As 17-year-old Brett Turk prepared his weapon for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station drill at Arroyo Seco Junior High, he felt every bit the part.
“My heart was pounding, and as I was trying to reload, my hands were shaking,” said Turk, who played one of the shooters. “It was intense.”
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies responded to an active shooter drill as if it were the real situation this Thursday.
Law enforcement officials prepare annually for such an event, in case a tragedy like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting or the Columbine High School shooting ever took place in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“Basically, it’s the (Sheriff’s) Department’s training for first-responder actions in the case of an active shooter in a school, mall or pretty much any public place,” said Detective Dan Finn of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Instantaneous action and a readied response are keys for this type of crisis situation, Finn said.
“Deputies responsibility is to get on scene, evaluate and take immediate action versus setting up a containment and waiting for a special weapon’s team,” Finn said.
The simulation also involved role-players, such as Rodrigo Gutierrez, 17, who acted as a civilian caught in the crossfire.
“It kind of shocked me how the deputies approached,“ Gutierrez said. “When you see a deputy swoop over you, you have to listen.”
Every year for one day, all the deputies go through the training.
Deputies and the active shooters fired “sim-unations,” which are similar to a small paintballs, made from detergent-water-based solution.
At the end of the drills, an estimated 100 rounds were fired, and two deputies were hit.
Deputies conducted two drills. In the first drill deputies responded to two shooters, and then three in the second drill.
Both times, the deputies successfully subdued the threats from the shooters.
Deputies formed two teams of five in the simulation.
The drill began in one of the school’s science classrooms, and moved out to the quad where deputies confronted the shooters.
The drill held at Arroyo Seco Junior High School served as the simulation’s site.
In the past, it has been held at other high schools and junior highs, College of the Canyons, as well as Henry Mayo Hospital and the mall.
“This is what’s called an Enhanced Active Shooter Strategy,” Finn said
Deputies have been doing the training for six years.
This year, deputies involved administration and faculty from the William S. Hart School district in the training.
This allows them to see how deputies respond and what to expect in a response from the sheriff’s department.
“We are very fortunate that we’ve forged such a tight relationship with our Sheriff’s Department that they have invited us to participate in their ongoing active shooter training,” said Kathy Hunter, director of student services for William S. Hart School District.
– David Mariuz