Across Lafayette, police officers and deputies powered through the late summer heat this week to prepare for the worst: an active shooter situation.
Wednesday, school resource officers with the Lafayette Police Department ran, lunged and shot their way through various scenarios, learning how to respond if they are off-duty or caught off guard by a shooter.
School resource deputies with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office completed the same course at the beginning of the week, preparing themselves to engage a school shooter as the first responder on scene.
Thursday, officers with the Broussard Police Department completed active shooter training at the Celebrity Theaters movie theater off U.S. 90. A line of six officers swept swiftly through the theater’s lobby in formation, guns at the ready as they cleared corners and responded to simulated gunfire.
The trainings for each department were scheduled long before last weekend's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where at least 31 people were killed and dozens more were injured.
“As much as we don’t want it to happen here, it will. It already has. It’s important for us to get in a warrior mindset to be prepared for it,” Broussard Police Assistant Chief Chris Galvez said.
Galvez led the department’s tactical training at the movie theater, running officers through drills on how to enter the building, engage a subject, and disarm or take out the threat during an active shooter situation. Officers were in full tactical uniform, including helmets, bulletproof vests and weapons, to get comfortable with the gear and simulate a real-life response.
While Broussard's in-house drills mostly involved partnered scenarios, the department also focused on making sure each officer felt confident in their own abilities. Often the first responders on scene won’t be in large groups, and they’ll have to be comfortable running in virtually alone, Broussard Chief Brannon Decou said.
“It’s easy to be confident when you have five people behind you. How mentally confident are you to have one? It changes the mindset. We want to make sure the officer’s mindset and mental abilities are that I can trust, I know what I have to do, I have what I need to do it,” Decou said.
Members of both the Lafayette and Broussard departments agreed training is crucial to be adequately prepared for any active scene, but especially an active shooter situation where multiple lives are on the line and seconds matter. In Dayton, police say nine people were killed in less than a minute. The training days were as much about mental preparation as about physical training, they said.
Joe LoBrutto, adjunct trainer with Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, said a main goal of his organization’s training is to challenge officers thoroughly enough that they can think quickly and clearly through any situation, even if it’s something they’ve never seen before.
The ALERRT team trained the Lafayette school resource officers “to look at their schools differently … people differently” and more acutely examine their environment to identify threats. LoBrutto said they also taught the officers how to think creatively to make the most of their environment to save lives, like using belts or backpacks as tourniquets.
“They’re going to have to respond very quickly. In order to do that, they need to train up to that. You’re not going to rise to the level of your training, you’re going to fall to it,” LoBrutto said.
LoBrutto and his co-instructors from the San Marcos, Texas-based training center ran the Lafayette officers through physically intensive drills in the August heat and rain Wednesday, having officers run, do push ups and complete jumping jacks before shooting live rounds at targets to mimic the physical and mental stress of a real-life situation.
Each of the center’s training scenarios were modeled on past shooting incidents, he said.
Lafayette officer Derrick Miles, a school resource officer for Lafayette High, said he feels “100 percent” prepared to respond to a school shooting.
Miles was a first responder at the Grand Theatre shooting in 2015, when two people were killed and nine others injured when a gunman opened fire in a showing of Amy Schumer’s comedy “Trainwreck.” He said that shooting, coupled with his training, has prepared him.
In addition to annual training, school resource officers also complete walk-throughs of their schools, examining every vulnerable location, high vantage point and hideaway a shooter could attack from or retreat to.
Miles said the officers operate on the mindset that it’s not if something happens, but when. When it does, they’ll be ready, he said.
“At the school, that officer will respond in seconds. In seconds,” Miles said.