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VIPD Conducts Simulated Active Shooter Exercise on St. Thomas Campus

March 01, 2013
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St. Thomas/Water Island Deputy Police Chief Dwayne De Graff led VIPD officers on an active shooter simulation at a St. Thomas high school campus on Thursday, February 28 to test the response of VIPD School Resource (SR) officers assigned to the campus.  As the simulation began shots echoed off the empty second floor hallways of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, SR officers, school administrators and teachers sprang into action. Several minutes later, four mock shooters were gunned down by officers and the school remained tightly locked down.  Despite the simulated heavy losses, 20 students and 6 administrators; both De Graff and Principal Dr. Sharon McCollum agreed that officers and administration performed well.

The fatality count reflected the numbers at the recent Sandy Hook shooting, De Graff said. The officers used blank shots inside the school. De Graff said he wanted the “impact to be as close to the real incident as possible.” Although the shots were blank they were really loud, he said adding that no officer carried live ammunition during the simulation.  “We took every precaution to ensure no one was hurt or injured.” De Graff said since school shootings stateside have escalated in both severity and regularity the VIPD has heightened awareness in their officers and participated in several drills led by the VI Emergency Management Team.  De Graff said School Resource officers received this training even prior to the recent VITEMA trainings.  In the days before Thursday’s simulation officers participated in table top exercises and shake downs at the school.   “We were prepared and ready for every eventuality,” De Graff said.

As the mock shooter walked slowly through the classroom lined halls he fired off about five rounds, walked several paces and fired another volley. He then entered a classroom of students and fired three shots toward a life-sized paper target officers previously placed there. “Only a few administrators knew about the simulation,” De Graff said. The SR officers knew there was going to be drill but they did not know the specifics. We briefed the students who were inside the targeted classroom. They were instructed to move to a recessed corner of the classroom when they heard the first shot; that is where they were when the mock shooter entered.”

After the mock shootings, De Graff, VITEMA staff exercise coordinator Roy McFarlande, and training coordinator Irvin Mason as well as Melody Rames, VIPD Public Information Officer banged on classroom doors and shook door handles saying, “it’s okay, it’s the police, open the door.” The doors remained locked.  Principal McCollum said school protocol requires that any during a lockdown the teacher or administrator must ask a challenge question and hear predetermined answer before opening any door. McCollum watched the simulation from her office where several television screens displayed images of every section of the campus. “It was hard for me to stay here and not go out there, with the students,” she said.

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