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Preparing for danger: Local police train to handle shootings
Georgia Southern University Police officer Scott Sanford, left, takes the point as they sweep hallways and classrooms of the Newton Building in simulated search for a gunman as local law enforcement teams up for an active shooter training exercise on campus Tuesday.

    Bullets flew Tuesday as law enforcement officers took part in a simulated active shooter training exercise in a vacant elementary school building.
    They were “simunition” instead of real ammunition, and as they struck targets, the waxy rounds left blue or orange marks to show where an actual bullet would have drawn blood.
    Georgia Southern University and Statesboro Police joined in the exercises Tuesday, along with Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Atlanta FBI to conduct active shooter training that will take place through Thursday.
    Reenactments of dangerous situations help officers learn to respond safely, said Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner. During these exercises, officers will be training on how to respond and react to an active shooter on campus.
    Using guns modified to fire the simunition but that could not fire real ammunition, officers took turns Tuesday at the old Sallie Zetterower elementary school building on Brannen Street, focusing on different scenarios in a variety of locations throughout the school.
    As he showed someone the simunition rounds and guns, Statesboro Police Lt. Kaleb Moore talked about the exercises.
    “This is the closest training that you can possibly get without it being the real thing,” he said.
    Before actually performing the exercises, groups of officers, deputies and agents conducted “dry runs,” walking through the scenario in anticipation of the real moves.
    In the scenarios, officers were faced with “known shooter locations and unknown shooter locations,” said GSU Police Chief Mike Russell.
    Observers wore safety glasses and orange mesh vests as they watched the scenarios unfold.
    In one hallway, officers entered the building knowing the “shooter” was in the counselor’s office. Some covered others as they stepped quietly down the hall and approached the office.
    Guns drawn, officers checked every room they passed even though they knew where the shooter was located. Officers ordered the suspect to stop, which he apparently did not do, and shots were fired before taking him into custody during the simulated exercise.
    In the second scenario, officers did not know where the shooter was hiding. Again, they entered the hallway quietly, clearing each room, and  then the “shooter” stuck his head out from a classroom. Shots were fired immediately, spent rounds peppering the hallway. The shooter poked his head out of the doorway once again and disappeared.
    “He’s reloading,” someone called. Then, as the officers approached the classroom where the suspect was, someone ordered him to “Drop your weapon! Let me see your hands!”
    As the exercises unfolded, the real smell of gunpowder filled the air of the vacant school’s hallway. Officers moved in shadows as there was no lighting in the wing where they worked. After each scenario, training agents discussed the action and gave suggestions about improved reactions, what officers did right and what could happen if the exercise was a real-life dangerous situation.
    In the third scenario in one wing, there were two shooters in separate rooms. As officers once more reenacted the scene, someone called “He’s down in that room!”  In another room, an officer ordered the suspect “let me see your hands!” The shooter replied “Eat it” and was promptly “shot” and captured.
    Holli Deal Bragg maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.

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