A handful of Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies carrying pellet handguns and rifles slowly patrol an open area in the campus of La Quinta High School.
Mock dispatchers call out the fake emergency: a shooter on campus. From around the corner comes a man wearing a ski-mask, pointing a gun at the deputies.
They tell the man to drop the gun. He doesn’t, so they open fire. After the shooting stops, deputies confirm he’s down and make sure they secure the suspects gun. Then, the deputiesprepare to do it again.
This was the training the deputies underwent Tuesday at the high school, which is something they do year-round.
“We do this particular training annually because it is a campus and we can actually move about in real time on a real campus,” says Sgt. Matthew Martillo with the La Quinta Police Department.
Deputies have used this kind of training for years. It’s aimed at keeping their skills sharp while responding to calls involving shooters at schools. volunteers played both shooters and potential victims.
“The idea is to maintain that kind of training discipline that we have, to allow our deputies to become more instinctive in their responses to these types of incidents,” adds Sgt. Martillo.
The training reminds officers of the Toy’s R Us shooting on Black Friday. Two men shot and killed each other on the busiest shopping day of the year. Law Enforcement from all over the Coachella Valley helped make sure no one else was hurt. Deputies keep the shooting in mind as they train for other emergencies.
“The Toys ‘R Us shooting is evidence that they do happen,” says Deputy Tim White of the La Quinta Police Department. “So that’s why we have to be prepared. And this is just one of the many proactive steps we take so in that event that something like that does happen we can be ready for it.”
“The sooner we locate the person that’s doing this, the sooner we prevent it, the more lives we save, and that’s the most important issue here is saving lives,” says Sgt. Martillo.
Officers say the program is good but is used more as a reactionary tool. They say that parents and school districts need to take a more proactive role to prevent school shootings from happening here in the valley. The active shooter program runs all week. They’ll also hold training sessions in office buildings later in the year.