A drill helped law enforcement prepare for an active shooter on campus.
In the quiet days between semesters at Sam Houston State University, the third floor of Smith-Hutson Business Building erupted with shouts and the sounds of gunfire.
But this was not the latest in a series of mass attacks plaguing college or school campuses across the country. It was an Active Shooter Training exercise by law enforcement agencies in Walker County to help prepare officers to respond to a disaster. The mock scenarios, which included simunitions and blank guns, were tested in college setting in classrooms and a residence hall.
Several agencies participated in the training, including SHSU, TDCJ, Huntsville, and Walker County.“If you were to have a situation like this in Walker County, a multitude of allied agencies would respond,” said Huntsville Police Chief Kevin P. Lunsford, a Bearkat alumnus. “In an active shooter situation, you don’t have time to call and activate a SWAT team. It has to be whoever is on duty at the time.”
In Smith-Hutson, the scenario played out in what seemed like an instant – an injured “student” laid prone in the hallway after being shot by a masked gunman. Police quickly and deliberately followed a suspect into a classroom. The shooter took aim at police and a rapid exchange of gunfire ensued, with police taking care to avoid “students” sitting in class. Meanwhile, a second gunman hidden in the corner began firing, with simunitions flying across the room.
Mock suspects are taken into custody.In the end, both shooters were taken into custody, and the students were briefly questioned and frisked to ensure there was no additional danger. Police stood at the ready guarding the door, ensuring no other intruders would breach the classroom -- or the third floor.
The group involved in the training included officers from Sam Houston State University Police, Huntsville Police, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Inspector General at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which has certified peace officers on task forces across the state.
“All the local agencies are involved so everybody can be on the same page and get the same training in the event something like this happens in our county,” said Jason Clark, Public Information Officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who also graduated from SHSU in 2002.
Law enforcement officer quickly assess friend from foe in the classroom. The training was provided by Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), a program that began in Hays County, Texas following the 2009 school massacre at Columbine, CO that killed 13 people and injured dozens more. The group includes 100 trained instructors from law enforcement agencies across the state, who have trained more than 40,000 law enforcement officers and military nationwide in active shooter response. Officers are taught to go into a scene, stop the shooter and ultimately save lives.
“After Columbine, we knew there was a need for this training, but I never realized the gravity of how much it was needed,” said Police Chief Bo Kidd of the Buda Police Department, an instructor. “Since Columbine, it is happening more and more frequently. They say the murder rate is going down, but incidents of mass murder are going up. This training is very necessary and I don’t think there is any other training more relevant to what we (peace officers) face today.”
"Students" are lined up against the wall before questioning. Many campuses across this country are looking at their protocols and procedures for these types of events. School campuses make up the vast majority of these mass murder episodes. There is information out there now to aid and instruct students on what do in these situations and schools are developing lockdown procedures and other measures to hinder the success of those intent on mass murder. There are threat assessments being developed to help schools and law enforcement identified those having mental health issues that are virtually always evident prior to these incidents.