Active Shooter 1

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2012

We ‘bad  guys’ used shields, too

By Billy Davis

It was the black shield that did us in.

Let me be more specific: it was the shield holder, Nick Hughes.

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Nick held it in front of him, advancing toward us with more law enforcement officers tucked in closely behind, and even to untrained eyes it was apparent they were working together like a single, well-oiled machine that knows its job.

They gained ground slowly, creeping closer and closer down the hallway at Batesville Junior High, moving in one smooth motion.

If you had seen it all unfold Tuesday morning, you would have said us “bad guys” didn’t stand a chance.

And you would have been right.

The “bad guys” included this writer and three teenagers who were picked Tuesday morning for the “Active Shooter” scenario at the school. I asked ROTC instructor Col. Bob Mims to choose three “bad guys” from among his high school students, who were acting as hostages and shooting victims.

He picked Chance Payne, Eddie Young and Ethan Goodwin, and all three quickly warmed up to their new role, which was to “kill” the good guys until we meet our Maker at the business end of a Glock.  

There are probably 20 entryways at Batesville Junior High but the scenario called for officers to make entry at only one: the main entrance near the office. That made our bad-guy job easy, so Chance and Ethan waited at the first intersection, about 40 yards from the main entrance. Eddie and I waited about 20 yards behind our fellow “bad guys,” near a classroom of “hostages.”

If you’re keeping count, that’s four bad guys armed with rifles (unloaded or fake), all of them pointing down a single hallway, and several pipe bombs (fake and heavy) in our hands as backup.

In the midst of frantic 911 calls and booming firecrackers, we waited in the smoke-filled hallway for the first officers to run through the door and find a hail of gunfire. We were expecting a shooting gallery, but then came the shield, floating through the smoke like a ghost.

 When it first appeared in the double doors, it might as well have been an M-1 tank coming toward us.

“I think we’re in trouble, Chance,” I yelled to him.

“Yeah,” he answered back. “I think so, too.”

It was understood this school-shooting scenario would end with the bad guys dead or in handcuffs. But we intended to make the good guys work for their victory. So bad guy Chance chunked one of the pipe bombs beneath the advancing feet of the advancing shield team. That didn’t seem to faze them — must have been a dud.

The shield can’t protect everything, like feet and ankles, but nearby observers were unmoved by the bad guys’ pleas that there were “wounded” officers with shot-up shins. Even more officers advanced toward us in the open hallway, without cover, but they remained unscathed, too. Our “bullets” were duds, too.   

Only a minute or so after the “shooting” started it was obvious to Chance and me, and maybe to Eddie and Ethan, that the fix was in. Our job was to be targets, not terrorists.

At some point Ethan stumbled as he was retreating, twisting his knee. So Chance retreated alone, grumbling as a teenage boy should that there wasn’t a single officer behind him pretending to be wounded.

With the good guys coming, Eddie was ordered to snatch hostages from the classroom. He was really too nice to “snatch” anybody, so he more or less asked for their participation with us bad guys.  

In the hallway, we used the students as our own shields — are we good bad guys or what! — but that only delayed the inevitable. The bad guys kept retreating and the good guys kept advancing.  

Daniel Cole, the Panola EMA director who planned and oversaw the “Active Shooter” scenario, later said 28 minutes elapsed from the first 911 phone call to all three “bad guys” lying on the ground in handcuffs.

Cole said the good guys suffered only one casualty, a school resource officer who was “wounded” before the first 911 call was made. That was unfortunate, not just for us bad guys but for the police, too.


Before Tuesday’s “Active Shooter” unfolded, Batesville police had said the training would test their police force, which is undermanned because of several openings for patrol officers. So in hindsight the scenario seems like a missed opportunity to test what you do when five or seven or 10 officers are taken out of the fight. Do you drag them out in a hail of gunfire? Or leave them? Who takes their place?

The good news is I got to see Nick’s shield, up close and personal.

The good guys yelled that I was somehow shot in the hip, which seemed like a difficult shot for their Glock pistols since there was a hostage between the bullet and my hip, with my SKS rifle resting on her shoulder and pointed at their heads. But I obligingly fell to the ground and did my best Oscar-nominated performance of a wounded bad guy shot with a magic bullet.  

That’s when Nick showed me his shield, an inch or so from my face, while he or someone else yelled:


“No, I don’t have a bomb,” I yelled back.

Someone flipped me on my belly and shared his handcuffs, the first time I’ve ever worn a pair.  

Someone showed off his upper-body strength, when he dragged me across the floor by my foot.

The good guys were really enjoying their lopsided victory, but I took it all in the stride.

Rita Howell has the Pulitizer-winning evidence: I managed to stick out my tongue when she snapped a picture of my handcuffing.  

Chance isn’t old and fat and slow like me, so he fought them like a young bad guy should. It was said later it took three of them to hold him down.

Chance was unhappy at the lopsided gunfight and said so, and he kept taunting them even in his handcuffs, which was admittedly fun to watch from the viewpoint of a bad guy headed to the pokey.  

We were being led to the paddy wagon when Chance confided to me that he had a handcuff key on his key ring. He had it in his fingers, and offered to help me get out of my cuffs, but I turned him down.

“Dude, it’s over,” I told him. “Just let it go and let’s get some water.”

Chance will learn one day what it’s like to be old and fat and slow, and to know when to cut your losses and just go get a bottled water.  

Hopefully Panola County’s second “Active Shooter” scenario helped law enforcement learn something, too, beyond chasing three teenagers and an old guy down a hallway.

I plead ignorant to their training and tactics, and I saw them at work from only one side of that big shield.

Rita’s photos show the other side of that shield. Officers from at least three different agencies seemed to be moving together and communicating with each other, and they looked alert but not rattled. But only they know if the scenario really helped them.

Hopefully a training exercise in school hallways and in classrooms, with choking smoke and yelling bad guys, ensures that the real bad guys will face down better-prepared Panola County law enforcement if Chance and his classmates ever dial 911 for their help one day.    

That was the point, after all, so it was well worth being manhandled. And the bottled water was nice and cold.