Mexico Public Safety participates in Active Shooter Training in Mexico schools
Hawthorne Elementary School and the Mexico Middle School were the scenes of Mexico Public Safety's Active Shooter Training, held Friday to prepare faculty and police officers for a possible assault on the schools, as experienced at Columbine and Sandy Hook.
The Middle School training session involved the entire faculty and six officers, led by Lieutenant Brain Schmidt. This is Schmidt's second year working with Mexico schools for such preparation.
Active Shooter Training has been held annually in Mexico since 2007. MPS advised the faculty on another refresher earlier this school year and worked with the administration to organize a date. Schmidt said that it is important to continue holding training for new teachers and staff to best protect against possible shootings, because "sometimes people like me need people like you."
Additional training, solely for MPS, will be held in July.
Schmidt began the training by leading a powerpoint presentation, in which he highlighted some facts and need-to-knows of previous active shooter cases.
School shootings are considered acts of terrorism. Terrorism can include desolation attacks, such as the Twin Towers, or siege attacks, as was suffered at the Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia. Likely targets include public transportation, malls, churches and schools. Attackers generally look for condensed, target-rich environments. There are often incidents in churches. Schmidt added, "because they are always open and post their schedules right on the front door."
Because domestic terrorism is an act of crime and not war, law enforcement officers are always the first to respond to these attacks. An active shooter situation is considered a homicide in progress, which changes the top priorities of law enforcement to first neutralizing the threat, then tending to victims, bystanders, fellow law enforcement personnel, and lastly to the well-being of the suspect.
MPS urged the school staff to employ the barricade method if a clear and hasty exit is not immediately available. This strategy would involve locking students and staff in their rooms, hoping to prevent the attackers access to wanted targets. The barricade strategy is best practiced in small cities like Mexico, where there is a very short police response time in comparison to larger cities. During the simulation, MPS response time was set at four minutes.
Schmidt said a suspect's plans usually drastically alter once law enforcement has arrived, because they don't typically want to engage anyone with the ability to return fire. "They want helpless victims. These attackers are cowards. They usually don't know how to handle a shoot out with trained authorities." Because of this, most shootings are not resolved by law enforcement. In fact, half of reported attacks were ended before law enforcement arrived, either because the suspect ceased attacking or due to self-inflicted fatality.
Most attacks last under 20 minutes, though Schmidt said that an attack in Mexico would likely be faster, because of rapid response times and the employment of school resource officers. Columbine was the only reported school shooting in which an SRO was employed. The attack occurred while the officer had left campus for lunch.
The first modern active shooter attack occurred in 1966, within a clock tower at the University of Texas. Since then May has become the most common month for school shootings, possibly because it is near the end of the academic year. Monday was said to be the most common day, because the shooters have the weekend to prepare, though Brenda Ann Spencer of Cleveland famously said, after opening the work week by firing into a playground from her home across the street, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day."
According to information gathered by the Secret Service, members of school administration tend to be key targets. Justification for the shootings normally involve perceived abuse by teachers and classmates. School shootings are generally undertaken by a single assailant, who isn't interested in taking hostages.
There are no clear profiles of potential shooters. Past shooters have varied from popular and academically successful students to those unpopular and struggling with schoolwork. Few have been diagnosed with mental illness and in most cases they tell someone about their plan before the attack. Such an incident occurred in the Mexico School District four years ago. The suspect was arrested prior to the attack, because one of his friends tipped off school faculty. When the suspect was arrested, Schmidt said, he had already shaved his head and assembled his weaponry in preparation.
Before the simulation Schmidt told the school faculty "commands must be adhered to immediately." MPS adorned full safety gear and holstered pellet guns to confront the simulated shooter, Officer Kevin Patrick, who fired blank rounds along with his own pellets. Patrick wore an orange sweatshirt and clown mask. He entered the building and fired several blank rounds to announce that the simulation had begun. When the shots were heard faculty scrambled from their places throughout the library and hallways and fled to rooms where they could barricade themselves inside.
Though 80 percent of active shooter situations are first announced to law enforcement as fire alarms, they were disconnected at MMS for good reason. The blank rounds quickly filled the hallways with smoke as Patrick traveled through the hallways firing his weapon and calling for "her."
"Sometimes these shootings occur because of a romantic dispute has gone terribly wrong," said Patrick after the simulation.
The first of two simulations ended within three minutes of authorities' arrival. The suspect was taken down after shooting one officer in the leg with his pellet gun, but he was never allowed access to faculty as targets, because they were so well barricaded within their rooms. The injured officer lay on the floor with his weapon drawn until the simulation ended. The second simulation ended even more quickly with the suspect being brought down in the library, after firing a few grazing pellet shots at officers.
Schmidt said he thought the teachers performed extremely well in accordance with their training. He congratulated the faculty on a job well done and insured everyone that he believed they were as prepared as possible to protect their students against a future attack.
After a concluding discussion and releasing her staff, Principal Deb Haag said, "having a partnership with MPS is truly a benefit to our students and community. They are putting safety in our hands by teaching us to be proactive. Mindset is everything in a situation like this. Like we learned, 'attitude is contagious, whether it be panic or calm.'"