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 AND a mental health 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, in 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. We saw this during the pandemic when TV news continued to show the death counts on TV. They did this not to educate us but to keep us glued to our seats watching their networks.
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.
The industry has forgotten that the news is supposed to educate – not indoctrinate.
4 Our country needs to do better at recognizing mental illness – and treating it. Just like morality, the US has a mental health problem. 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? We need to be better at identifying at risk kids and adults and getting them to mental health professionals.
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 people commit violent crimes or mass shootings.
What Can Fitness Centers Do?
I believe some in the fitness 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.
Most fitness centers already run background checks on the staff. Beyond this, they should consider instituting active shooting training – and do it regularly so the staff doesn't forget what to do.
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.
This was a great piece of research. That’s something that’s actually been on my mind while working out at the gym. It’s impractical to work out with a conceal carry, so I keep my situational awareness high and always know where the exits are.
There are also plenty of small, loose pieces of equipment in gyms that could be used as weapons if you find yourself cornered close enough to confront an active shooter.
For concealed carriers, it might be a wise idea to lock your defensive weapon in your car or the locker room so that you can come back and help after escaping the immediate danger.
I agree with everything you said except your number 5 bullet point about guns. I used to feel that way too until I familiarized myself with how they mechanically work. While it’s obvious that guns enable psychopaths to carry out these crimes, fixing that angle would require disarmament of good citizens as well.
Just after you said that certain kinds of guns don’t belong in the public, you state that it’s a lie that the government is coming for your guns. But if the government were to get rid of what you call the “assault type weapons for fighting wars”, they would have to criminalize many the good, law abiding people who own them and forcefully confiscate their weapons.
What defines “assault type” is a fluid term because if you ban certain guns based on their appearance, then the nutcases will just use another kind of gun that’s equally effective. (i.e. instead of rifles they will just use pistols to the same effect) Any type of gun that can fire a bullet can be used for assault – so to fix that you’d have to take ALL of them away. I’m not sure that you want that.
Winston, thanks so much and I’m so glad to hear other people are thinking about this. I hate that we live in an age when this is a topic. Unfortunately, its become an issue that needs to be discussed. I agree 100% the gym has MANY weapons that people can use to defend themselves if they need to. That is a great point. Those little dumbbells can do a lot of damage if needed.
I understand the push-back on the banning assault weapons. You make a good point about the slippery slope /fluid nature of the phrase assault weapon. maybe I should have changed it to machine gun? Basically I meant any weapon that can fire a large amount of bullets in a short time and be reloaded very quickly. These seem to be the gun of choice in some of the worst crimes in my memory. I am all for people keeping guns for defense, hunting and going to gun ranges and do not want to see all guns banned.
At the end of the day, I believe this is a morality and mental health issue more than anything else.
Machine guns, which fire multiple bullets with the pull of a trigger, have been illegal to manufacture since 1986 when Reagan passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act. Very few of them still exist today and they require an expensive firearms business license to possess. Your best bet on getting access to a real machine gun these days is at a gun range that allows customers to rent one for entertainment use on the range only.
What you see commonly involved in these incidents of crime are rifles that aesthetically look like machine guns, but are actually “semi-automatic” meaning that only one bullet will fire per pull of the trigger. With a little bit of training, anyone can fire a whole magazine (between 6 and 100 rounds) pretty quickly. In the incident at the Mandalay Bay at Las Vegas, the perpetrator (or maybe perpetrators) used semi-automatic guns that had a special attachment which allowed them to pull the trigger faster than a human normally could – so it replicated machine gun fire. President Trump has since banned such modification devices by executive order.
Some people think limiting magazine capacity is a solution, but it’s a difficult choice to decide how many bullets is too much or too little capacity for self-defense use. If you have to reload after every shot, then it could put a victim using a gun for self-defense in danger because it’s difficult to aim in real world situations and it often takes more than one bullet to stop an assailant(s). Magazine capacity laws are also unenforceable since millions of them are in circulation and they are easy to build – they’re just metal boxes with springs.
I’ve thought about this a lot and I don’t see an easy answer to fixing the mass shooting problem from the side of gun legislation. The reason people want to ban them is the same reason people also want them – they are effective at killing.
