LaGRANGE — Almost two dozen people packed into the LaGrange police training center on Aerotron Parkway on Monday night for the department’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events class.
It was the first time the session was open to the public.
But it was the second time this year Jennifer Fowler of LaFayette, Alabama, sat through an active shooter training session. The first one was hosted by the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, where Fowler lives. She decided to take the CRASE class offered by LPD since she works in the city.
“We work with all kinds of folks,” Fowler said in reference to her place of employment, which is a local staffing agency. “For myself, I like these types of classes so I can train my employees, keep them protected … and learn situational awareness.
“You can never be too careful. We can talk all day long about what we would do, but we never know how we’ll respond until we’re in that situation,” she continued. “I thought it would be good to see it from another perspective.”
Senior Police Officer Jim Davison and Lt. Eric Lohr, head of the LaGrange Police Department’s training division, taught the CRASE class Monday night.
The average time a suspect is actively shooting in a building is typically less than three minutes, the officers told the group. The average police response time to an incident is usually three minutes or more.
“What you do in the first few minutes of an active shooter situation before law enforcement arrives will ultimately have the most influence on the final outcome,” explained Davison.
It could mean the difference between life and death for victims trapped in the shooter’s cross hairs.
“What if I have to draw a weapon? What is the best advice or tips to remember when I have to do that and my adrenaline is pumping,” Fowler asked. “I’m just looking forward to hearing what they have to say and learning how to take care of myself and my employees.”
Lohr and Davison showed the class videos and interviews of survivors from active shooter events across the country, such as the Virginia Tech massacre and the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Thirty-two students were killed and 17 were hurt when a lone gunman entered two separate buildings on the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007 and opened fire. It was the largest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history until June 12, 2016, when a suspect opened fire inside the Pulse Night Club. Forty-nine people were killed in that incident and another 53 were wounded.
Lohr and Davison used the events to show what went right, what went wrong and what could have been done differently by law enforcement officers and victims in those incidents.
“We want to teach people to think like a survivor, not like a victim. We want them to have a survivor mindset wherever they go,” Davison explained.
The officers use the avoid, deny, defend method, or ADD. This teaches folks to always be aware of their surroundings, have an exit strategy, create barriers and remain silent if a threat is near but also be prepared to defend yourself and commit to your actions if confronted by an armed suspect.
Lohr and Davison reminded the group every active shooter situation is different. They gave people options they can use, but those tools are not a failsafe plan in every incident.
“When talking about the history of dealing with active shooter events, we know it has evolved (through the years),” stated Lohr. “… The suggestions we give now may also change based on current events.”
“We hope within five years each school makes active shooter drills mandatory, just like fire and tornado drills,” stated Davison.
Fowler said after taking the CRASE class, she is considering active shooter training for employees in her workplace too.
LaGrange police plan to offer the CRASE class to the community once a quarter. The next session will be in November.
The department also conducts threat vulnerability assessments, or TVA, and training for businesses and organizations around the community.
Anyone wanting more information on the CRASE class or would like LaGrange police to visit their workplace can contact Officer James Davison at [email protected]