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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Haskell University holds campus shooting drill

May 1, 2013

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Two Haskell Indian Nations University students lay motionless in the grass outside a campus building, while loud speakers called: "Lock down. Lock all doors, turn off lights and remain indoors until further notice."

Fire trucks, police and ambulances were summoned to the campus by a radio call at 10:32 a.m. announcing a shooting.

On Wednesday morning, that was a drill. The Lawrence Police Department and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical conducted an "active shooter" training drill with students and staff to practice safety procedures to be used in a campus shooting.

While other buildings on campus were on "lock down" and remained quiet, police cordoned off the Sequoyah Hall building while a small group of officers entered. Inside, student actors were playing the roles of frightened, wounded and dead shooting victims.

Lee Pahcoddy, Haskell's facility manager, said he worked with police to make the training as realistic as possible and that the campus will likely hold more drills with police later this year. Wednesday's drill wasn't in response to any particular mass shooting elsewhere in the country, he said, but is an effort at general preparedness, like fire and tornado drills.

Cameras inside Sequoyah Hall recorded the path of police officers as they entered the building and "neutralized" the shooter, using blank firearm ammunition to simulate the frightening noise of such an attack. Rhonda LeValdo, a Haskell media studies instructor, was inside when it happened, and was too surprised by the shots to say how many she heard.

"It happened so fast," she said. "It was loud. I was surprised how real it was. I think it's great that we could work together. It's needed, as sad as that seems."

For police, such drills are very helpful because they give regular patrol officers an opportunity to practice in an unfamiliar environment, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a Lawrence Police Department spokesman. One of the lessons learned is how precious time is, even when first responders arrive quickly. "Even 60 seconds seems like a long time when things are happening," he said.

McKinley said he gave credit to Haskell officials for offering to hold the drill on their campus. "Many organizations are concerned about even trying this sort of thing," he said. "But a lot of people are thinking, 'well, I guess it's a possibility anywhere.'"

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