The Herald Bulletin

January 16, 2013

Mock shooting plans for the unthinkable

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Two men — one in camo, the other in black — walk down the hall, only stopping to shoot a janitor. The man hits the ground, yelling in pain and for help while one shooter darts into the nearest room, the other into a room full of students who are just chatting and doing homework.

He grabs their teacher and yells for them to get on the ground, gasps filling the air followed by the sound of chairs scraping across the floor and bodies hitting it. And then he asks for one student in particular: Dennis Boyd.

The above, given through first-hand observation and student recollection, was one of three scenarios played out in a mock shooting at Anderson Preparatory Academy Wednesday night. APA teamed with the Anderson Police Department SWAT team.

While it wasn’t real, it was still scary for the student volunteers.

“What freaked me out was that one day it could happen to our school,” sophomore Veronica Marquez said.

It could happen to anyone, anywhere, she added. The Newtown, Conn., tragedy made many realize that.

Alisha Scaife, a junior, said it made her instantly think of the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary, and how they too must have felt sick to their stomachs. She said many students were deeply touched by the incident.

When the SWAT team came in, they took out the shooter. But Scaife said she was in the mindset that her teacher was dead and the students were next.

APD Chief Larry Crenshaw, who explained tactics to observers, said the training exercise was historical for Madison County, and one that will help police better plan for any similar situation that could arise.

“We hope it doesn’t happen,” he said. “I’m sure schools across the nation didn’t think it could happen but it did.”

APA Guidance Counselor Brad Morgan, who helped put on the event, said school drills look good on paper, but that the live mock shooting was a “win-win” for the school and police.

“They can practice a real-life situation and we can see how to tweak our procedures to make it safer,” he said. “You plan for the worse, hope for the best. You hope it never happens, but if it does be prepared as can be.”

After each scenario was played out, a debriefing was completed. Officer Chris Frazier, a member of the SWAT team, said it would help sharpen skills.

“We don’t get the opportunity to do this too much, to get it as close as possible to real without it actually being real,” he said.

About 75 kids signed up as volunteers, 10 parents observed and 14 staff members participated. Staff and family of staff played the suspects.

Boyd, a sophomore, said his heart was pounding in his chest when he heard his name come out of the shooter’s mouth. The reassurance came from the fact it was just a drill.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.