Calls of “officers down” and “hostages taken” blared on police officers’ radios during a training exercise Thursday morning at Georgia Health Sciences University.
The exercise inside the old dental facility was part of a weeklong collaboration between the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and GHSU police to give the officers experience responding to violent situations. Thursday’s scenario involved a woman and her boyfriend who went to rob her ex-husband at the dental school and killed him after he refused to pay them, then took a hostage and barricaded themselves in the building.
GHSU police responded to each situation first because the violence was being simulated on their campus. Sheriff’s deputies were held back for several minutes to mimic the time it would take for officers to respond from their positions when the call was made.
Inside the building, the officers were faced with logistical issues. Most of the walls were lined with lead because of the X-ray technology used inside, making radio and cellphone communication impossible.
The bad guys also had a surprise for officers. The first group of responders was greeted by a dummy grenade tossed from the door of the barricaded room.
The officers fired paint projectiles called “simunition” from their service weapons. If anyone was hit, they had to assess the damage the bullet would have caused in a live-fire situation. They would either continue the exercise simulating the appropriate wound or lie down if the shot were fatal.
After the exercise ended with both shooters “killed,” Bill McBride, GHSU’s chief of police, said the simulation went well, especially the departments’ command and control. He said everyone involved needed to communicate better, however, both with one another and with the criminals.
He said the simulations had been planned months in advance and were not in response to the recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., or at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.
“We’ve been running these simulations at least once a year for the better part of 10 years – since Columbine,” McBride said.