Friday, June 17, 2016

TOP STORY >> County holds active-shooter class

Leader staff writer

“We’ve been in two incidents….We were on a construction site in Conway, and two guys got to arguing and one guy pulled out a gun. There were people running in every direction.”

That’s the way Tanya Donohue of Doyne Construction Co. of North Little Rock described one of the gun-related episodes to active shooter class instructor and Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office Detective James Hall. His response, “You’ve got to train.”

Donohue, who had attended the free three-hour class at the Lonoke County Courthouse Annex on Center Street in Lonoke, said about what she had learned, “It was awesome.”

The Wednesday class was sponsored by the Lonoke County Office of Emergency Management, and 42 people were listed on the sign-in sheet.

“We had hoped for 10,” said Rita Schmitz, Office of Emergency Management director and class organizer.

Schmitz believes that the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday may have motivated people to attend the class.

Schmitz said she decided to host the class because her office is “about disaster planning, and this is part of that. People don’t think it will happen here.”

But it has happened in Arkansas—the first mass school shooting, with deaths occurring, was at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro in 1998. It was one year after a shooting at Stamps when a 15-year-old fired on a group of students, wounding two, but a year before the shooting at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colo.

Time has done little to turn the tide but mass shootings have moved from the classroom to theaters, shopping malls, the workplace and beyond.

Schmitz said about the first active-shooter class, “I am pleased with the turnout.”


The audience was an equal mix of women and men, and Schmitz said she was delighted with the information Hall presented. She said the reason she asked him to lead the class was because he has had active shooter training.

During the class, Hall said, “I love it when citizens get armed, legally. It’s great.” But he cautioned the audience about open-carry weapons.

“If I’m going to rob a gas station, I’m going to shoot you first,” he stated.

He also admitted there were problems with citizens carrying guns, whether in plain view or concealed.

Most, Hall said, have only limited training—eight hours or less.

“Pointing a gun at someone is stressful,” but he adds shooting another human being is even worse.

He strongly suggested additional professional training and getting plenty of practice.

If ever in an active -hooter situation, and you’re not the bad guy, Hall said to follow law enforcement instructions to the letter.

“When the officer comes into a situation, he doesn’t know if you’re a good guy or a bad guy,” Hall explained. “He’s going to be yelling at you and you’re not going to know what he’s saying. The officer will probably say once to put the weapon down before shooting. If you don’t, you’ll get shot.”

Hall cautioned audience members, “Don’t go out and buy a gun today just because you had this class.”

There are local classes designed to train individuals. Hall recommended the Arkansas Armory Inc. on Landers Road in North Little Rock for shooting and concealed gun classes and the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office for self-defense classes.

The Arkansas Armory offers concealed handgun carry license courses for $110.

But it’s more than just carrying a gun.

Hall also talked about personal and workplace responsibility.

“Be aware of your surrounding,” he said.

Instead of getting the cheap locks or lightweight furniture, he suggested investing a little more upfront because it could pay off big when trying to keep a shooter out and your staff or family safe. Heavier furniture offers more protection from flying bullets, and good locks can keep a shooter out.

Have a plan in place, he said.

That’s exactly what Charles Gastineau, deputy operations director, and Jason McKee, code enforcement officer, both employed by Ward, took away from the session.

McKee said there’s a “need for planning” in Ward.

Kerry Koon, with the Cabot School District, and Megan Rudder and Patsy Lassiter, both with the Lonoke Exceptional Development Center, were spending a few hours of their summer vacation listening to Hall. They were especially attentive when Hall talked about the problem with school lockdowns.

Koon said they were there “to learn how to better be prepared in the event of an active-shooter event in our facilities.”

Lonoke County Assessor Jerrel Maxwell said the class was worth his time, and it’s definitely a conversation worth having at the Lonoke County Courthouse. Like many others who attended the class, he said, “I feel like we need to put a plan in place.”

Near the end of the class, Hall showed footage from the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting in 2012. Twelve people died, and it was eight minutes before police officers neutralize the shooter.

In an active-shooter situation, Hall said law enforcement’s first edict is “to stop the killer,” and only after the threat is dead or arrested, then they turn their attention to getting medical personnel to the wounded.

Often in those first minutes, people are on their own so Hall recommended learning a few basic medical skills, he advised. Take a CPR class and carry a medical kit in case of emergencies.

In the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting, there are countless stories of civilians stopping the bleeding of victims and thus saving lives.

As people were leaving the class, Schmitz offered attendees copies of the “Terrorism: Preparing for the Unexpected” by the American Red Cross. It outlines a step-by-step guide to disaster preparedness, from establishing a plan and assembling a disaster kit to sheltering in place and first aid.

The stack of brochures quickly disappeared.

Schmitz said she plans to hold the active shooter class again soon.

Cynthia Moore of Lonoke was on her way out after the class when she said she might check out a gun class but that she was definitely going back to her office at LemTrek Inc. in Lonoke with self-defense and staff safety in mind.

“First, I’m going to look at the locks,” she said.