'Active violence' training at Grand Ledge High aims to prepare police for mass shooting

·3 min read

GRAND LEDGE — Eaton County authorities prepared for the worst Wednesday at Grand Ledge High School.

The campus was locked down as law enforcement and first responders — from the county sheriff's office and its most populous municipalities — practiced responding to a staged school shooting. Neff Elementary also closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Beagle Middle School, located about a half-mile west of the high school, was shuttered until noon.

“We’ve had this happen in multiple places around the country,” Rob Block, an Eaton County Sheriff’s Office captain, said about mass school shootings. “Training saves seconds and seconds save lives.”

Some police and firefighters worked overtime to attend the training, Block said. In addition, students and teachers from across the area volunteered to act as victims, complete with makeup simulating gunshot wounds and injuries.

Officials aimed to make the training as realistic as possible. The result was a scene that felt, at times, chillingly real.

First responders and school officials during an active shooter training exercise on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Grand Ledge High School. Students and teachers volunteered to act as victims with fake wounds and blood from the staged mock mass shooting.
First responders and school officials during an active shooter training exercise on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Grand Ledge High School. Students and teachers volunteered to act as victims with fake wounds and blood from the staged mock mass shooting.

A gunman walked the hallways simulating firing a gun before barricading himself in a classroom where multiple police officers ended the staged threat. Children and teachers covered themselves in fake blood and bullet wounds, sprawling across the floor of the building. After the mock gunman was neutralized, waves of police and medics tended to victims’ wounds in a triage manner. Later, officers held a mock press conference to practice providing crisis updates to the public.

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Wednesday was the sheriff’s office’s sixth active violence training in recent years, Block said.

“We run the training basically monthly right now, and we try to get all of our people in all of our departments through it so they're prepared for stuff like this,” he said. “When we’re done with this, we're gonna see what we did good, what we did bad, what we can improve on, what didn't work and what did work.”

“I have kids in school, too, so I think about this kind of stuff. It’s a scary thought. But I’m glad that the agency I live (around) is here. I’m glad they’re preparing to protect my kids as well,” he said. “I think that should give the community some relief knowing that we are prepared to handle situations like this.”

First responders prepare to enter Grand Ledge High School Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, during an active shooter training exercise. Multiple Eaton County law enforcement agencies, first responders, 911 dispatch teams, on-site crisis counselors, and local school officials participated in or observed the emergency training event with multiple scenarios. The event, happening for the sixth time, was organized by the Eaton County Sheriff's Office, aiming to give first responders and school officials the tools to help stop active threats and help mitigate the potential aftermath of school violence.
First responders prepare to enter Grand Ledge High School Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, during an active shooter training exercise. Multiple Eaton County law enforcement agencies, first responders, 911 dispatch teams, on-site crisis counselors, and local school officials participated in or observed the emergency training event with multiple scenarios. The event, happening for the sixth time, was organized by the Eaton County Sheriff's Office, aiming to give first responders and school officials the tools to help stop active threats and help mitigate the potential aftermath of school violence.

Across the U.S., 27 school shootings resulting in injuries or deaths have happened in 2022, according to Education Week — the latest being the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Eula Mlay, a rising senior at Grand Ledge High School, was one of the actors. Mlay said taking part in the training was helpful but triggering.

“At some point, there’s a time where it’s like ‘Well, this could happen to me in my normal high school life,’” Mlay said. “I think the fact that we’re practicing just to make it safer and try to control the situation is good, but it’s a much larger problem than on the scale we’re seeing.”

Contact reporter Jared Weber at 517-582-3937 or jtweber@lsj.com.

First responders and school officials during an active shooter training exercise on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Grand Ledge High School. Students and teachers volunteered to act as victims with fake wounds and blood from the staged mock mass shooting.
First responders and school officials during an active shooter training exercise on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at Grand Ledge High School. Students and teachers volunteered to act as victims with fake wounds and blood from the staged mock mass shooting.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Eaton County first responders conduct mass school shooting training