MANSFIELD — Jason Bammann doesn’t want to disclose specific tactics local police officers will take during an active shooter situation.
But after an active threat/active shooter training scenario on Thursday morning involving local law enforcement officers, Mansfield’s assistant police chief made it clear that eliminating the threat to civilian lives is job 1.
“I think we all remember back to the Columbine (High School) days when training was different for law enforcement. The theory at that time, because an active shooter was a new thing, it was to set up and hold the perimeter and wait on SWAT to arrive,” Bammann said.
“That takes time and for every second that goes by, a life could be lost. So, just like anything else, we’ve learned over the years and now it’s an immediate attack,” said the assistant chief, who joined the MPD in 1999 — the same year as the Columbine school shooting that killed 13 people and wounded 20 others.
The scene early Thursday morning was at the David F. Winder Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic on Trimble Road. The scenario involved a military veteran who became angry at the front counter and went outside to his vehicle, threatening to return with a handgun.
The woman working the front desk called 9-1-1 even as the man, portrayed by Lt. Dan Kozar of the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs in Cleveland, walked away, generating a police response.
It was Kozar who contacted MPD two months ago to discuss arranging the training event.
The man followed through on his threat, walking back in with a gun and “opening fire” at people behind the counter and then leaping over it to gain greater access to the 24,700-square foot building that opened in 2014.
Clinic employees either fled the building or locked themselves inside rooms.
About three minutes after the 9-1-1 call, the first Mansfield police officers entered the building, searching for the gunman. Others quickly arrived and also entered, joining the search.
A short time later, the gunman had been apprehended and was led from the building in handcuffs.
During a debriefing session afterward, MPD Chief Keith Porch praised the training effort
“It’s important for our staff, not only within Mansfield, but within Richland County, all law enforcement, because unfortunately, if one of these incidents happen, we’re all responding,” Porch said.
“A Mansfield officer could be (responding), along with a state trooper, or the sheriff’s office. It’s important for our side that our people are all training together. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we never do enough of these. We should be doing more,” the chief said.
Porch said it’s the first time his officers have been inside the clinic.
“It is phenomenal that our staff comes in and gets to be able to see the layout. Hopefully, we never ever have to respond to one of these things. But please know (if the situation happens) in real life, folks are going to die.
“Our goal is to limit the injuries, to immediately come in and stop that threat,” the chief said.
RCSO Capt. Jim Sweat echoed Porch’s words about joint training.
“It’s essential that we train together and continue to expand our relationships that we have here in Richland County. Without those relationships, none of us would be able to do and provide the level of service that we do today. So those relationships are integral,” Sweat said.
During the debrief, joined by clinic medical staff and employees, Porch reiterated the days of law enforcement waiting outside are over.
“As soon as our officers are responding, they (will) immediately enter the building to try to attack that threat. And that is just the sad truth of it. You could be injured and obviously, the officers aren’t going to immediately attend to those injuries. We may have to step over you to get to the threat,” the chief said.
Members of the Mansfield Fire Department also participated in the training scenario, a key factor in Porch’s view.
“As soon as these things pop off, EMS and officers are now immediately going in because as we have seen from past incidents, folks were dying due to their injuries because of the long wait,” the chief said.