On Nov. 5, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a mass shooting occurred that left 27 dead and 20 wounded. Several other smaller mass shootings have occurred since the shooting in Sutherland Springs.
These shootings are starting to become more and more of a reality, Sgt. Brett Deming of the Fort Lewis College Police Department said.
The campus police department will do anything and everything in their power to prevent an incident and to stop it, Deming said.
Deming attended an active shooter training in the spring in Golden, CO with the ALICE Institute, an organization that specializes in active shooter training for various organizations like law enforcement agencies and colleges, Deming said.
The campus police is able to provide active shooter trainings to students, faculty and staff in a brief hour or two-hour class, he said.
ALICE is an expansion of the active shooter training video on the FLC website that has a run, hide, and fight method, Deming said. The training is for students, faculty and staff, not just law enforcement, he said.
“If you hear of something like this, if you can get out and tell where the shots are coming from and you can safely evacuate in a different direction, then the best thing to do is evacuate,” he said.
If there are gunshots that are too close for everyone to safely evacuate, then students, faculty and staff should hide and barricade rooms, he said.
The last resort in some of the ALICE institute trainings is that if the gunman is breaching the door into the room a class is in, be prepared to fight, he said.
“If a number of people overwhelm a shooter, he or she might get off a few rounds,” he said. “But they are not going to get off as many rounds as if we just run”, he said.
Unless there is a law enforcement officer on site, by the time law enforcement gets there, there may be a lot of damage already done, he said.
Recent trainings have emphasized civilian response to overwhelm a shooter until law enforcement can get there, he said.
Students should start to pay attention to their surroundings a little more in order to prepare for the chance of a shooter, Deming said.
If a student feels that something does not seem right, whether that be a suspicious vehicle or someone walking in with a bag, call law enforcement, he said.
“We investigate a lot of suspicious vehicle calls and a lot of them turn out to be nothing, but we would rather be called and investigate nothing than something actually happen,” he said.
“When law enforcement trains for active shooters, it’s a training that progresses pretty much every year,” he said.
Law enforcement has learned a lot since the Columbine shooting when the standard response was to hold outside until SWAT got to the scene, he said.
“We have learned that law enforcement does not have the luxury to wait for SWAT anymore,” he said.
At this point, law enforcement has progressed to the point that they are going to get inside as soon as they can, he said.
The response is different when you are in a large area such as Denver, which has suburbs and neighboring police agencies, as opposed to a rural area like Durango, he said.
Campus police trains on a multi-agency level, meaning that they train with the Durango Police Department, La Plata County Sheriff's Department and State Patrol, he said.
If there were to be a shooting at FLC, it would be far more than what campus police alone could handle, he said.
Campus police would have many officers come and help from the area just like campus police would assist Durango police if necessary, he said.
“As we see these things occurring, and they’re starting to occur closer to someone’s home somewhere, the number of incidents that we are having is really touching home to a lot of people,” he said. “They are actually having that realization of ‘wow, this could happen here.’”
There is always something to learn from each national incident that occurs, Deming said.
“With Virginia Tech, the individual in that one actually locked doors and blocked doors and so we learn from things like that,” he said.
Because of that incident, patrol cars are now outfitted with kits that have pry bars and bolt cutters so that the police can open doors by force, he said.
The shooting in Vegas takes active shooter incidents to a whole new level because it is hard to plan for something like that without a heavy law enforcement presence, he said.
“Just because we live in a small town like Durango, does not mean that we are free from that sort of violence,” Dan Steaves, member of the Durango Gun Club said.
People should not live in fear or paranoia of the possibility of a shooting, but it is something we should be aware of, he said.