CHERRYVILLE â€” With guns drawn, law enforcement officers from numerous agencies descended on John Chavis Middle School Thursday.
They crept up the silent hallways, eyes darting toward open doors.
A shooter was somewhere in the school, and children were in danger.
After assessing the threat and taking a suspect into custody, they took a break and did it all over again.
The exercise was part of a 10-hour training class designed to test and tweak officersâ€™ skills in rapid deployment.
Following the tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado, the state of North Carolina put this training in place to teach officers how to respond to an active shooter in a school, said Lt. Kent Lukach with the Lincolnton Police Department.
â€œThe whole idea behind this training is for officers arriving at the scene of an active shooter in a school to stop the ongoing assault,â€ said Lukach, who was one of the officers in charge of the training.
â€œYou have to keep in mind as an officer that some individuals who are trying to commit mass murder will have this event planned in detail, so we also need to be prepared for them and their event as well.â€
Along with Lukach, Travis Leatherman with the Cherryville Police Department and Doug Norwood, formerly with the Lincoln County Sheriffâ€™s Office, headed up the training.
Thirty-seven officers attended the class. Jurisdictions in attendance included the Lincolnton Police Department, Lincoln County Sheriffâ€™s Office, Gaston County Sheriffâ€™s Department, Cherryville Police Department, Belmont Abbey Campus Police, Lowell Police, Charlotte Airport Police, Belmont Police, Mount Holly Police, Emergency Management, Gaston County Rescue, Cherryville Fire Department and other EMS agencies, Lukach said.
Dennis Crosby, coordinator of the Criminal Justice Department of Gaston College, said the class was the largest in Gaston College history.
This type of training is conducted across the state, Lukach said. That ensures that officers at all North Carolina agencies are educated on the same tactics and methods, so if there were an actual emergency that required multiple departments, the response would be coordinated.
Teachers and school officials are also made aware of how law enforcement agencies will respond and have specific instructions on how to react in this type of emergency.
â€œWhen the teachers and police can work together on the same sheet of music in a crisis like this, it goes a lot smoother,â€ Lukach said.
by Alice Smith