As vehicle-ramming attacks become more common, IMS taking precautions for the Indianapolis 500

Posted at 5:50 PM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 18:56:12-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis safety officials are working overtime this week to try to mitigate the risk of a vehicle-ramming attack at Sunday's running of the Indianapolis 500.

An unclassified report published this month by the Transportation Security Administration suggests vehicle-ramming attacks are becoming an increasingly popular choice for terrorists or individuals seeking to inflict mass casualties.

The report notes that vehicle-ramming attacks – like the one in Nice, France, that killed 87 people in July 2016 – are appealing to terrorists because they are relatively simple to pull off.

"Vehicle-ramming attacks are considered unsophisticated, in that a perpetrator could carry out such an attack with minimal planning and training," the report reads. "It is likely that terrorist groups will continue to encourage aspiring attackers to employ unsophisticated tactics such as vehicle-ramming, since these types of attacks minimize the potential for premature detection and could inflict mass fatalities if successful."

According to the TSA, there were at least 17 known vehicle-ramming attacks worldwide between 2014-2017, resulting in 173 fatalities and 667 injuries.

READ MORE | Counterterrorism officials say would-be terrorists targeting civilians more frequently

So far, vehicle-ramming attacks have not been a common occurrence in the U.S. or Canada. The only U.S. attack listed in the TSA report occurred in November 2016 at Ohio State University. Eleven people were injured in that attack. The attacker was the only fatality.

In Quebec, Canada, in October 2014, two people were killed, including the attacker, when a car rammed military personnel in a shopping center parking lot.

More than 300,000 people attended last year's sold-out Indianapolis 500. Former Indianapolis public safety director and IMPD chief Troy Riggs said planning for the security of that magnitude begins the day after the event for the next year.

He also said most of what security officials do to protect participants won't be visible to the public.

"Sometimes you'll see more people at checkpoints. You may see barriers erected," Riggs said. "But most of what happens, happens behind the scenes. You'll never see it as a participant. But I can tell you I have been extremely impressed. I can tell you they do a tremendous job every year. Going to the race is not an issue for me or my family. It's going to be as safe as any large event can be."

Both IMPD and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway told RTV6 they are aware of the threat of vehicle-ramming attacks and are taking appropriate precautions to prevent them – especially in light of the news that Vice President Mike Pence will be in attendance.

An IMS spokesman declined to go into further specifics, saying only that the Speedway is "looking at all sorts of different threats."

ALSO READ | 9 hurt when man rams pedestrians with car, attacks with butcher knife at Ohio State University | 84 dead, hundreds wounded in Nice, France, attack | Attack in Nice: Suspect had help from accomplices, planned ahead


Jordan Fischer is the senior digital report for RTV6 covering crime and justice issues. Follow his reporting on Facebook and on Twitter at @Jordan_RTV6.