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Seriousness of simulated attack at Paulson amazes Herald reporter
With mock casualties in the background, a member of the Georgia Southern University Police Department takes cover with his weapon and radio during Thursday's emergency preparedness drill at Paulson Stadium.
    (Note: The following is an account of Thursday’s hostage drill at Paulson Stadium by Statesboro Herald reporter Holli Deal Bragg. The drill was conducted as if the situation was very real. Here is the drill reported as if it was real.)

     Reporters were allowed to observe during a drill Thursday at Georgia Southern University’s Paulson Stadium, where local law enforcement and public safety agencies participated in an exercise where they responded to a simulated shooting incident.
    In an actual emergency situation , all media would have been directed to a central location, out of danger, said GSU spokesman Christian Flatham.
    While they were allowed to watch, members of the media were not allowed to roam at will. Photographers and others were escorted by GSU public information officers, and anyone not accompanied by an escort was considered to be part of the drill. At least two people who wandered up to watch were “ arrested” during the exercise.
    Just after 9 a.m. Bulloch Central 911 dispatched law enforcement and public safety  personnel to the stadium, reporting shots fired. Officers immediately began radioing each other as they sped to the scene.
    Shortly afterward, an explosion rocked the air, followed by gunfire. Screams and calls for help came from victims who fell around the stands, and a flurry of voices were heard over radios as officers communicated with each other. An unidentified officer said “ Be advised he does have a firearm.”
    People were seen on top of the Bishop Building, waving rifles and yelling. Officers called for  the SWAT team and EMS.
    It wasn’t long until Statesboro Police Chief Stan York radioed others to say “We have two long guns .. see if you can take the shot - are you clear? There are two shooters...”
    Helicopters circled the scene as law enforcement agents tried to gather information about the whereabouts of the gunmen. Then more gunfire, followed by a grim report over the radio: “We have several officers down and several troopers trying to get into the Bishop Building – trying to take a shot.”
    Then another explosion shook  the air, and smoke rose from a spot in the parking lot behind the stadium. On the scene, where law enforcement and public safety leaders established a command center inside the Cowart Building on the other end of the field, Georgia Bureau of Investigations Special Agent in Charge John B. Edwards informed the group about new information: They’ve got hostages up there – it’s bad.”
    Officers covered the area, crouching behind brick walls and trees as they tried to inch forward to get a better grasp on  the situation.
    More calls for help filled the air and an unidentified man shouted from the top of the Bishop Building: “Hillary! He says he wants to talk to Hillary!”
    A triage area was set up in the parking lot near the Cowart Building where EMTs waited to treat victims, and an investigative command center was organized at the university’s Nessmith Lane Continuing Education Building.
    York had a conversation with at least one of the shooters by phone. and shared information from the call with others in the command center. As information was gathered, law enforcement leaders learned one of the gunmen was a disgruntled student who did not make the football team.
    “Just hold tight, don’t do anything rash,” York told the “caller.”
    GSU Police Chief Ken Brown was commander in chief, as the incident took place in his jurisdiction. Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn and leaders from all area law enforcement and public safety agencies gathered inside the Cowart Building as officers saturated the area.
    “Everybody in here keep me informed as to what is going on,” Wynn said as the room was filled with phone calls, radio traffic, and bits of information about the situation as it unfolded.
    “One man with a gun is down,” said SPD Capt. Wendell Turner. “One of  the bad guys is down, he’s down.”
    Life Star helicopter landed in the parking lot, ready to transport victims when  they were able to be reached.
    One officer radioed information about a gunman with a “ weapon taped to his hand” and a suspect with “explosives strapped to  his chest.”
    Brown gave an order: “The (SWAT) team is up to the door. The door is barricaded. Go ahead and blow the door. We can’t wait any longer.”
    Suddenly, several explosions blasted the air, with visible fire and loud reports - they were “diversionary devices” used to distract the suspects while the SWAT team invaded the building. York said “ Say a prayer.”
    Soon afterward a parade of ambulances flew to the Bishop Building and EMTs were seen caring for victims lying in the stands.
    According to Chyrle Collins, the “victims” were GSU nursing and EMT students. Collins herself was asked to participate and play the role of one gunman’s “ hysterical girlfriend,” she said.
    After three hours of role playing in a “game” that was extremely realistic and emulated a possible real-life situation, officers and others talked about the exercise as they ate lunch in the Bishop Building. Some good-naturedly complained they were “killed” too early in the drill and missed the opportunity to “play more.”
    However, no one appeared to take the exercise lightly.
    “We look at exercises and drills to be a vital part ... of preparedness,” said Chuck Ray, Chief Field Operator with Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA). “Today just proves again that Bulloch County has a public safety community that wants to protect and serve and do the best job  they can.”

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