Active shooter: Even a drill is intense

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Law enforcement officers come upon a participant portraying an injured person during an active shooter drill Tuesday at Camden County Middle School.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 18, 2018

CAMDEN — The sounds of gunfire inside a school building and a shooter screaming threats to kill as many people as he can are chilling — even when they come from a familiar face best known for their job to keep students safe.

But on Tuesday evening Camden School Resource Officer Mike Lawrence portrayed a gunman in an active shooter drill at Camden County Middle School involving law enforcement and emergency medical workers. The drill took place a month after 17 students were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and a day before nationwide student walkout demonstrations in memory of the students who lost their lives in Florida.

The drill at Camden County Middle School was a training exercise for deputies of the Camden County Sheriff’s Office and personnel of Pasquotank-Camden Emergency Medical Service. Participants in the drill reviewed building search procedures and methods for rescuing victims.

Camden County Middle School Principal Franchesca Gantt participated in the drill, peforming a task she might find herself doing in an actual live shooter situation — providing information to law enforcement officers as they arrive at the entrance to the school. During the drill Gantt told arriving officers what she knew about what was going on and where she understood the shooter to be at that time.

Students in emergency medical courses at College of The Albemarle portrayed young people who had been wounded or killed by the shooter. In a post-drill discussion held in the school library, some of the students commented on the amount of time it took rescue workers to get to them. 

Lawrence responded that while the initial phase of the response, in which officers enter the building to take out the shooter, moves quickly, the rescue phase moves more deliberately because law enforcement officers are accompanying rescue workers for protection and continuing to look for the possibility of a second shooter while the rescue work gets underway.

Observers, who included the superintendent of schools, county manager, board of education members and local reporters, saw officers moving down the hallway in the “rolling T” strategic formation. Officers also practiced performing solo searches in an active shooter situation and worked on assisting EMS workers in rescuing victims by surounding the EMS personnel in what is known as the diamond formation.

Information provided at the scene by Camden County interim Sheriff Rodney Meads indicated that while the scenarios being practiced were taking place at a school, they also are relevant to other locations where a mass shooting could occur such as a business.

Meads said in an interview that all patrol deputies are expected to do two walk-throughs daily at each school in the county. Not only does that provide additional security while they are in the building, but Meads pointed out it also means that officers are familiar with the buildings in the event they ever have to respond to an emergency in one of them.

An information sheet that Meads distributed at the drill instructed officers not to use “a traditional response of surround and contain” in an active shooter situation.

“You will have to go on the offensive to stop the shooter immediately,” the document states. “Saving lives is the priority. If we surround and contain that will only give the suspect time to accomplish his goals. If you hear gunfire go to it!”

Meads said if officers had moved to the sound of gunfire in their initial response to the shooting in Parkland, Fla., last month, that could have saved lives.