Update 9/5/20. This is the post I never wanted to write. But, given the rise in gun violence and mass shootings in schools, churches, synagogues, and mosques have me wondering if the next soft target for terrorism might be a fitness center. I've been tracking violent crimes occurring in and around gyms for a while. I think it's on the rise.
While I often discuss what to do during medical emergencies when I speak to fitness trainers, I've also recently started talking about gun violence too. Terrorism and mass shootings are topics the fitness industry has yet to deal with. I feel it's my duty to alert the public – and those working in fitness centers about what they may one day be faced with-a mass shooting incident.
Below you will read some of the murders, gun violence, and mass shootings that have occurred inside fitness centers and in their parking lots. I've also included videos for you to learn more about these incidents. After that, I'll give my thoughts on how to we as a society might address this problem and try to prevent it from getting worse.
- Gym Emergency Procedures
- Gym Front Desk Staff Training
- Sexual Harassment In Fitness Centers
- Why Fitness Places Don't Use The PAR-Q Form
Fitness Center Violent Crimes
March 2019. A 32-year-old man drives his car through the front window of Crunch Fitness in La Mirada California after they terminated his membership for “inappropriate behavior.” As reported by the LA Times, he told gym staff he would return after they revoked his membership. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. He's being charged with one count of attempted murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of vandalism over $400 in damages.
Here is a video of the incident:
November 2018. A 40-year-old man entered a yoga studio in Tallahassee Florida, pretending to be a customer. He opened fire, killing two women and injuring 5 others, before killing himself. Here's the video.
October 2018. Police officers were forced to shoot and kill a member of 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood California after an altercation occurred in the locker room. During a confrontation with police, the man, in his 30s, obtained one of the officer's TASER guns. When asked if 24 Hour Fitness conducts “active shooter” training drills, the club did not respond.
August 2018. A masked man entered a gym in New Orleans and shot a 33-year-old member multiple times, killing him. The shooting occurred at the “Aaaarchitect Institute.”
June 2018. Joel Paavola, owner of the Balance Training Fitness Club in Nashville Tennessee was killed by a former employee who was previously fired from the gym over a year before this incident took place. The owner of the gym was working with members, when the former employee entered the faculty, killing him – in front of members.
The friends of Joel Paavola – the owner of Balance Training Fitness Club – have set up a GoFundMe page to help his wife and children. As of this writing, they have raised over $261,000. Here's the video.
May 2018. Two men walked into the Rock Fitness Center in Flint Michigan, claiming to be repairmen to fix the roof, when they opened fire on a man, killing him. The 51 man who was shot, was working out with a Michigan police officer. I am not aware of any motive for this crime.
June 2017. A 49-year-old man was sentenced to 35 years for violently attacking a woman sitting in her car outside of a Planet Fitness in Warminster PA. The crime occurred in June 2016. This is why the gym front desk staff needs to stay vigilant when members leave the faculty.
April 2017. A 33-year-old personal trainer who was recently fired from Equinox Fitness center in Coral Gables Florida reentered the gym, killing the general manager and a personal trainer, before killing himself.
May 2016. Two men opened fire at people attending a private memorial day pool party at Olympic Swim & Health Club, in Pine Hills PA. Three people were injured. To my knowledge, the shooters were never located.
May 2016. A 20-year-old man was charged with a shooting occurring outside of an LA Fitness in King County Washington. The shooting was thought to be related to an argument that happened inside the fitness center, at the basketball court.
May 2016. An unknown person fired shots at the Overview Recreational Center in Newbern Tennessee during a late-night party. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The shooter was not found.
April 2016. A judge sentenced a 46-year-old man to 17 years to life for the 2014 killing of a man inside a Bally Total Fitness in San Francisco. The man blamed steroid-induced roid-rage for the incident.
September 2015. A 41-year-old man in Ohio was charged with a hate crime after he threatened to “shoot up” the Call Fit 10 Gym if it did not remove people who the man said were gay. He was convicted in 2016.
July 2015. An 18-year-old man was shot and killed inside a Memphis Tennessee LA Fitness following an argument during a basketball game.
