Shooting drill helps officers, students prepare for the worst
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent October 24, 2013 11:34PM
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:32AM
WHEELER — The words coming over the police radio were chilling:
“Any available unit! Any available unit! Report of a shooter at Wheeler High School! Report of screaming and more gunshots!”
Those words were part of an active shooter drill held Thursday at the high school by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department. Police from Valparaiso, Kouts and Hebron were invited to attend part of the two-day training, and up to 100 officers were expected to participate.
The halls were quiet for fall break, except for the officers in training and students from the Porter County Career Center criminal justice vocational class, who volunteered to fill a doomed classroom and act as victims.
The training started with basics, like how officers should enter a room during a crisis, before moving on to the scenario of an actual shooting, complete with gun blasts from air rifles, a victim lying in a hallway, and screaming students running from a classroom.
“In all reality, a patrolman is going to be the first” on the scene, said Cpl. Jason Praschak, with the sheriff’s department. That was the case at Columbine High School and at the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. “It’s in our training to go in first. It takes a matter of seconds to kill a lot of people.”
Jon Hogg, 17, a senior at Boone Grove High School and a student in the criminal justice class, played one of the victims, lying in the school hallway.
“It’s awesome training,” he said. “You can’t get more real than this.”
Between 25 and 30 junior and senior high school students signed up to help with the drill, said class instructor Ralph Iler.
“They’re interested in a career of law enforcement, so it’s a great way to see how they train for future careers,” he said, adding that, as students, the training also was invaluable. “God forbid, if anything like this happens and these kids are involved, they will have cooler heads.”
Sheriff’s Department Det. Matt Boone went through the same training three years ago. The training hit home for him, he said, because he is the school resource officer at Boone Grove High School.
“It’s training that every department needs,” he said. “Nothing is going to train you better than live gunfire and students screaming. It’s by far my favorite training, but it’s not something I want to have to use.”