Law enforcement officers and members of the Covington/Newton County SWAT Team participated in the Active Shooter program last week, an annual event that brings authorities together to teach them how to respond in a crisis situation.
Authorities worked at Newton Baptist Church and engaged in multiple scenarios throughout the week with real “victims” and “perpetrators” to allow members of law enforcement a chance to see how they would and should respond in case of an emergency. Several pastors of local churches were also invited to attend a class given by Newton County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Randy Downs on how to keep their church, their congregation and themselves safe if something should occur.
In one scenario, a groom (an ex-gang member) was shot by his would-be bride's brother, a member of a rival gang, while the two stood at the alter to be married. There were several “victims” and four “perpetrators” as well as a “hostage,” the preacher of the church. SWAT Team members made their way into the sanctuary while law enforcement secured the outer rooms of the church.
In past years the Active Shooter event has been held at both Eastside High and Cousins Middle School, places with plenty of room to hide and escape and plenty of potential victims as well. And it's only fitting that they would work in schools since Active Shooter came about due, in part, to the horror that took place at Columbine High School in Colorado in the spring of 1999.
“Speed is important in an Active Shooter situation,” said NCSO Lt. Keith Crum. “There's not always time to wait for SWAT and many of the things we are doing are a direct result of things we learned from Columbine.”
It has been reported that a lack of action on the part of authorities while waiting for SWAT to arrive resulted in the loss of several lives during the Columbine shooting. When authorities practice, they know how to respond appropriately while waiting for SWAT.
“In a shooting situation we go in and evacuate as many people as possible,” said NCSO Public Information Officer Courtney Morrison. “We also have to isolate the shooter.”
Further training is planned for this summer, including scenarios that involve the fire department, EMS and other first responders.