Lee County Sheriff's Deputies capture a "gunman" during a practice hostage-recovery training exercise Thursday at Twin Oaks Elementary School in Leesburg. Many scenarios were played out for complete training of several possible situations.
LEESBURG, Ga. — There are times when police have to use deadly force to “silence the shooter,” said a Lee County Sheriff’s Office official.
About 20 sheriff’s deputies, Leesburg Police officers and Crisp County Sheriff’s Office deputies practiced for what they call a “Response to an Active Shooter” at Twin Oaks Elementary School here Thursday.
The practice scenarios involved entering the school, hearing gunshots and knowing fatal shots are being fired at victims.
“Four people go in together to take care of the situation,” said Lee Sheriff’s Col. Chris Owens. “On rapid response, you go where you hear gunfire. Take care of the situation. Silence the active shooter. Every time a gun goes off, an innocent person dies.”
Wearing masked helmets and armor, four deputies entered school hallways in a diamond formation with eyes scanning 360 degrees, Glock pistols pointed in front of each deputy’s point.
It is practice. The guns were actually equipped with 9mm-caliber paintballs. Luckily for the shooter, a volunteer deputy playing a psycho gunman, he also wore a helmet and Kevlar-style armor against the stinging paintballs.
The shooter stepped into the hallway from a classroom. Shots rang out taking him down. In real life, he would probably have been silenced by death.
In other scenarios, the deputies may have had time to slowly, methodically search rooms to find a lone shooter or one with accomplices. The idea is that with teamwork deputies could assess the situation and use the method necessary to save innocent lives.
“This is a good way to learn how to respond to an active shooter,” said Deputy Eric Strom. “Having us all on the same page when we show up. All of us knowing how to do the same thing no matter the agency is good.”
The deputies know what “silence the shooter” means. They know their job in an active shooter situation. Sheriff’s Cpl. Marcus Harris said, “It means you don’t have to wait for him to shoot first.”
Sheriff Reggie Rachals said he believes in keeping his command trained for any situation. He said there will be more hands-on training in the future.
“The training since Columbine has increased,” Rachals said. “Let’s hope it doesn’t happen here. But if it does, we are prepared.”