Earlier this year, the quiet hallways of Frankfort Community High School became a training zone for local law enforcement engaged in Active Shooter Response Training, led by Captain John Prudent of the West Frankfort Police Department. Armed with an AR-15 and a Mini 14, two men posing as "active shooters" fired blanks from various strategic locations in the school recreating a very realistic and chilling ambush on would-be students.
Homeland Security defines an active shooter as an individual engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. In this particular instance, the victims or "soft targets" as they are also called, were students in an educational facility.
Homeland Security reports 46 percent of such acts of violence are ended by the application of force by police.
The training course began with responders and observers being shown the film, "Zero Day," based on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999 with the shooting shown through the viewpoint of security cameras along with dialogue via the cell phone of a student shot and killed.
One significant point of showing this film revolved around scene control and interagency communication. Prudent drilled home the life-saving importance of immediate action on the part of officers required to enter the building without backup or extended preparation.
Every moment spent on anything outside of taking down the shooter only increases the opportunity for more fatalities.
"You will be the difference between life and death," said Prudent.
Responders were then led through various formation drills before actively pursuing the shooter. During training, officers carried two handguns, two Model 1911 45's and two 9-mm Glocks loaded with Simunition, rounds designed to be fired through police and military service weapons for training purposes.
Though the exercise was only a drill, the simulation was successfully created to conform with an actual violent situation. Officers talked of the adrenaline coursing through their bodies as they took down their “perps.”
Also in attendance were FCUSD?168 Superintendent Dr. Greg Goins and Regional Superintendent Matt Donkin.
After watching the same film and participating in the strategic training process, both were led through the school as the responders pursued the perpetrators. Dr. Goins noted his responsibility in the immediate actions required to assure the safety of his students and the importance of such training not only in the part of taking down the shooter, but the role that teachers and staff will play in safely removing, accounting for and eventually reuniting their students with loved ones.
Both superintendents recognize the need for collaborated efforts by law enforcement and emergency personnel and educators as the number of active shooters incidents increase across the United States. In fact, teachers later participated in the same drill.
On-site responders play a crucial role during the initial moments of attack prior to law enforcement intervention, with most casualties occurring within the first 10 minutes of attack. The training was intense and very informed. Prudent, whose has three years experience in this course cited it as being an "eye opener."
Page 2 of 2 - Also on-site and overseeing the operations was former WF Chief of Police Jeff Tharp, who followed and advised the team of responding officers as they gathered in formation and made their way up and down hallways and stairwells.
"The goal first and foremost is to get a team of police officers face to face with shooter, and end the problem,” said Tharp.
The training was so informative that some officers chose to take the course again.
One such officer, Lt. Jerry Triplett from Royalton said "One time just wasn't enough. There was so much information to take in."
As far as perpetrators are concerned, a study conducted by the U.S. Secret Service warns against stereotyping the "type" of student capable of carrying out such horrific attacks. While there is no straightforward profile, there are some similar traits shared among the perpetrators including social exclusion, bullying, mental trauma and disorders. Secret Service investigators urge adults to look at the behavior of children and ask questions such as: What has the child said? Do they have grievances? Do they have access to weapons? Are they depressed or despondent? We should be proud and comforted by the fact that our local law enforcement agency is actively engaged in threat and risk assessment as well as response measures critical to saving the lives of those who are not immune from the horrors of such terror currently plaguing the country.