LAFAYETTE — Rarely is a SWAT unit allowed to conduct training exercises in a setting as complete as a hospital, so officers Monday used the opportunity wisely by crafting a hostage situation that matched the setting.
The Lafayette Police Department’s SWAT unit conducted the exercise at the former Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center on St. Landry Street, which has been vacant and for sale since the hospital moved to a new location on Ambassador Caffery Parkway in June.
Cpl. Paul Mouton, spokesman for the Lafayette Police Department, said hospital administrators allowed the department free use of the facility.
The setting was a definite change of pace from the vacant buildings in which the unit normally trains, said Lt. Bert Bejsovec, SWAT commander.
“It’s been really good because it’s a very large facility and it gives our guys more things to look at and some new things to work on,” Bejsovec said.
The exercise Monday afternoon focused on a situation involving a man named “Vance,” although the suspect preferred the name “General Patton.”
Bejsovec said the suspect walked into the hospital suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and “flipped out” on the hospital staff, holding hostages captive inside an emergency room.
A team of negotiators, each wearing headphones, sat inside a control room and listened in as Cpl. Ben Suire tried to persuade “General Patton” to surrender.
Outside of the room, armed SWAT members peered over a map of the building to formulate a game plan.
The department’s SWAT unit works on a part-time basis, although members remain on call, and typically trains one to two days per month.
A total of about 27 officers participated in the training Monday afternoon.
Mouton said officers are being evaluated and critiqued throughout the day based on the decisions they make.
Troopers with Louisiana State Police also participated in training exercises earlier Monday. The two agencies had initially planned to conduct joint training exercises but time issues dictated otherwise, Bejsovec said.
Trooper Stephen Hammons, spokesman for State Police, said the department is always looking for new training facilities.
“That way our SWAT operators never get accustomed to searching the same building,” Hammons said.
As for “General Patton,” he surrendered shortly before 3 p.m., about an hour after the incident began, soon after Suire sent him some water.