But the sad reality is that we’ve had guns of equal destructive power for more than a century. The modern semi-automatic pistol design first became prominent with the Colt 1911, which has been around since… 1911. Guns have improved in ergonomics, durability of parts, and the plastics used to build them, but the all pretty much have the same basic design as the 1911.
Before that there were also plenty of revolvers which can fire off 6 rounds and reload quickly.
However, the mass casualty incidents involving a mentally deranged individual hell bent on killing as many strangers as possible is a recent phenomenon that only became a regular occurrence in the last 10 years or so. Could social media be a driving factor? Pharmaceuticals? I don’t know how we can put the genie back in the bottle.
yeah machine guns is what I was thinking of instead of semi-automatic guns. I tend to group them together in my mind. Can you tell I don’t own a gun 🙂
Yep, it all seemed to start with Columbine as I remember. That’s the first mass shooting I can remember.
I do think a good amount of blame goes to the 24 hour news shows -CNN, FOX and MSNBC. They have become 24 hour political opinion shows. The same thing goes for the talking heads shows too – Rush Limbaugh etc. They make money making people angry. I don’t think most people are even aware of it. I know from the past when I did listen to these things, it made me angry. So I stopped. The news isn’t informing people anymore. Its about promoting their network talking points.
As an aside, lets not forget about the pornification of the TV news. News anchors are hired because they are attractive. I have a friend who does modeling. she once showed me the paperwork of a company looking for a news anchor position. It said must be “runway model hot.” I think they do this to get men to watch more. The more we watch, the more ratings they get/money they make -and the more we are indoctrinated into their false narrative on the nature of reality.
Making news more balanced – really balanced not “fair and balanced” – may go a long way to putting the genie back in the bottle.
By the way I found your blog after seeing your Youtube video on boosting NAD. I’ve been trying to research life extension science and this NAD / NR / NMN / resveritrol stuff is very interesting – but sounds too good to be true.
Winston, Yes Ive been investigating dietary supplements for a long time. Like you, I’ve always been fascinated with anti-aging supplements and their research. My supplement review website is SupplementClarity.com
Here is my review on the nicotinamide riboside / NAD research with links to my other reviews on NR supplements:
I try to keep up to speed on the NAD research. If you ever turn up anything I missed, pass it on to me 🙂
Holy Crap! I heard about the yoga shooting but had no idea about the rest of this. The part about the trainer at the church gave me chills. It was like something out of a movie.
Thank you for what you do Joe.
Hi Jane, thanks for saying that. I know in some circles what I said was not popular but I wanted to do more than just report what was happening. I wanted to give some thoughts on how to make things better. Yes the Terri Beavers death is haunting. I remember well when the story first came out. I really hope they find her killer.
Michelle G says
I live in Fort Worth, Midlothian is less than an hour away. The Missy Bevers murder was so chilling and bizarre. It still remains a mystery. At the time, I was working at a YMCA that was in a professional building, part of a hospital. We actually changed protocol slightly after it happened.
Instead of the one opening staff member getting there at 4:30a (gym opened at 5a), they would report at 4:45a and hospital security would be in the parking lot in a car. Hospital security also boosted patrols after hours, when the Y was the only thing open in that building.
Michelle, thank you for saying that. I am glad the YMCA adjusted how they do things. I am still hoping Missy’s killer is caught. You are right the video is chilling. It sill is today when I watch it. I feel so badly for her family.
Eric Holloway says
I’d be interested in a post on how to workout with concealed carry.
Eric, yeah I was wondering about this myself. It’s not as if you can stick it in your shorts (least I hope not). My guess is the gun would be stored in a gym bag. Would love the impute by anyone who does carry while working out.
Ankle holster. Officers try to be discrete, but sometimes you see it.
I’ve also noticed a few criminal offenders wear ankle bracelets. But the officers far outnumber those guys, at least in my gym.
Jim, that’s fascinating! I have never seen an ankle bracket or an ankle holster on anybody in the gym. I will try to keep an eye out for them moving forward. Thanks for the assist 🙂