Active shooter drills put officers to the test in school
VIDALIA — With three of his fellow Vidalia Police officers already shot, Capt. Charles Ferguson had to storm a classroom to diffuse the hostage situation at Vidalia High School.
“I’m going in shooting,” Ferguson told the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who were in the hallway analyzing his tactics during Tuesday’s mock scenario. “I’m going to get him.”
With a quick pivot of his left foot, Ferguson leaped into the empty classroom and emptied the magazine of his non-lethal training firearm, which fired an array of plastic pellets directly at CPSO Sgt. Lee Ford, who was playing the part of the hostage taker.
“We’re not coming out alive, coppers,” Ford shouted moments before the charge.
And despite Ford and CPSO investigator Jack Fletcher taking out the rest of the VPD officers, it was Ferguson who ultimately ended the hostage situation with a plastic pellet to Ford’s face.
“Oh, that was a good one,” Ford said as he walked out of the classroom covering up the blood trail where the pellet nicked his cheek. “That was a good charge, Charlie.”
The hostage situation and active shooter drill Tuesday morning were training exercises Ford and the sheriff’s office have been doing at various schools across the parish.
The training, Ford said, allows the sheriff’s office deputies and police officers to learn appropriate response methods in a simulated scenario.
“This gives everyone the chance to practice and become more accustomed to how they would actually respond to a shooter or hostage situation at the schools,” Ford said. “It gives them the opportunity to know the layout of the school, where a shooter might hide in the classrooms and other things.”
And if the training exercises will help better protect the school, Vidalia High School Principal Rick Brown said he has no problem letting the deputies and officers use the hallways and classrooms.
“Nowadays it’s important for the officers to know the layout of the school and where everyone is or should be because they’ll be the first ones to respond,” Brown said. “Any kind of practice they can do to keep our students and faculty safe is beneficial.”
Apart from training deputies and officers, Ford also speaks to students and teachers in the schools to ensure they know how to respond to the various shooter drills.
“We train for fire drills, tornado drills and all these other drills, so we need to be pushing drills for school shootings,” Ford said. “People will always say that it won’t happen at their school, but you never know.”
Simple reminders to always lock their doors and to have a plan if an active shooter were to enter the building are simple things Ford said he encourages all teachers to implement.
“It’s when people start getting complacent and don’t have a plan in place that something is going to happen,” Ford said. “We’re going to keep pushing this training and make sure that everyone knows what to do and how to respond to these types of situations.”