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The rounds were blank but the bullet and shotgun casings pinging and spinning on the floor of Louisiana High School last week were real.
So was a heavy pall of smoke in the air as Pike County deputies, Louisiana Police, BONCL and R-2 schools staff got a taste of what it was like to have real shooters inside the building.
“One of the main points of this is to expose you to the sights, sounds and smell of real gunfire,” Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte explained. “God forbid this ever happens but you don’t freeze. You have to do something.”
“This is to teach what mayhem is all about,” explained R-II Superintendent Dr. Richard Basden.
Two sheriff’s deputies played the part of intruders with automatic weapons, one of whom was arrested in the teachers’ lounge, while the other was subdued by blanks and the loud gunfire of several officers after about 10 minutes.
The Wednesday, Aug. 13 exercise was put on by Korte under the auspices of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“No matter what happens, indecision is the worst thing you can have,” Korte said. “The body can’t go where the mind hasn’t already gone. Apply this to your thinking every day.”
The exercise included tactics and ideas for staff and faculty members to follow in case an active shooter or shooters should break into their buildings. Both BONCL and Louisiana schools have a single, locked entrance to control flow in and out of their buildings, safety ideas implemented after the disaster at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“There is no way to actively predict this,” Korte said of active shooters, reinforcing the idea to know what to do prior to an event. However, “incidents are rarely impulsive,” Korte added of the 29 school shootings in the United States over the past 10 years.
More than 90 percent of the shooters exhibit odd behavioral pre-cursors before the events and more than 75 percent hold a grievance against the school, he added.
Schools need to share information on those talking or writing online about shooting other students, Korte said, “like comments about getting even or shooting people.”
The staffs were also told that many shooters also target teachers and staff members.
Police have also changed their tactics on dealing with shooters following the famous case at Columbine High School in Colo., Korte said. Officers no longer wait and assemble to go after a shooter in a school, preferring to get to the source of the violence as quickly as possible.
“It doesn’t hurt to discuss possible scenarios with kids,” Korte said. “It’s like training for fire and tornado drills.”
The shooters generally commit suicide when they hear sirens coming, Korte added.