Education

‘No city immune.’ Wake officers train for school shooters, days after mass shootings.

Wake County School resource officers train for active shooters

Wake County Sheriffs' deputies who work as school resource officers trained for an active shooter scenario
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Wake County Sheriffs' deputies who work as school resource officers trained for an active shooter scenario

The two officers jumped out of their cars and shouted commands at each other: “Covering! Contact!”

One switched between her pistol and shotgun. She fired multiple times before moving in on their target.

Afterward, Wake County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Bowers asked the pair to hold their hands out in front of them.

They were shaking, one officer’s arms pulsing with adrenaline.

“This is just training,” he told them. “This isn’t the real thing.”

This was an active-shooter exercise, where Wake County school resource officers (SROs) had to switch between their guns, safely eliminating a black, torso-shaped metal target at the end of the range.

The two officers were the first of six SRO pairs that ran through the exercise at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center on Thursday morning.

“It’s very important, especially right now,” Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said, just days after mass shootings killed 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“Each time one of these incidents happen, it raises concern,” he said.

In February, Wake officials responded to four school shooting threats in a week. All turned out to be hoax calls.

Wake County Public School System confiscated five guns in the 2017-18 school year, as well as 257 other weapons, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

There were also over 2,500 confiscated weapons and 44 reported assaults involving a weapon across N.C. schools in 2017-18.

While there has never been a school shooting in Wake County, a man was shot in a parking lot near Poe Elementary in late July.

A 15-year-old was also arrested in April for possessing a gun on Wake Forest High School’s campus.

“We didn’t just start this training right now,” Baker said. “It was planned.”

Active-shooter training

Two outdoor active-shooter training sessions in the past week covered all 24 Wake County SROs.

While there have been similar exercises before, this training focused on rapid deployment, responding to the threat as quickly as possible.

Bowers said 75 percent of shooters kill themselves when they hear sirens or realize police have arrived.

“The faster we get there, the more lives are saved,” he said.

The day included hands-on training with tourniquets — a device for cutting off blood flow to a wound, situational and shooting precision training on the Johnston Community College shooting range, and simulation training in the college’s “shooting house.”

The small house is set up like a maze, with posters of suspects inside. The walls are made of a composite material that bullets enter without ricocheting.

Officers shot Airsoft ammunition that left paint marks. They walked through different scenarios that mimicked a shooter in a school building.

During the precision shooting training, officers fired on paper targets from varying distances, “learning how to identify the target, stay on the target and hit the target,” Bowers said.

They were expected to shoot with one hand, as well as their off hand, to prepare for all possibilities in an actual situation.

On Aug. 19, the Sheriff’s Office will hold an active shooter training inside a local school.

“No city, no county, no state is immune,” Bowers said.

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary, education in the Triangle and other odds and ends. He is a Collegiate Network fellow, who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019.
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