Guns drawn, one officer after another entered the nearly empty expanse of LaGrange High School early Thursday. The objective was simple: to be ready, in case of the unthinkable.
Fortunately, the situation in question was only a simple training exercise to prepare the officers. The training exercise, one of many this week, prepared officers to respond in a situation where an active shooter entered the school, including how to disarm the shooter, rescue hostages and treat the injured .
In light of recent mass shootings, namely the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas in May in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, officers attending the training have been advised to have to l mind that the hostages in the storyline are in danger whether there is gunfire or not.
“We have always focused on the hostage side of [these shootings]. Apparently [with Uvalde] there were issues where there was no active fire going on, so [officers] didn’t want to come in because it was more of a hostage, barricade situation. There was no driving force,” said Detective Stephen Spivey, who advised participating officers before the training. “Now we are moving into this immediate danger mode. In the scenario where you get a gunshot call [and] there are reports of people being shot in the school, even if you don’t hear active shooting there is always someone who is in immediate danger. You may not always get that beep when you walk in, but you still need to move in.
The storyline opened with an officer entering the school through an opening to the east. Each officer entered the scenario individually. Some said in advance that they did not know the layout of the school. They were followed during the exercise by another LPD staff member, who assessed their reactions.
Exiting an unmarked vehicle, officers entered the school and walked around the hallway. The sound of gunfire echoed down said hallway from a loudspeaker in a nearby classroom where the fake shooter was stationed – two hostages, a “teacher” and a “student” were also in the room. Just outside the classroom was a dummy, symbolizing a shot victim.
The shooter, another officer, began shouting threats as the officer approached. The officer entered, quickly noticed the two hostages, and asked the shooter to drop his gun.
The storyline from there unfolded in a number of ways. If the shooter did not drop their gun when asked, the officer would fire, eliminating the shooter with one to several shots. Sometimes the officer would get shot while using protective vests. The bullets used in training are Simunition, non-lethal training ammunition, filled with pink or blue ink when the bullets hit their target, like paintballs.
Bullets tend to leave bruises even with body armor.
With the shooter down, the officer would have to search the hostages for weapons, a necessity to eliminate any other potential shooters. The officer then reported the condition of the shooter and hostages and any injuries they may have suffered.
“Soon after rescuing everyone, we would escort [barricaded hostages] outside,” explained Sgt. Joshua Clower, who was also evaluating the formation.
LPD Chief Lou Dekmar noted Thursday during a visit to the LaGrange Rotary Club that such active shooter training, as well as general safety training, is conducted regularly. Active fire training has been specifically provided by the LPD for about 10 years.
He added that the community’s relationship with law enforcement in the area has become essential in preventing incidents locally and dealing with threats that can potentially turn deadly.
“A lot of times after or during a shooting, it always comes back that someone saw something, or heard something, or knew something, but nobody acted on it,” Dekmar said.
“[Here]we have such a good relationship with the school system and the community that whenever someone smells something, [of threats] they call us. We conduct approximately four to six operations per year which limit potential threats. »