Less than a month before the city’s newest school opens its doors to students, the halls of Tega Cay Elementary rang with the sound of gunfire.
An armed assailant, after leaving victims strewn in his wake, was hidden somewhere in the school. Police, following the sound of the shots, checked classrooms and attended to victims while making their way down corridors with their own weapons drawn.
Each time an officer rounded a corner, he or she could be walking into an ambush.
Worst case scenario, someone could twist an ankle or get nicked by a projectile that’s used as simulated ammunition in the officers’ guns. This was a drill, one of several practiced responses to a variety of “active shooter” emergencies that’s part of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training.
It’s a scene no one wants to see in real life, but if it happens in York County, law enforcement officials plan to be ready. The training held Friday afternoon included 20 officers from the Tega Cay, Fort Mill, Clover and Winthrop University police departments. A training officer from SLED, John Hiatt, briefed the cops – including some who played assailants – on each scenario before it was acted out.
Maj. David Nelson of the Tega Cay Police Department was the local coordinator for the event as well as a participant. In one drill, in which the simulated ammo rather than blanks was used, Nelson played the role of hostage in a classroom.
“This is the premier active shooter training in the nation,” Nelson said.
“It’s an honor and a privilege for us to host this, especially in our newest school. Of course we’re all appreciative to the school district for affording us this opportunity. It just shows the level of cooperation we enjoy.”
Similar drills were held last year at Knights Stadium in Fort Mill after the Triple-A baseball team vacated its longtime home for a new stadium in Charlotte. This was a first for Tega Cay.
TCES Principal Chris Gardner participated in one of the drills Friday. In that one, victims marked the path police followed as they hunted down the assailant and, as Nelson put it, “neutralized the threat.”
Even though it was acting, Gardner said the drill was eerily realistic.
“It was scary,” he said.