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Claremont police take training exercise to Chaparral

Claremont police were on the scene at Chaparral Elementary School Monday morning, donning masks and Kevlar vests as they neutralized an active shooter.

Thankfully, this was only a training exercise.

Officers used the elementary school as an area to train how to respond to a situation every person dreads—an active shooter terrorizing victims in a public area.

“We instruct them on proper techniques, rescue, and eliminating the bad guy,” Lt. Jason Walters of the Claremont Police Department said.

The drill is a yearly operation that’s usually done at Claremont High School, but Chaparral was used in response to a new reality in mass shootings.

“Active shooters can happen anywhere, elementary schools, churches, high schools,” Lt. Walters said. “It offers a different perspective and different options.”

Officers were broken into two teams—one team to go in and neutralize the shooter, and the other team to tend to the dead and wounded. Lt. Karlan Bennett played the shooter, and volunteers from the Claremont police explorer and CERT (Claremont Emergency Response Team) played the victims.

The officers trained for several different scenarios, Lt. Walters said—including a shooter surrendering, committing suicide or returning fire to police.

“The goal is to minimize the number of people that are killed and hurt, get in and be tactically sound,” he said.

The team that goes in to assess the victims is also trained to prioritize those who have extensive or life-threatening injuries. For example, a victim shot in the chest or the stomach would receive priority over someone shot in the hand. A triage center would be created to assess the victims, Lt. Walters noted.

On Monday morning, officers wearing tactical gear stalked across the quad at Chaparral, guns drawn and helmets on. The shooter meets them in the quad, and is apprehended after officers command him to drop his weapon and get on the ground.

After the shooter is disabled, the second team goes into a classroom, and after a short period of time, a line of hostages emerge, also wearing helmets and gas masks.

Instead of real bullets, the team used simunition, a non-lethal ammunition used for training exercises that are multi-colored and resemble paintballs. 

Part of the training, Lt. Walters emphasized, is recognizing that mass shooters can be anyone.

The training sessions happened on two days—Friday, July 13 and Monday, July 16, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The team convened in the late afternoon to debrief and review what they did right and what could be improved upon in the future. But Lt. Walters seemed impressed with how his team was responding.

“It’s been pretty good so far,” he said. “They’re doing a real nice job here.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com