East Bridgewater Police Sergeant Michael W. McLaughlin scripted a large scale active shooter training scenario last week at the old East Bridgewater High School for the South Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council’s SWAT team. The training exercise was staged to simulate realistic scenes in preparation for any real scenarios.
Pictured: Sgt. McLaughlin explains the role of the school principal to Gina Williams, an actual elementary school principal in East Bridgewater.
As the script reads, John Smith—a fictitious 18-year-old student created by Sgt. McLaughin— was still reeling from a break-up with his ex-girlfriend, a junior at East Bridgewater High School. So Smith decided to teach her a lesson. Shortly before 7 a.m., he detonated a home-made pipe bomb at the school’s entrance, seriously injuring a school bus driver and two students, then he shot and killed the school resource officer and another student.
Pictured: Standoff – first arriving local cop Sgt. Michael Jenkins peers at cornered ( but holding hostages ) suspect down in the art room.
Within seconds, the high school senior was inside firing his .22 caliber revolver, leaving a trail of carnage behind him as he made his way down the halls, finally barricading himself in a classroom and taking seven students hostage. The scene was realistically gruesome, complete with pools of fake blood and Hollywood-grade prosthetics.
Pictured: Makeup artist Heather Ciccio puts final touches of realistic wounds on Jacob McLaughlin, 13, an East Bridgewater 8th grader and son of EB Police Sgt. Mike McLaughlin.
The gunman, played by 16-year-old Brett Harvey (son of the school resource officer), walked side by side with McLaughlin, who launched a non-lethal stun grenade to mimic a pipe bomb explosion, then fired rounds of blanks as they made their way down the hallways where volunteers had already taken their places as wounded or dead victims. Harvey and seven other volunteer teens waited in the former school’s art room for police to arrive.
Pictured: SEMLEC squad arrives at the front of the school.
The exercise took place a day after a man armed with an assault rifle entered an elementary school in Decatur, Ga., and exchanged shots with police before surrendering. The Georgia incident set a dark tone for the start of the school year and highlights the need for more, and increasingly realistic, mass shooting simulations. The sentiment is in line with President Obama’s directive after the school shootings last December in Newtown, Conn., that the FBI help train local police on how to deal with mass shootings.
Pictured: SWAT and police officers participate in the training scenario.
Julanne Joubert, 48, watched in stunned silence as a fake bullet wound was applied to the head of her 14-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, before the drill began. Kaitlyn was already covered in fake blood from a wound glued to her left arm. Joubert said she worries about school shootings, especially after Newtown and last week’s incident in Georgia.
Pictured: Serious about their roles, local students prepare to take positions for the drill. From left : Kaitlyn Joubert, Jacob McLaughlin, Zachary Anderson, Zach Beltrimini, and Luke Forristall.
The training afforded SWAT team members the chance to practice techniques, such as ramming locked doors open and using non-lethal ammunition, without having to worry about damaging school property, McLaughlin said. The old East Bridgewater High School is being prepared for demolition, and students will attend the new high school this fall.
Pictured: SWAT members methodically work their way down long corridor, clearing each room along the way, to eventual confrontation with the suspect.
Once he got the go-ahead last year from town officials to use the old high school building, McLaughlin worked with the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District to secure a US Department of Homeland Security grant to pay for a wound-simulation kit, complete with fake blood and prostheses mimicking shotgun wounds, burns, and deep gashes.
Pictured: Suspect (high school junior Brett Harvey, 16) under arrest in a simulation after a long ordeal.
The drill took place on a regularly scheduled training day for SWAT team members, who were kept in the dark about the extent of the scenario so that it was “more visually overwhelming than they ever had before,’’ McLaughlin said.
“It’s going to feel a little bit more realistic for them, so that if they do ever come into this situation, then they’ll be better prepared to act in the manner in which they should, and not freeze up,’’ McLaughlin said, adding that part of the shock value was using local kids as actors.
Pictured: Suspect in custody here, high school junior Brett Harvey, 16, whose father is school resource officer Mark Harvey , an EB cop assigned to the school .
The exercise — the shootings and hostage situation — lasted over two hours, as local police, SWAT team members, and negotiators from the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department ultimately talked the culprit into releasing the hostages and surrendering.
Pictured: Suspect walked out by SWAT members in scripted training scenario.