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Training day

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Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2007 10:00 pm

The call came in at 9:32 a.m. An armed gunman had taken teenage hostages on a Lodi city bus at Oak Street and Ham Lane.

Before long, police learned that at least two suspects were on the bus. They were carrying an explosive containing sarin, a nerve agent used in chemical warfare.

Wednesday's situation was just a training exercise. Police officers had checked to ensure all weapons were loaded with non-lethal ammunition similar to paintballs.

The purpose, Lt. Chet Somera said, was to prepare for emergencies in which various agencies within the department are used. The exercise was not part of a large-scale training held the same day in Stockton.

Heading into the day's events, officers had no idea what Somera had planned.

Lodi Police SWAT members take action on the Lodi Municipal Services Center on Wednesday morning as "hostages" were taken and "bombs" placed in a training scenario. Tokay High School student Colton Mitchell, part of an ROP class, is on the ground. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

After it was "carjacked," the bus headed south and then turned into the city's Municipal Services Center just north of Kettleman Lane, where an hours-long standoff ensued.

SWAT officers kept guns trained on the bus for hours as bomb squad members tried to evaluate two suspicious devices the suspects had placed outside the bus. A command center was stationed about a block north on Cardinal Avenue, where hostage negotiators could try talking to the suspects.

Inside the bus, the "hostages" were played by Tokay High School students who are in an ROP class, most of whom are considering law enforcement careers. They later said they passed the time by talking and even watching "Saving Private Ryan" on a portable DVD player.

For the SWAT officers outside the bus, they had a lot of waiting to do. As is often the case in standoffs, they kept their guns trained on the bus but had to be ready for the unknown.

Some watched the bus from hidden locations, using the scopes of their sniper rifles to watch for movement.

The two "suspects" inside the bus were played by experienced Lodi officers, which meant they had a good idea about tactical movements.

For instance, more than two hours into the incident, a hostage emerged from the bus, a suspect holding a gun to his head. They didn't stay outside for long.

Approximately 400 volunteers participated in an emergency simulation at the University of Pacific on Wednesday morning that involved Stockton police and fire departments, Homeland Security agents and the American Red Cross.
The event was part of a larger exercise that took place in Sacramento, Anaheim, San Jose and Stockton.
The exercise, which started at the Port of Stockton, came to Pacific when officers observed people fleeing from the campus' Alex G. Spanos Center during a staged basketball game.
During the attack, a man drove a vehicle into the Spanos Center, causing a simulated explosion that caused part of the building to collapse.
After the explosion, a man thought to be a terrorist threw a white substance in the air, causing mass confusion.
Participants set up command posts on campus, and volunteers were decontaminated on site.
Mike Belcher, director of Pacific's Public Safety department, said in a statement that the exercise tested the university's emergency response teams and how well they communicated with outside teams to deal with a possible major disaster on campus.
- News-Sentinel staff.

"He's doing intelligence; he's coming out to see where everyone's positioned," Sgt. Chris Jacobson told fellow SWAT members.

Finally, around 12:30 p.m. the suspects asked for sandwiches and SWAT officers prepared to nab them. But before they could do so, a suspect and hostage emerged again, this time circling the bus.

"Take the bus, take the bus," Jacobson ordered as the SWAT team rushed in.

In a final twist those outside the bus hadn't expected, the "suspects" had changed clothes with one of the hostages and duct taped a gun to his hand. As a result, the victim was shot.

In the process, the suspects had enough time to activate a "bomb," wiping out everyone in the area with a simulated explosion.

Such situations aren't common in Lodi, though Sgt. Steve Carillo recalled an incident years ago in which a teenager had recently watched the movie "Speed" and then said he had a bomb on a bus. That event ended peacefully.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 3:36 pm on Fri, Nov 16, 2007.


    I don't care what city you live in; there is going to be a need for SWAT and other specialized teams. Lodi is not so small anymore and keeps growing. I for one am GLAD our police are keeping up to date on different tactics. For God sake, try supporting our police officers instead of being so negative. Thank you to our Police and Spcecial Forces Teams. Thank you for putting your life on the line everyday.

  • posted at 4:05 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    They never do meet your expectations do they? The police I mean or city hall. How do you propose they legally go over to the east side and round people up? Are you suggesting they just round up known gang people for no violations? How do you identify gangsters? You are clueless. What do you do to contribute to help in this town?

  • posted at 1:44 pm on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    You are a racist bigot T&C, get a life.

  • posted at 9:50 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    your brain is snowed in.

  • posted at 9:49 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    Why didn't they just go to the eastside and participate on the real thing? Aren't those mexican gangbangers our own brand of terrorists? Why not Hale Park instead of always at one of the glitzy parks? That'd attract some of those terrorists attention if nothing else.

  • posted at 6:18 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    Yeah, who needs all this tactical training and equipment and stuff- nothing ever happens in small towns like Lodi- its always big cities like, uh, Littleton, Colorado. Or Blackburg, Virginia. Or Red Lake Minnesota. Or, uh, Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania. Or, no, wait a minute, Paducah, KY? - no, I know, Pearl Mississippi- no wait, a big city, lets see, Jonesboro, Ark? Moses Lake, Wash? Santee, Calif? Gee, I know this has happened in a big city some where, let me get back to you on this...

  • posted at 1:20 am on Thu, Nov 15, 2007.


    Boys with toys. At some point they are going to want to use them. I have never understood why small muni's need SWAT teams. Seems like a little overkill to me, but when you are forming a police state it's best to keep the sheep in line.



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