July 26, 2014

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Brunswick police hold active shooter training at Edwards Middle School

Brunswick police Officers Chris Scafidi, left, and Joe Rizk make their way up a staircase during “active-shooter” training Thursday morning at Edwards Middle School. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Brunswick police Officers Chris Scafidi, left, and Joe Rizk make their way up a staircase during “active-shooter” training Thursday morning at Edwards Middle School. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Police officers with non-lethal rounds conducted drills at Edwards Middle School on Thursday morning to prepare for a situation they hope they never have to face.

The “active-shooter” training in Brunswick was underway less than 24 hours after a shooter at Fort Hood in Texas killed three people and wounded 16 others before taking his own life.

In another incident Wednesday evening, Kent State University was placed on lockdown while police located a person who fired a gun on campus.

Brunswick Officers Joe Rizk, right and Chris Scafidi, center, particiapted in active shooter training on Thursday morning at Edwards Middle School. Sgt. E. Rivera with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, left, helped conduct the training with the assistance of student volunteers. Madelyn Jeske, 18, on the ground, was one of 10 student volunteers who assisted officers in simulating paniced students in the hallways. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Brunswick Officers Joe Rizk, right and Chris Scafidi, center, particiapted in active shooter training on Thursday morning at Edwards Middle School. Sgt. E. Rivera with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, left, helped conduct the training with the assistance of student volunteers. Madelyn Jeske, 18, on the ground, was one of 10 student volunteers who assisted officers in simulating paniced students in the hallways. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

Brunswick Lt. Brian Ohlin said many departments have conducted active-shooter drills after the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado where two students killed 13 students and staff before taking their own lives. He said agencies everywhere began to change the way they handled active-shooter situations to try to curb the loss of life.

“The old way of setting up a perimeter and waiting on SWAT teams is not effective because innocent people can be killed,” Ohlin said. “We want to immediately respond to it if it involves a threat.”

Ohlin said not all the department’s 40 officers were able to participate Thursday, but those who hadn’t had the training in a few years and newer officers took part along with officers from Hinckley and Brunswick Hills townships.

“It’s very valuable and very good to train with our mutual-aid partners here in Hinckley and Brunswick Hills,” Ohlin said. “You hope nothing ever happens. But if it does, we’ll all respond, so it makes sense to train together.”

Patrol Sgt. E.E. Rivera conducted Thursday’s training that taught participants how to clear hallways and classrooms while searching for a shooter.

Officers also learned about trauma first aid, including for gunshot wounds, for themselves and others. Rivera said training officers to help with first aid can save lives.

“They can assist EMS squads, and if they can treat themselves so the squads can go on to treat more serious victims, that also saves lives,” he said.

Scenarios included a shooter who was hiding in a classroom. Officers traveled the hallways of Edwards encountering bystanders and clearing classrooms not knowing when they might enter a classroom with a shooter lying in wait.

“You’ve got an active shooter on this floor. We don’t know where he is,” Rivera would shout before flinging open the hallway doors to begin the training.

Officers covered each other as they entered stairways and classrooms. They worked to clear dark corners before moving down the hall in search of the shooter.

Brunswick High School students volunteered to portray bystanders, a distraction officers had to learn to handle.

Patrol officers posed as active shooters. Both the shooters and police officers used Simunitions — a brand of training ammunition that looks and feels like a real ammunition in a service pistol, but delivers a round similar to that of a paintball. The shooters wore heavy layers of long-sleeve clothing to help prevent injury from the many shots fired at them during the training.

“We try to make it as realistic as possible, as opposed to just dry tactics,” Ohlin said. “Using stressors like students in the hallways and Simunitions to simulate firearms, there’s a motivation for them to use their best tactics.”

Ohlin said the training can help officers prepare for other shooting situations.

“These situations can occur in an office environment, a mall, a school, a hospital,” he said. “Any environments where there are lots of people and a threat may occur.”

Ohlin said he hopes officers don’t ever have to respond to an active-shooter situation in Brunswick, but wants them to be prepared nonetheless.

“We’ve seen it here in Northeast Ohio with Chardon High School,” he said. “It was a tragedy there and things like that highlight how important this training is.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.