LPD officers train for active shooters
LaGRANGE — An empty business on Shorewood Drive became a crime scene on Thursday as LaGrange police officers worked to find an active shooter hidden within the building.
The officers not only had to locate the gunman, but distinguish the shooter from the victims lying on the floor.
The incident was not real but part of the department’s quarterly active shooter training class. Instructors set up a scenario and then closely monitored how the officers responded – starting from the time the 911 call was dispatched to units arriving at the potential crime scene and the interaction between officers and the suspect, along with other aspects of the incident.
“We want to see how they approach using officer safety techniques, how they enter and exit a building, how they clear rooms inside a building and set up an area for the potential victims,” said LPD Lt. Eric Lohr, head of the training division.
Lohr and other instructors used a variety of scenarios officers may encounter when on patrol.
“It’s not always dispatched as an active shooter. It could be a suspicious person, a dispute between a boss and an employee or a man inside a daycare trying to take a child when he doesn’t have permission to,” Lohr said.
In one incident on Thursday, the gunman was waiting outside the building as police showed up. Officers practiced de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention methods on the gunman before he opened fire.
The suspect, a fellow LaGrange police officer in plain clothing, and officers in training were armed with mock guns that shot simulated rounds at their targets. In this case, the department used paint balls to fire at each other. Instructors wanted the training to be similar to a real-life scenario officers may face in the field.
“You put a helmet and mask on the officers. You have a gunman shooting simulated rounds at them … we try and coach them through it, especially if they’re entering a room too quickly and we know what they’re about to face,” said Lohr. “The officers will be looking for a gunman, hearing the screams of the victims and want to help them but they can’t because they’re also in the line of fire.”
In each scenario, one officer would stay back and work on setting up an incident command center for other responding officers. In a big scale event, such as a school shooting, an officer would also set up an unified command center with other departments who respond to the scene, such as the LaGrange Fire Department, Troup County Sheriff’s Office and several others.
“This would involve establishing a ‘warm zone’ where officers can move victims so first responders can come into the building a treat them – but not be in the line of fire. We would set up a triage area and start determining how many victims we have,” said Lohr.
The groups debriefed after each exercise, where officers were told by trainers the things they did right and wrong.
LaGrange Police Department’s active shooter training started Monday and ended on Thursday. The LaGrange Fire Department and Troup County Emergency Dispatch also participated in the event this year.