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Shooting scenario training

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 10:00 pm

Seven Tokay High School students knelt facing a wall in a dark school hallway Wednesday.

They had obeyed the instructions of a gunman, but that wasn't enough: As cracks sounded from his (fake) handgun, one by one each student slumped over.

The gunman was actually a Lodi police cadet, and the students were actually part of a drama class. They served as actors on Wednesday during an "active shooter" training session designed to improve officers' reactions to unexpected situations.

College shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, as well as a number of recent multiple-victim shootings, were clearly on the minds of everyone present.

"That's the third time I've seen it and it still makes me cry," parent Carmen Honea said after watching the staged mass execution.

"It's scary, but I'm glad they're going through this because it helps the police."

Wednesday was the second round of training, following an almost identical Friday session for officers who were on regular duty and couldn't make it. Both days, they went to an unused building on the Stockton campus of California State University, Stanislaus, a setting that's unfamiliar to Lodi officers.

On the first floor of Sequoia Hall, off Harding Way, students got into position, each with a different assignment. They wore elaborate make-up, including fake blood and gunshot wounds.

When SWAT team members, who coordinated the training, gave signals, several students pressed alarms as fog filled the hallway, simulating smoke bombs. The actors began screaming and, when officers moved in, yelled, "He's got a gun!"

Moving in groups so they could look at all angles, the vest-wearing officers moved down the hallway, stepping over wounded students and pressing forward when injured victims tried to grab their legs.

At the end of the hallway, they cornered "suspect" Matt Spieth, a police cadet holding two fake guns.

Sometimes the SWAT team members had constructive criticism, like the time a group of officers cuffed the suspect and then moved on to search the rest of the room. Nobody stayed behind with the suspect.

"We're obviously very angry with this person, but we're obligated to do first aid," Sgt. Chris Jacobson told one group during de-briefing.

Virtually all officers were breathing hard, not because they exerted physical effort, but merely due to the adrenaline, Lt. Chris Piombo pointed out.

Law enforcement officers across the country train for active-shooter situations, especially after the Columbine school shooting that made police work on ways to secure scenes more quickly.
School officials also train, and they also try to work with police to improve communication.
At Lodi High School, Vice Principal Bob Lofsted has been working closely with School Resource Officer Shad Canestrino. The two recently attended a conference that addressed the Virginia Tech shooting, where a college student killed 32 fellow students.
"We're working on ways for SWAT to very quickly identify which rooms are locked down with no problem," Lofsted said, explaining that it would allow police to quickly narrow down a suspect's location.
Lofsted said school officials don't plan to wait for money to buy notification equipment because they can improve response simply by training faculty members to use certain signals.
Faculty members currently train, and students are also involved in drills. The main focus, Lofsted said, is speed - as well as maintaining control when hundreds of students begin pulling out cell phones and then parents begin swamping the campus.
- News-Sentinel staff.

As that scenario was being repeated for different groups of officers, others encountered a different situation on the second floor.

There they found Cadet Joseph Herrera waving swords and chasing students.

While the downstairs scenario was similar to the Columbine school shooting, the sword attack mimicked one in Southern California. In June 2003, a man entered a grocery store and killed two people with a sword. He was chasing an employee around a frozen food cooler when police shot and killed him, Sgt. Lance Hayden said.

More Tokay students participated in that scenario, hiding behind low partitions and ducking behind walls.

They certainly got into the act as they screamed, and then moaned as if they had been attacked. Jennifer Lopez, 16, shrieked as she ran from the suspect, then continued the hysterics after officers moved in.

The biggest lesson officers learned there was that, even though officers couldn't hear shots, that didn't lessen the danger.

"It's not always going to be a firearm involved in an active killing situation," Hayden said as he debriefed officers.

He briefly described the grocery store attack and added: "It's real life stuff - everything we did here today really happened somewhere."

The students, several of whom said they'd like to become actors some day, enjoyed putting their classroom skills to use. They joked with one another during breaks, but they said it definitely seemed real.

Sunshine Machado, 15, said it felt real as she hid from the sword-wielding suspect. As for real life, recent shootings have made her more fearful, but she's not sure what she'd do if something like that happened to her.

"I'd probably try to help the victims," Machado said. "But you don't really know until it happens to you."

For student Malina Korcz, college and shopping mall shootings still don't quite seem possible, though she felt like a real victim while she was covered in fake blood and lying in a smoky hallway.

"You never really think it's going to happen to you," Korcz said.

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2 comments:

  • posted at 4:32 am on Thu, Mar 6, 2008.

    Posts:

    To me, America used to be a proud and independent nation, and, as the years have gone by, we've seemed to become, more and more, a weak and helpless victim nation - when we're not bullying defenseless people in other countries; because a bully is nothing more than a weak person, a moral coward.

     
  • posted at 4:29 am on Thu, Mar 6, 2008.

    Posts:

    It's good this training is taking place; however, the gun grabbers better be stopped and people should be allowed to carry firearms after the proper training.

    Almost all of the tragic mass killings we've heard about in the news have been in "gun free zones" - to a psychopathic killer, this is like shooting fish in a barrel because the only person with a weapon is the killer who will disregard the notice to disarm anyway.

    The following article is about mass killers meeting armed resistance from the public and tells of four stories where killers we stopped by citizens.

    http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2007/04/when-mass-killers-meet-armed-resistance.html

     

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