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East Carbon police prepare for the unthinkable: school shooting

Wearing body armor and carrying shields police move through the library in search of a shooter.
The incident also involved EMTs and ambulance workers.

By C.J. MCMANUS Sun Advocate reporter

Before the tragic 1999 incident at Columbine High in Colorado, school shootings were the stuff of nightmares, a horror too terrible to imagine. Since that time, similar events in Georgia, California, Virginia, Florida and several other states have shown that no community is immune to this type of violence. For that reason, the East Carbon Police ran through a mock shooting at Bruin Point Elementary, training to be prepared if a distress call should ever come from the school.

"There are so many variables involved when you have to take a gun into a school," said East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard. "This type of training is the only real way to prepare for such an event."

The training was put on by Adult Probation and Parole's Jeff Wood and Tom Kosmack in conjunction with Ian Walker of the Price Police. The incident consisted of two shooters inside of the school with multiple wounded victims. To make the response as real as possible, a call went out across dispatch, bringing in police, fire and ambulance services.

Rubber bullets create a realistic impact

"This training allows every part of a city's emergency response to go through their responsibilities during a crisis," said AP&P's Wood. "For that reason alone, it's a very worthwhile endeavor."

In addition to the use of dispatch, shooters in the scenario use rubber bullets which are safe but replicate the reality of a projectile hitting an officer's protective gear. East Carbon Police also wore full riot gear all through the exercise, a situation which allowed the officers to learn quite a bit about how restricting protective clothing can be.

As all four EC Police officers responded to the school, they found two armed gunmen in the school with three visible victims. As part of the training, wounded children and staff are made to latch on to police forcing them to deal with not only the shooters but scared civilians. According to those involved, the training is meant to show problem areas during response as well as to provide experience for the officers.

"It was very difficult for me to see once I started running and sweating," explained Chief Leonard. "The hood and helmet does impair vision but its protective qualities are well worth the trouble."

East Carbon Officers used vests, head gear and shields along with various other types of body armor aimed at allowing them to confront a gunman safely.

"We learned today that these shields are a great asset when dealing with oncoming fire," said East Carbon Officer Shawn Sackett, who was the first person on-scene following the call from dispatch. "I was able to maneuver the shield around and protect myself while returning fire."

Doors cause problems

During the drill, local police also found out that the doors at Bruin Point were a major sticking point as they had trouble getting into the school during the shooting. They also has issues keeping the doors open to allow medical personnel access to the wounded.

After clearing the school and turning the drill over to fire and emergency response, the officers gathered for a debriefing and critique of the event.

"There was an adult female in there," said AP&P's Kosmack. "We all concluded that you could have asked the adult victim just how many shooters were in the school. Then you know what you are dealing with."

The training officers involved with the program were impressed with the way East Carbon Officers were able to use their weapons safely and take out both shooters.

The training went all the way through taking wounded from the school to the local clinic for treatment.

Training officers have plans to continue this type of event with local departments as they are available.

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