LAKE STATION | “What’s going on?”
The last words the administrator uttered before being cut down by bullets echoed in the hallway outside the school office.
Seconds later, the lone gunman killed another school staff member and seriously wounded two female students before running down another hallway.
It’s a scenario that’s become too familiar and one that could happen anywhere, according to the Indiana State Police who sponsored the Active Shooter training after classes Wednesday at Edison Jr./Sr. High School.
Administrators from more than a dozen area public school districts, parochial and charter schools and Purdue University Calumet and Indiana University Northwest attended the training that also involved first responders from Lake and Porter counties.
Anyone of them could be an unwilling participant in this kind of violence, said Indiana State Trooper Fred Trammell.
“There is no place that is secure. Look at what happened at the Navy Yard, one of the most secure facilities in the country,” he said.
Trammell and State Trooper Mike Jones offered participants a running narrative and advice during the actual shooting scenario that saw Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Nick Medrano, 30, of Crown Point, playing the role of the gunman and firing 9mm blanks.
Participants then viewed a PowerPoint presentation on what to look for and how to respond.
“You could be teaching at the other end of the school and you won’t have any idea what’s going on,” Trammell said. “Schools are target-rich environments.”
From the time the first shots were fired until no gunfire could be heard was 1 minute, 20 seconds.
The average police response time is four minutes, Jones said, adding the more knowledge school personnel have can be critical to saving lives.
As they entered the building, the first officers on the scene ran past the screaming students lying in the hallway, which is what they are trained to do, Trammell told those watching the action.
“They didn’t stop for the wounded. They’re here to take down the shooter. If they stopped to help the wounded, the shooter could double back and kill the police officers and finish off the wounded,” he said. “They are not here to help you (school personnel).”
With guns raised in front of them, the next wave of first responders asked questions of the wounded, rapidly working to get a description of the shooter as they, too, ran past the injured.
“He’s Latino, black shirt, tattoos,” one of the female students playing the role of a victim told officers who swiftly moved down a hallway.
No more shots were heard, which is exactly what can happen in a real situation,” Trammell said.
“It only takes a couple feet of concrete. Walls can muffle sounds,” he said.
Indiana State Police Master Trooper Tim McCormick of the Lowell post said the focus of this training is to preserve lives.
“This is as realistic as we can make it,” he said.
Indiana lawmakers are now considering expanding the state’s stand-your-ground laws to arm school personnel.
“It’s the stance of the Indiana State Police that an armed response by teachers and administrators won’t be effective,” McCormick said. “Just because you know how to handle a gun, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to react as a trained officer.”
Edison Principal Angela Ruiz said the administration offered the school as a training ground to promote community involvement and safety.
“The school is safer if all hands are on board. It’s a partnership,” Ruiz said.