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New SLO County mass victim advocate analyzes Gilroy shooting, crafts response plan for violent attacks

Posted at 5:25 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 22:28:46-04

In the wake of a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last weekend, the new San Luis Obispo County Mass Victim Advocate is crafting a plan that would help tend to victims should a violent attack occur on the Central Coast.

Tim Murphy, who previously worked as a Paso Robles Police Commander, was selected in February for the first of its kind position with the county.

The California Office of Emergency Services has committed $100,000 to the county for the next three years to fund Murphy's position and any training he needs.

"We live in a wonderful place, but it is a question of not if but when," Murphy said.

Murphy will work in tandem with the County Office of Emergency Services Director, Joe Guzzardi, who shares a similar focus but one that's primarily oriented around natural disasters.

Guzzardi plans for earthquakes, fires, floods and even nuclear disasters.

"People get comfortable thinking it will never happen here and I think the lesson learned is you have to be prepared no matter what," Guzzardi said. "We're always preparing so that when something bad happens, we have the capability of reducing loss of lives and property, and also have the capability of bouncing back more efficiently."

That same mindset is being applied to mass casualty incidents related to violence, an area of focus that hasn't been directed by a specific position until now.

Murphy's new position was born of what the Board of County Supervisors is calling recent "hostile mass casualty incidents."

"It's a crime where three or more people were killed, not including the suspect," Murphy said.

One example is Sunday's deadly shooting in Gilroy, which wounded many survivors, both physically and emotionally.

"The quicker we can get victim advocates established face to face with these victims, the sooner the healing process can begin," Murphy said.

Murphy, who has been a member of SWAT, is taking his nearly three decades of experience in law enforcement to another level.

"As a police officer, my working with the victim ended once the crime was done being investigated," Murphy said. "Victim advocates, they pick it up from there."

Though Murphy and Guzzardi plan with the worst in mind, their goal is one of optimism.

"For us to be able to coordinate that well can equate to saving lives," Guzzardi said.

In addition to working closely with Guzzardi, Murphy will also link up with mass victimization advocates in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties to create a regional approach to addressing major incidents.

The county released on Thursday a new website designed to connect people with their specific city resources in the event of an emergency.