Although Lodi’s schools were closed for spring break, Tokay High School buzzed with activity on Wednesday morning as the Lodi Police Department held an active killer response training exercise.
Lodi Police Officer Hettie Stillman said her department has begun using “active killer” instead of “active shooter,” as suspects in several school shootings in the United States have used explosive devices as well as firearms.
“We want to change the mindset of our personnel to not just be looking for guns, but to be looking for explosive devices as well,” Stillman said.
The Lodi Fire Department joined the police for Wednesday’s training exercise along with emergency medical technicians from American Medical Response, Stillman said, and officials from Lodi Unified School District observed the exercise from within the campus.
Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital held its own exercise at the same time to prepare for large numbers of casualties.
“Our objective is to train collectively as a team,” Stillman said.
While volunteers from the Lodi Police Partners Program directed traffic on a section of West Century Boulevard that had been blocked off for the training, student volunteers playing the roles of suspects, victims and bystanders took their places as they waited for the training to begin.
Lights flashed and sirens blared as police cruisers parked in front of the school, allowing officers to jump out dressed in helmets and bulletproof vests with rifles in hand before running into the campus as the sounds of gunshots filled the air.
Students ran to the school’s front gates with their hands in the air, pausing briefly while some officers searched them for weapons before other officers led them to safety.
Firefighters and EMTs tended to students playing the roles of wounded or deceased victims — mimicking lifesaving medical procedures and loading the victims into ambulances.
Officers led the two handcuffed suspects wearing black masks to the waiting police cars, although Stillman said there were reports of additional suspects that turned out to be false much like the real-life scenarios faced by law enforcement officers across the country.
Noticeably absent from the exercise was the Lodi Police Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) vehicle.
“We don’t wait for SWAT,” Stillman said. “We go in immediately to address the threat, whatever the case may be.”
Alexander Luchetta, a 17-year-old senior at Tokay High who played a deceased victim, felt the exercise was a success.
“It was very productive for all agencies involved, including the fire department and AMR,” Luchetta said. “I believe it’ll be better for the community if — God forbid — anything happens at the schools.”
Having student volunteers added a much-needed level of realism to the exercise, Lodi Police Lt. Michael Manetti said after the exercise ended, making the training a success for his fellow officers as well as Lodi Fire and AMR.
“When it comes to these things, it’s important that we’re able to work collaboratively with them,” Manetti said.