April 2015. During the early morning hours of April 18, personal trainer Terri “Missy” Beavers was murdered by an unknown person who was wearing what appeared to be police tactical-style gear. This occurred prior to the 5 AM boot-camp class she was to teach inside Creekside Church of Christ in Midlothian Texas.
As of January 2017, her murder remains unsolved. Here's the eerie security video which goes into more detail:
While this murder did not occur in a fitness center, I am including it because I want people to remember it and spread the word that this monster needs to be brought to justice.
November 2014. A man murdered his estranged girlfriend, a fitness instructor who worked at the Brandywine YMCA in Coatsville PA, as she arrived to work. He later killed himself.
April 2014. A 74-year-old white supremacist killed 3 people at a Kansas City Jewish Community Center and retirement home before being taken into custody by police. In April 2015, the man said he wanted to plead guilty to the crimes.
August 2009. A 48-year-old man entered an LA Fitness in Pittsburgh PA and opened fire on women taking an aerobics class, killing 3 and wounding 9 others, before killing himself. Reports detail this man had been planning this attack for months.
The Safest Fitness Center
I've been in many gyms over the years. The safest all-around fitness center you can join is a Jewish Community Center. Every Jewish Community Center (JCC) I have been to has security which is light-years better than most other gyms- which often have none. Many JCCs have armed, off duty police officers at the front door. Nobody gets in without presenting identification.
Preventing Mass Shootings: The Big Picture
It would be easy to say fitness centers should adopt a model similar to Jewish Community Centers, where an armed guard is stationed at the entrance. This will work, but it's not a long term solution.
It does not deal with the problem, which is why people are doing these acts of violence.
There are no simple answers and no single answer to this issue. The solution to the growing problems of gun violence and mass shootings requires bold, proactive action on the part of both the fitness industry and our society as a whole.
Here are my thoughts:
1 America has a morality problem. There. I said it. Let's now deal with it. Families and schools need to teach morality and ethics to children.
Do public schools offer morality/ethics classes?
2 There is only ONE race – the human race. Why doesn't ANYBODY on TV, newspapers, etc. say this?
Because there is money to be made in keeping us divided.
United we stand – and you know the rest….
3 Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and others – shut the hell up! You are a BIG part of this problem. You put profits above people.
These 24-hour news networks have become 24-hour political opinion networks, spewing their right and left-wing agendas day and night, inciting discontent and violence among weak-minded individuals who don't know they're watching a TV show and not a news broadcast.
These networks have forgotten that the news is supposed to educate – not indoctrinate.
4 Our country needs to do better at recognizing mental illness – and treating it. This will require a massive overall of our health care system. Too many people are falling through the cracks. When did it become OK to leave our fellow Americans behind?
Congress and Senate: you have failed your citizens.
5 Guns. We need better background checks. Assault-type weapons are for fighting wars and not hunting. They have no place in our society and are often the gun of choice during mass shootings. People need to stop believing the lie that the US government is going to take away their guns. That's not gonna happen.
6 Hollywood and TV land: Start showing that bad actions have consequences. I don't think I've EVER seen a movie or TV show addressing what happens to criminals AFTER they commit violent crimes or mass shootings.
What Can Fitness Centers Do?
I believe some in the industry are already thinking ahead such as the owner of a Snap Fitness in Fort Walton Beach Florida, who has offered a 1-month free membership to anyone who presents a concealed handgun license. My guess is he's thinking the bad guys are less likely to target a gym filled with armed members.
I come in contact with thousands of fitness trainers each year. I can tell you most people have NEVER considered the possibility of a mass shooting incident in their gym.
This video, while disturbing, comes from Homeland Security and has some good information on what to do:
Getting training may be a simple as searching online for “active shooter training” or calling your local police department.
Until things get better, it may be time to consider moving to the Jewish Community Center model and lock the gym down to non-members.
Installing cameras inside and outside the fitness center will be a good deterrent but for smaller facilities – like spinning studios- the simple act of locking the front door when classes are going on can stop violence before it starts.
My goal in writing this was not to frighten anyone but alert you to something I've noticed for several years. Violent crimes in gyms seem to be on the rise. My fear is a fitness center mass shooting may be closer than we think.
While some of you probably rolled your eyes my thoughts on how to prevent mass shootings, at least I'm trying -and that's more than most seem to be doing.