairs and tried to find our first aid kit.  I was completely worthless on trying to do anything for this person.  They'd been shot in the upper leg.

By that time, security and the police were on the scene.  At that time, I didn't know how many, but many people were on the ground, in the mall in the area in front of the store.  Some of them were wounded, some of them were just tending to the wounded.

We tried to get the attention of the first responders to let them know that there was another wounded person in the back of our store because, of course, that was not visible to them.  I tried to get their attention. I couldn't do it. I left my employees to try and get their attention.  I went back to try and get the first aid and tend to this customer.

Eventually, I was able to get one of my employees, who had already been out in the parking lot, who was much better at dealing with first aid situations.  I was able to get them back into the store, and then they took care of this wounded person until the situation calmed down enough.  One of the police officers came in and took the wounded customer and the rest of the wounded in the mall.

Our readership is other retailers.  What did you learn, or what advice do you have for them?
Practice the active shooter drills.  That's what I would say.  There's lots of resources out there on what to do. I won’t try and re‑quote them here.  They've got some good short‑hands.  Get the heck out of Dodge.  If you can't do that, get down low and get hidden.  What this experience showed me is that even our verbal review, when the bad thing happened, my staff did great.

Certainly, if you have the wherewithal to do a larger roleplay or something along those lines, great, go ahead and do that. I'm not going to say don’t do that.  I'm going to say that even if you just do the level that we did, which is a regular annual review, just verbal, when the bad thing happened, my staff was great.

We had some minors up at the front counter, probably about 10 feet away from where the person was shot, in the middle of a transaction, buying some Commander Legends.  My staff was able to get them out safely.  Their parents are super, super thankful.

So even just having that verbal review matters.  The one thing I would say is that my staff who was here, I think the shortest tenured person has been with me for two and a half years.  Whereas we do an annual review, and that was enough here, I would say that if you have more short‑term people, you probably still need to do that verbal review to make sure that they get caught.

Doing something, even if it feels like it's really small, still matters and do that.  Doing more would be better, no doubt, but at least, do something.  It's the advice that I have on the prep for being ready for the event.

If the event happens to you (and maybe I'll have better advice for this months from now), being present and being a witness for that sort of violence taking place, it does stuff to your psyche.  I'm no expert on that, but I can tell you that I would not describe myself as OK.  I don't know how my staff are doing, but we have resources available to them both from our resources and from the mall.  Some of them are taking advantage of it, and some of them aren’t, at least not yet.  As the refrain goes from the pandemic here, it's OK to be not OK, and I think that that holds for this as well.

I have no illusion that I'm just going to tough it out and return to my normal self right away.  I witnessed a pretty terrible thing. That takes a toll on us as individuals, and it takes a toll on our staff.  Acknowledge that so that then you can work through it and be better faster.  I don't know exactly what it's going to look like.  Obviously, I'm just in the beginning of it.  We are not trying to just paper over it.  Acknowledge it so that you can give it its recognition and its due.  We can be better moving forward.

The annual review you were doing, was that something you were doing at Mayfair because there have been problems there in the past, or did you do that at all your stores?
It's something we've done for 10 years or more.  It's like a tornado drill or a fire drill.

We can talk about what sort of a society it is that we're living in where we need to do active shooter drills, but it's just a thing that could happen anywhere.  As the news has come out in this case, this was an altercation between teenagers, and one 15‑year‑old had a gun.  This is just the world that we have chosen to accept.  It isn't a Mayfair‑specific problem; it's just a problem that could happen.  Maybe it's less likely to happen in your standalone storefront or your strip mall storefront, I'll totally agree with that, you have more people at a mall; but it is a thing that could happen anywhere, you could see an altercation breaking out.

Fast‑forward to the future where we get to have in‑person events, and you could see an altercation breaking out an event.  I mean, it’s a 15‑year‑old!  Shoot, that's like core demographic!  This could be someone at any of our events who decides he thinks the other person is misbehaving in the game and he wants to settle it with bullets.  That would be a terrible, terrible thing to happen, but it's not unforeseeable.  So this is a review that we've done for 10 or more years.

For more information for retailers on how to handle active shooter situations, see this document from the Department of Homeland Security.