Citizen Police Academy students practice first response tactics

Donelle Pardee Whiting
Kurt Draeger, a teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School, “arrests” officer Jim Fussner during an exercise at Tuesday’s Citizen Police Academy class. Fussner was portraying someone with a gun taking over a school.

What exactly goes on when someone attempts to take control of a school at gunpoint?

Current Citizen Police Academy cadets learned the answer when two Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputies, invited by officer Jim Fussner, conducted a presentation followed by a rapid deployment scenario.

Using the acronym ADD, the officers explained important steps teachers and students can take to aid police in arresting armed suspects in a school.

Deputy Brent Troyer said the first step, avoid, is when the school goes on lockdown.

It is important for students and teachers to stay in their classrooms, Troyer said, adding the next step is to do whatever is necessary to deny the gunman access.

Barricade the door with desks, cabinets, whatever is available, he said.

If the shooter attempts to gain entry into a room, use whatever is at hand to defend, Troyer said.

“It sounds silly but throw books at them or whatever else is handy. Don’t just sit and wait to die,” he added.

When asked about making the gunman angry, Troyer said the person is already angry and hurting. “He is already committed to killing. He wants everybody to hurt with him. So, when there is no other alternative, fight back.”

Following the presentation, the deputies divided the group to run them through a simulation of a gunman in a school.

Det. Rosalie Gerkin and Fussner played the gunmen, while the cadets took turns, in groups of four, as the first responder team.

McKinney said first responders’ mission is to secure the scene; therefore, they must not stop to help wounded.

A second team will come in behind them to treat the wounded and evacuate the building.

Fussner, the citizen academy coordinator, added the session to the schedule because the threat of violence is an ever present threat, he said.

Gerkin said there is a great push on preparing schools on how to handle an armed threat.

She added that there is also great concern about terrorist acts in the nation’s schools.

To this end, the Washington Police Department and school districts are working on preparing teachers and students for what they should do and expect in a lockdown situation.

Washington Community High School has begun preparations for a complete lockdown drill in May.

Gerkin said it will be a full-blown exercise involving the police department, fire department, staff, students and actors to portray hostile suspects.

She added notice will be sent home prior to the actual lockdown.

Fussner said the department would also like to conduct similar drills in the elementary schools.

Washington Middle School principal Diane Orr and Lincoln Grade School principal Eveline Durham said they would support having a drill at their respective schools.

Police Chief Jim Kuchenbecker said he believes Washington should be prepared for anything, adding that recent events prove that small communities are not exempt from violence.