Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies from Crescenta Valley and Altadena stations trained on Tuesday for a scenario that would be a parent’s worse nightmare — a student entered a school with a gun.
Although it was just a training exercise, every effort was made to create an atmosphere similar to a real emergency including creating the sounds of gunfire and the screams of nervous and scared teenagers.
“We have to be prepared for the safety of our community,” said Capt. Dave Silversparre of the CV Sheriffs Station.
The Crescenta Valley station has participated in this type of training session on several occasions. Silversparre said training in all emergencies, like fire, earthquake and this type of crime, is invaluable for deputies.
Many of the deputies that were new to the CV station participated as well as the station’s training deputies.
The session was guided by the Special Enforcement Bureau, the L.A. County Sheriff equivalent to Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), who began the day with a briefing on tactics then went to the simulation.
Pasadena students from Marshall Fundamental Secondary School and Pasadena High School volunteered to play victims.
“We were told to yell and create chaos,” said senior Josephine Kinney.
The teens were also asked to provide a description of the shooter to deputies.
Fortunately none of the students had experienced this type of violence but they were more than aware of the potential danger.
Senior Veronica Ota recounted a story of being in lock down when she was in sixth grade due to a student bringing a paintball type gun to school.
“And we were scheduled to perform the play ‘Bang, Bang You’re Dead’,” said Ota.
The play, written by William Mastrosimone, deals with school violence. Ota said the play was postponed because it’s opening weekend coincided with the Virginia Tech school shooting.
The students saw their participation in the training as a way to help deputies prepare.
“It makes us safer. Why not be prepared?” asked Marilyn Bradford, senior.
“We trust [the deputies]. We expect them to be there to protect us,” added Kinney.
Sgt. Michael Harding, special enforcement, said the objective of the training was to have the deputies work together as a team and to know their mission is to save lives.
A review of other school and public shootings is done by the enforcement training officers, and tactics are changed or kept by what is learned. Harding said that in addition to his deputies he tells his own school age children how to react if this situation occurs.
“Go find an escape route, run or barricade your classroom,” he said.
The deputies were taught a variety of things including how to ask right questions to verify where the shooter was, how to enter buildings and how to cautiously move through the classrooms.
“The dynamics of an active shooter is a lot different than other situations,” said instructor Griz Saldana.
Response to reports of a home with a possible burglary suspect still in the house are handled differently than a report of a person with a gun in a school or mall, he said.
“You have to understand how the body reacts, how to read body language of the students, teachers and the suspect,” Saldana said.
The training day concluded with a debriefing and deputies went back to their stations.
“I look around this school, and malls, and I see fire alarms and multiple emergency protection, but there is nothing that will warn us about an active shooter. There is no alarm, so we need to be ready,” Harding said.