Deputies do shooter drill

Published 9:03 am Friday, August 14, 2015

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While the Minions movie played across the screen, sheriff’s deputies, armed with high-powered assault rifles, scattered through the Acadiana Cinema in PIcayune Thursday morning.

The men were looking for an active shooter as part of a training exercise designed to help Pearl River County and Lamar County deputies know what to do in the event of an active shooter situation at a movie theater.

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To date, there have been two major theater shootings in the United States—the Aurora, Colorado shooting in 2012 and the Lafayette, Louisiana shooting last month, but Chief Deputy Shane Tucker said his men need to be prepared for the worst because theater shootings are not like other mass shootings.

Theaters, by nature, are dark and therefore can be loud and confusing places.

“It’s actually a two-fold training,” Tucker said. “One is our tactical response to an actual shooter in a theater environment. We’re formulating plans for not only entry and the elimination of the threat, but we also have to keep in mind that there’s going to be quite a number of people exiting the theater at the same time.”

This means the theater’s entryways may be blocked but also the parking lot could be choked with traffic.

The training began a few minutes before 10 a.m., so there were no extra cars or panicked crowds to contend with, but nonetheless, the deputies fired off a loud but harmless explosion called a bore thunder that would have gotten attention and cleared the area in front of the theater.

From there, they crept along the western front of the theater, suited up with protective gear, weapons drawn.

In all, 13 deputies from both counties participated in the exercise and theater general manager Mike Odom said he was glad they did, despite the surreal feel of the exercises.

Odom said the sheriff’s department contacted the theater about the training, and the theater management was happy to provide the space.

“Ultimately we want to make sure our customers are safe and if there was an incident, we’d be able to get assistance from the sheriff’s department and they’d be able to come and know the layout of the theater.

“It’s a two-story building and we have dark places that aren’t well lit and these guys need to know the layout.”

Later Thursday afternoon, after the training event was over, Tucker said it had gone well and was of value.

“We critiqued ourselves as far as strengths and weaknesses and how can we improve changing up some of the tactics and how we’d change approaching that particular building in an actual situation, so it gave us some ideas to share with our deputies.”

Tucker also had some advice for the general public.

“The only advice you can give is just to remove yourself from the threat,” he said. “They need to be aware of how to exit the theater. If the threat is between you and the exit, then you need to be aware of where you entered the theater to exit.

“The only thing I can recommend is make yourself as low and as small as possible and exit as quickly as possible.”

He said civilians and law enforcement both should have plans in case of trouble.

“If you think about it before it happens and you have a plan, then that will assist you in the event of an incident,” he said.