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published: Friday, January 25, 2013
SWAT team provides training on how to best deal with an active shooter
Gray Middle School in Groveland was silent on Saturday when the sounds of gunfire and screams shattered the serenity of the 1,000-plus student campus.
Soon thereafter, students appeared to be rolling on the ground in pain after being shot by crazed gunmen, one armed with a 9mm handgun and the other carrying a Remington shotgun. A SWAT team then burst into the halls and "killed" all three.
Immediately afterward, it was the SWAT members sitting in the classroom to receive their grades.
The events were part of a training exercise by the Special Weapons and Tactics unit from the Lake County Sheriff's Office that was staged to teach Groveland and Mascotte police how to deal with an active shooter in a school setting.
Sgt. Jim Mock, of the sheriff's department fugitive unit, played the role of one of three gunmen.
"You have to look behind you," said Mock as he pointed to a trainee whose backside was splattered in red paint by a gunmen who snuck out of a room that read "faculty only."
Saturday's training by the sheriff's SWAT unit came just more than a month after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. pushed many school administrators and law enforcement officers across the nation to learn how better to deal with shooters on campus.
Cindy Homelius, newly installed as her department's new chief, had actually asked for the training just before the Connecticut shooting.
"It was a coincidence, but it was something we knew we needed," Homelius said.
The SWAT team and police officers, attired in protective gear, could be seen proceeding in formation though hallways, past green lockers and science labs, up and down staircases and toward the cafeteria, calling out commands in a number of different scenarios.
Their weapons included G36 rifles, loaded with rounds that had paint applied to the tip of each.
The gunmen could be seen yelling, some throwing trash can lids across the hallways.
"We are trying to make it as real as possible," said Ralph McDuffie, SWAT commander.
Lake County students from an Explorer Program played the victims.
"It seems like school shootings are happening more and more, so this is something we need," said Taylor Gibbs, a ninth-grader.
McDuffie said while at least one student has been shot in a Lake County school, he doesn't recall any incident involving what law enforcement calls an "active shooter," i.e., a gunman looking to commit mass murder.
He said that anyone finding themselves in a school setting during such a scenario should first try to run. If that doesn't work-- hide.
"Fighting back should be the last option," McDuffie said..