June 12, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck
If we've learned anything from history, you can never be too prepared when tragedy strikes on school campuses. Simulating a campus shooting like Virginia Tech, local and outlying agencies storm the empty residence halls of McNeese State University.
"Before this there had been incidents at high school campuses at Columbine and Pearl, Mississippi. Virginia Tech really brought it home for colleges and universities," said McNeese Police Chief Cinnamon Salvador.
Learning from those deadly tragedies officers now aggressively approach the shooters.
"The goal for the officers is to find the person that is the threat and to stop them from hurting innocent people," said Salvador. "If that means that we have to take the heat for that, if we have to engage that person, if we have to incur their wrath or whatever the problem is, then that's what we're going to do."
"This training is a little different from what I've been trained in the past. Usually we take our time and search rooms... This is go after the threat as soon as it happens, you follow them you don't stop," said Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff's Detective Chad Romero.
Around every corner lies potential threats. Bodies serve as clues as to where the shooter has been and which direction he may have gone.
"Adrenaline is pumping and you have to really think and concentrate on what you're doing," said Grambling State University Police Officer Wendy Livingston.
Livingston says watching each other's back and communicating is the key to saving lives, especially when you're working with a multitude of different law enforcement agencies.
"When we approach a building...it needs to be at least five people. There needs to be a front, a rear watch person. Communication is key. You have to communicate," said Livingston.
"The likely scenario is if something like this should ever happen at any of the local schools around here, not just McNeese State University... that it would be different agencies that would respond," says Salvador. "We all want to make sure that we are on the same page."
"Communication is the most important thing. I've never worked with any of these officers. But I'm getting to know them very quickly because we are treating this like the real deal... and you have to be very clear," said Romero.
Eventually catching the gunman, each team's performance is critiqued by a team of judges.
"In law enforcement we use the word subject a lot. But in this situation you have to be blunt. You have to say it's a body. I have a body on the second floor. Because in a real situation you're going to have a lot of subjects running around these halls. If you're lucky to respond in a quick amount of time, you're going to have students everywhere. Some even jumping out the windows to escape and evade."
"If the command and control person gives you information he has and sends you down and says go to the first floor. Try to find him and you hear noise, you hear shots on the second floor don't be afraid to change your objective as long as the entire team knows -- we've got to go to the second floor I heard shots," explained Salvador.
Similar training exercises are scheduled in the Alexandria and New Orleans areas. Meanwhile, each of the officers will take Tuesday's training and share it with their respective agencies. McNeese Police and State Police sponsored the training, other agencies participating were the Calcasieu and Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff's Offices and Grambling State University Police.