Active Shooter 2

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2012

From 911 to handcuffs, just 28 minutes

By Rita Howell

It took 28 minutes.

From the time five “shooters” entered  Batesville Junior High School Tuesday morning, less than half an hour had elapsed before they were subdued by local law enforcement officers who had rushed to the scene of the drill.

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Personnel from the Batesville Fire Department, Batesville Police Department, Panola County Sheriff’s Department, Drug Task Force, MDOT, Emergency Management and others were aware that the drill was planned for this week. Most of them just didn’t know exactly when it would occur.

Coordinated by Panola Emergency Management director Daniel Cole, the exercise relied on about 30 volunteer “bad guys,” “hostages,” and “victims.”

Playing their real-life roles were about 40 law enforcement officers and emergency personnel.

Armed with plastic simulation handguns on loan from the Oxford Police Department, the first wave of responders stormed the main entrance, single file, behind a large kevlar shield.

Firecrackers exploded in metal garbage cans, simulating gunfire, shrouding the hallways with dense, bitter smoke that clung to the un-conditioned air.

Batesville Junior High resource officer Karen Kennedy of the Batesville Police Department had drawn the assignment to be hit in the gunfire, and lay quietly against the wall as her fellow officers stormed past her in pursuit of the gunmen.

Later, when the bad guys were disarmed, Karen took a ride in the Air Evac helicopter to Tri-Lakes Medical Center, where the scenario continued to be played out for another hour or so. In all, 22 “injured” people were transported to the hospital, giving the medical community an opportunity for training.

One real life injury occurred: “bad guy” Ethan Goodwin, an eleventh grade volunteer from South Panola High School, twisted his knee early in the attack and had to be evacuated for medical attention himself.

When the smoke cleared and the police had loaded handcuffed volunteers Chance Payne, Eddie Young, Benji Caine and Billy Davis into squad cars, 34 participants met together in a classroom to evaluate the drill.

“Overall, this was a fantastic exercise,” Batesville Police Chief Tony Jones said. “We had good communication, people in contact, put in place.”

After a similar drill in 2010, Jones remembered, “the major problem we had was communication.”

Sheriff Dennis Darby noted that he arrived on the campus and pulled out his cellphone, which he later found very inconvenient to dial during the exercise.

The training, he said, was valuable.

“You can’t get too much help,” he said. “I don’t think we can do too much of this.”
Panola EMA director Cole agreed.

“I’d like to see us do this at every school in the county,” he said.