Thursday, August 14, 2014
Notes from band practice float down the hall, along with practice sounds from the nearby gym.
Ahead, down the corridor, are two people lying on the floor.
“He shot me!” one calls weakly. Then what sounds like a long firecracker strip goes off, more shouting and silence.
Around the corner of the hallway is every parent’s worst nightmare.
The floor is covered in spent casings. Two bodies are sprawled outside the bathrooms.
Law enforcement are bent over them securing their hands and checking for weapons.
From the number of shots heard, the school shooters are no longer a threat.
It’s 11 a.m., on a Friday morning at Waccamaw High School.
The scenario is all too real.
Consequently, Georgetown city and county law enforcement, Pawleys Island police and a state police constable, have spent the past two-days in Alert Active Shooter Response training, under the tuteledge of SLED. On Aug. 11 and 12, more of the same took part in training.
Even state police trainees are taking part.
The goal is to train School Resource Officers (SROs) and patrol officers ... any officer that might be in proximity to an “event,” how to handle it.
The priority is to “stop the threat.”
The first day of training is all classroom. The second day is all about scenarios that a responding officer might encounter.
Sgt. Gary Todd, training officer for the Sheriff’s Office, says the training is to pair “basic patrol with administrative officers to deal with an active shooter.
“There are more and more active shooter events in schools and businesses...it’s on the rise,” he says.
The priority, he explains, is within 3 minutes to go straight to the threat and deal with it safely.
In other words, any responding officer can deal with the threat immediately, thereby saving lives that could be lost while waiting for backup or SWAT.
Equipped with helmet, masks, vests and special weaponry that shoots Simunition’s FX marking cartridges – non-lethal cartridges that leave “a detergent-based, water-soluble color-marking compound. The visible impacts allow accurate assessment of simulated lethality.”
The training weapons are the same style, weight and recoil as the officer’s normal weapon.
Under the leadership of SLED’s Special Agent Wayne Freeman, Todd is able to bring the advanced active shooter training to the county. The same training is happening state-wide.
Todd notes that school district Superintendent Randy Dozier and district Director of Safety & Risk Management Alan Walters “have done an outstanding job.”
Todd says the GCSO is working with the district to train school staff.
Walters adds that the district is also working on physical security at the schools. For example, “entrance hardening,” which includes locked entrances, the need to sign in via computers that check the national sex-offender registry, take a picture of the visitor, etc.
“The district is spending more than $1 million on security enhancements to keep the students safe,” Walters explains.
“We will take the training into the schools so school staff know what to expect and what is happening in an active shooter situation.”
The team moves out to the school parking lot. At the very end a black SUV is parked.
Suddenly there is gunfire from behind the SUV. The gunfire coming from the shooter sounds “automatic.” At the other end of the parking lot a team of police officers splits and begins to work its way toward the shooter. Gunfire is rampant from both ends of the lot.
After what seems an eternity, the gunshots and shouting stop.
There are two bodies on the ground.
The good guys have taken out the threat.
Editor’s Note: Last week we ran an article announcing there would be a training at Waccamaw High School called Active Shooter Training. This week we ran the story about the training but we failed to identify it as such in the headline. Our intent was not to mislead or sensationalize with the earlier version of the headline, but to bring attention to the proactive measures the school district and local law enforcement -- through the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office -- were taking to prevent such a tragedy from happening in our schools. We apologize that this was not clearly identified as a training exercise. We appreciate readers taking the time to let us know. We always strive to do better.