It was a training exercise Douglas County agencies planned for months – and it took place days after a man opened fire in an Aurora theater, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in an incident that has gripped the nation.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Lone Tree, Parker and Castle Rock police and troopers from the Colorado State Patrol participated in a July 25 active-killer training that involved 100 people from area agencies.
The county’s regional SWAT teams have been conducting active-killer training, also called active-shooter training, for several years in an effort to help combat such scenarios, said Lt. Ron Hanavan, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
It is part of a goal to maintain unified training in the face of such an event.
“Ever since Columbine, most law enforcement agencies changed their philosophy about how to deal with active-killer scenarios,” Hanavan said. “We understand the importance of this type of training. Officers take it seriously no matter what. If you do have a serious call of that nature, we have to rely on each other to manage the call to the best of everyone’s ability.”
The training was the second of its kind for 2012 and it was pulled off with the utmost secrecy, despite the number of players involved. The exercise took place at Highlands Ranch High School, reconstructing five scenarios with the help of actors who helped law enforcement agents learn how to react in the event of an emergency, Hanavan said.
The scenes included rotations from a natural disaster, an act of terrorism, a hazardous material incident and an active-killer scenario.
For Castle Rock police and its regional SWAT partners, the active-shooter scenario was an exercise that was all too fresh. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on July 5 arrested Lonnie James Pebley, 40, after he allegedly shot at Castle Rock police following an incident at his home near Founders Village.
While local agencies have not necessarily heightened awareness in the wake of the July 20 tragedy at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, the joint training provides an invaluable service to the community, said Jack Cauley, Castle Rock chief of police.
“This type of training is one example of why the Castle Rock police department and area agencies are well prepared to handle critical incidents,” Cauley said. “Including active shooters.”