by KIM HILSENBECK
The sounds of gunshots echoed at Tom Green Elementary School last week while the parking lot was filled with vehicles from just about every local law enforcement agency. Inside, armed officers combed the building looking for bad guys. Gunfire ensued; men went down.
Luckily, this was just a practice session for officers involved in scenario training.
While many area residents spent spring break relaxing at the beach, or skiing in the mountains, area law enforcement agencies were conducting scenario training at Tom Green Elementary in Buda.
Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd said the goal was to invite local agencies to take part since, in all likelihood, many of those same agencies would be on scene in the event of an active shooter or other situation at a public location.
Patrol officers from Buda Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol, Hays County Sheriff’s Office, Kyle Police Department, San Marcos Police Department, constables from several precincts and Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Wardens participated in a two-day force on force training session.
Kidd said most all police training these days is scenario based, as opposed to going to a shooting range and hitting a paper target.
The training at Tom Green, while scripted, had specific learning objectives. In this scenario, the “bad” guys, including Sgt. Sam Stock with the Hays County Sheriff’s Office, knew what was supposed to happen. But the “good” guys playing the role of first responders didn’t know exactly what to expect.
For some, their stress level was elevated.
During the exercise, Lt. Joe Faulkner of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office videotaped the incident. That video was then used as part of the training.
Kidd, who is an adjunct instructor at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center in San Marcos, and who spent a decade on the SWAT team, said many officers get tunnel vision during high stress shooting incidents.
“Some guys will say they shot twice, but a video may show four or five rounds were expended,” Kidd said.
The video helps demonstrate to officers how the mind responds to high stress.
During the first exercise at Tom Green, Stock, playing the role of an employee who was fired, confronted two men in one of the hallways; they were also roleplaying as employees. Stock was shouting and acting agitated.
Suddenly, gunfire erupted in the hall – bam, bam. Two shots and one of the good guys was on the ground. The officers were using what are called “simunition” guns. Kidd explained.
“They look and feel like a Glock pistol. They even fire brass, but it’s basically a piece of plastic with colored soap in it,” he said.
Red was for the bad guys, blue for the good guys.
Kidd said officers can use their own weapons during training but they must shoot simunitions. The goal is to give officers a chance to train using the weapon they will most likely be using during a real situation.
Following those first two shots, Stock fled into a classroom. Two first responders who were at the end of the hall closed the gap between themselves and Stock within seconds. More bullets were exchanged – one of the officers entered the classroom where unbeknownst to him, a second shooter waited.
A hailstorm of gunfire, which only took about 10 seconds, resulted in Stock getting hit and falling to the ground. His partner in crime was also downed.
When the law enforcement officers had the situation under control, the trainer talked them through what steps to take next.
Then the group held a short post-mortem discussion about the incident.
“This was about a five shot scenario,” said the trainer. “How many rounds do you think we expended?”
The officers answered, “A lot.”
“A lot. There was a lot of slide lock going on,” the trainer said.
Slide lock is a term that refers to a gun malfunction.
He then asked Stock, “How many shots before you got hit?”
“It must have been at least five,” Stock answered.
A look down at his hand revealed one of the simunition bullets broke the skin on his finger. While all the officers, good and bad guys alike, had on protective gear and helmets, no one was wearing gloves.
And so it would go for the rest of the day; officers responding to various scenarios then working with the training staff to reconstruct the details. The goal was to learn from the experience.
Kidd said his objective is to help local law enforcement be prepared for whatever situation they encounter.
In his extensive research on active shooter incidents across the country, Kidd said he has found two factors that make the most difference. The first is how quickly a shooter can find victims, the second is how fast law enforcement gets to the scene.
He is also working with Hays CISD to develop teacher training because every barrier a school can put up between a shooter and victims buys law enforcement more time.