ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – “When we get to an active shooter situation and innocent victims die, our lives are secondary. Especially children, as we try to save as many lives as possible,” said Lt. Paul Gronholz of the Rochester Police Department.
Gronholz trains Rochester police officers and that includes active shooter situations like the mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
” It’s tragic. This shouldn’t happen. I certainly feel for the families and law enforcement who responded to this,” Gronholz said.
In March, the RPD, Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office, Mayo Clinic Ambulance and Rochester Fire Department completed several trainings on how best to respond to an active shooter situation.
“We train with our fire department and our ambulance service because they [fire and ambulance] okay, as long as law enforcement is present and willing to escort them and ensure their safety; they have agreed to enter a building that has not yet necessarily been deemed “clear”, meaning there is no threat. With a police or law enforcement escort, they agreed to go in and try to get as many viable victims out as possible in order to save their lives,” Gronholz said.
He said that before the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, officers should wait for the SWAT team or another response agency to arrive on the scene for an active shooter. Then these agencies would enter school buildings.
“We’re training an officer who can come in and try to neutralize a threat because we’re trying to save lives,” Gronholz said.
RPD has five School Resource Officers (SROs) who are placed to monitor activity within Rochester Public Schools. These officers are armed.
Gronholz also spoke about the active training of shooters in schools.
“We don’t want to scare or make school a place where children don’t want to come because now they are traumatized even by the training. This is something we also consider. It is important to weigh these things and determine which is the best path to take. I think working with the ORS, the police department and the school district, they can get some sort of direction that is the best way forward for everyone involved,” he said.
Gronholz encourages parents to speak with their child’s school about safety measures and to discuss with their children how to respond to dangerous incidents.
“The first choice I would always give is if you have the ability to escape and run away, do it. If you’re in a room and the shooter is potentially in a hallway, barricade the door and try to be as quiet as possible. Silence cell phones and hide in order to try to avoid them knowing that victims or potential victims are inside,” he said.
Schools have their own safety guidelines, but Gronholz shared some techniques teachers could use if a dangerous person enters school buildings.
“Put hammers in the rooms to be more confident when breaking a window,” he said. “Maybe you could throw a chair out the window to get that many kids out. A kind of improvisation to bring the children to safety.
Gronholz said how a person reacts to a dangerous situation depends on the threat, but wants people to react and be prepared if a dangerous situation occurs.
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