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Campus Prepares Law Enforcement For Active Shooters

June 5, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

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photo of officer training for active shooting
A recent training at SHSU helped law enforcement officers from Huntsville, the Walker County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and University Police prepare in the event of an active shooter on campus. —Submitted photos

In the quiet days between semesters at Sam Houston State University, the third floor of the Smith-Hutson Business Building erupted with shouts and the sounds of gunfire.

But this was not the latest in a series of mass attacks plaguing college or school campuses across the country; it was an active shooter training exercise by law enforcement agencies in Walker County to help prepare officers to respond to a disaster.

The mock scenarios, which included simunitions and blank guns, were tested in college setting in classrooms and a residence hall.

“If you were to have a situation like this in Walker County, a multitude of allied agencies would respond,” said Huntsville Police Chief Kevin P. Lunsford, a Bearkat alumnus. “In an active shooter situation, you don’t have time to call and activate a SWAT team. It has to be whoever is on duty at the time.”

In Smith-Hutson, the scenario played out in what seemed like an instant: an injured “student” laid prone in the hallway after being shot by a masked gunman. Police quickly and deliberately followed a suspect into a classroom. The shooter took aim at police and a rapid exchange of gunfire ensued, with police taking care to avoid “students” sitting in class. Meanwhile, a second gunman hidden in the corner began firing, with simunitions flying across the room.

In the end, both shooters were taken into custody, and the students were briefly questioned and frisked to ensure there was no additional danger. Police stood at the ready guarding the door, ensuring no other intruders would breach the classroom—or the third floor.

The group involved in the training included officers from Sam Houston State University Police, Huntsville Police, the Walker County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Inspector General at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which has certified peace officers on task forces across the state.

demonstration of officer helping students during active shooting
After subduing the suspects, police begin questioning "students" in the room to identify any additional danger. In the event of an active shooter, students are asked to keep their hands up and visible. See more photos here.

“All the local agencies are involved so everybody can be on the same page and get the same training in the event something like this happens in our county,” said Jason Clark, public information officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who also graduated from SHSU in 2002.

The training was provided by Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, a program that began in Hays County, following the 2009 school massacre at Columbine, Colo., that killed 13 people and injured dozens more. The group includes 100 trained instructors from law enforcement agencies across the state who have trained more than 40,000 law enforcement officers and military nationwide in active shooter response. Officers are taught to go into a scene, stop the shooter and ultimately save lives.

“After Columbine, we knew there was a need for this training, but I never realized the gravity of how much it was needed,” said Buda Police Department Chief Bo Kidd, who is also an instructor. “Since Columbine, it is happening more and more frequently. They say the murder rate is going down, but incidents of mass murder are going up. This training is very necessary, and I don’t think there is any other training more relevant to what we (peace officers) face today.”

Many campuses across the country are looking at their protocols and procedures for these types of events. School campuses make up the vast majority of these mass murder episodes. Information is now available to aid and instruct students on what do in these situations, and schools are developing lockdown procedures and other measures to hinder the success of those intent on mass murder. Threat assessments are also being developed to help schools and law enforcement identified those having mental health issues.



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