WHEELER | A victim lay on the floor at Wheeler High School, moaning in pain as hostages were lined up against the chalkboard on the classroom wall.
The words over the police radio told the dreaded details that a shooter had come into the school office, made his way down the hallway into a room where gunshots could be heard.
Fortunately it was just a scenario used during Active Shooter Training on Thursday, with airsoft pellets in the place of real munitions, actors from Ralph Iler’s criminal justice vocational class portraying the student hostages, and flash bangs and fake IEDs going off.
But the officers were real and the training helps to take them through real-life situations they may encounter on the job.
“This type of training is so helpful because with actual human bodies running, cowering, it lends a sense of realty to the situation and it sticks with you. It’s hard to separate training from real life, and when you’re going through the scenario you forget it’s training,” said Porter County Sheriff Department Patrolman Paul Czupryn.
“This is the biggest type of situation we could encounter, and so if the call comes in, we’ll be comfortable in handling it,” he said.
Some 100 officers from the Porter County Sheriff's Department, Kouts Police Department, Valparaiso Police Department and Hebron Police Department took part in the training.
“Gunshots fired! Gunshots fired!” said the voice over the police radio as officers stormed into room 502 at Wheeler High School, one officer hesitating after firing his weapon before an instructional officer told him to “Go get him!”
“We’re trying to make it as real as possible, trying to reproduce what could happen so the officers are stress inoculated so they can respond better under pressure,” said Cpl. Jason Praschak with the Porter County Sheriff's Department, who organized the training.
“This could happen in a school, in a church, in a store, anywhere,” he said.
Praschak thanked administration at Wheeler High School for allowing the departments to do the training while students and faculty were out of the building on fall break.