Vidalia officers get active shooter training

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 1, 2014

By Devonte Demby

VIDALIA — Attached at the hip, four Vidalia Police officers stormed into Vidalia Lower Elementary Tuesday to take down an active shooter during a training exercise.

“I never had to deal with a situation like this, but we cannot wait until an incident happens to start training,” said VPD chief investigator and firearms inspector Dennis Cowan.

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With shots fired and five individuals down, Concordia Parish narcotics agent John Cowan, VPD quartermaster Denny Bozeman, officer John Dale Loomis and Natchez Police officer Tony Godbold, entered the halls of VLE, clearing each room and taking out any active shooter.

Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis said this was the first of several training exercises designed to instill officers with the knowledge, skills, abilities and mindset necessary to successfully respond to an active threat event.

Dennis is in his first year with the VPD and made his debut in organizing the active shooter program.

“We got targets set up in a couple of different rooms, and we will teach the different formations to our new officers,” Dennis said. “We want to get them familiar with the formation in case an event like this were to take place.”

Dennis said the formation, in which officers group themselves together, shows how to enter a room safely as possible

“It’s different between an active shooter and a hostage situation,” Dennis said. “If it’s an active shooter, they have to immediately go to the threat. But if it’s a hostage situation, they can back off and negotiate.”

John Bozeman and training director Miranda Clifton instructed VPD officers throughout the duration of the exercise.

“We have targets on the board where the offices can fire, and we also have active officers shooting back at them,” John said.

The VPD used replica firearms, which fire plastic rounds throughout the course.

Fortunately, neither officer had to deal with a live active shooting situation, but Bozeman practiced something similar.

“I was in the U.S. Air Force and it was very different from this situation,” Bozeman said. “Here, you have to be careful and watch for teachers and students. But when you are out there fighting for the Air Force, you want to take out the enemy as quick as possible.”

Officers from the NPD attended the training exercise as well.

“We came to let the VPD know that we would be there if they were to ever need us in a situation like this,” Godbold said.

VPD officers pray that an active shooter situation never occurs in the area.

“Our job is to always be prepared for the worst case scenario,” Dennis said.