Anne Arundel deputies go after shooters in training exercise

Simulated security crisis lets deputies practice skills

February 21, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

In the dark VIP parking garage beneath an Annapolis building, a light flickered. A wounded victim cried out for help. The sound of shouting competed with the thunder of gunshots.

And people hung around and watched.

The drama played out repeatedly Monday afternoon, as the staff of the Anne Arundel County Sheriff's Office spent the day conducting security training in the county courthouse.

"Training of this sort can help us fine-tune our tactical response and identify points of weakness and keep our people's skills up," said Sheriff Ronald Bateman.

The simulated security crisis forced deputies to locate and eliminate two shooters in the courthouse garage, where one "victim" had already been wounded.

"It's very realistic," Bateman said, noting that courthouses across the country have been the scenes of violence, notably the fatal shooting in 2005 of a judge and others in an Atlanta courthouse by a rape trial defendant.

The last time Bateman's office staged this type of simulation was in 2007, when deputies faced a mock hostage situation.

On Monday, time and again, helmeted deputies carrying replicas of their weapons and phony ammunition advanced on the shooters, darting behind pillars, peeking out from corners and rolling on the ground.

The plastic ammunition is a lightweight bullet with a detergent-based tip that leaves greasy blue smears on its targets. Propelled at 400 feet a second, it also leaves welts on unpadded limbs.

"It hurts when it hits you in the leg," said Donald Micheletti, who played one of the heavily padded bad guys. By the end of the day, he and Pacer Luckhardt were covered in blue splats, including marks on their helmet visors that represented fatal head shots.

"The worse I am, the better they can be," said Luckhardt, who was enjoying his bad-guy role.

Each time the scenario opened, a fresh team of deputies emerged from a doorway and headed for the shooters. Over the sound of gunfire, shouts of "Ammo!" — calls for more ammunition among deputies — and "Move," and "Over there," could be heard. It bothered no one upstairs, as Bateman chose a holiday for the training, when the building was empty.

The deputies lacked the high-end SWAT gear and bullet-proof shields that are a staple of police procedurals on televisione, but the exercise simulates what happens in the real world, when a SWAT team would not be the first to respond.

Observers hoping for tips included a Constellation Energy security team and the Allegany County sheriff, whose office provides security for that jursdiction's courthouse.

"We've never done an actual scenario like an active shooter," said Allegany Sheriff Craig Robertson. "When we go back, we can develop a plan with Cumberland city police," he said.

A deputy who played the role of the victim writhed on the floor, plaintively calling "help me" and "don't leave me" to the deputies who passed her by.

"Victim" Michele Goodman, whose police-dog partner, Rocky, wasn't part of the exercise, said proper procedure runs counter to instinct: Eliminate the gunman first, deal with the injured later.

"Your police instinct — and human instinct — is to help people. What I am trying to do is bait them to come to me," said Goodman, "In this situation, I'm just a distraction."

Afterward, Goodman teased her colleagues: "If Rocky was here, he'd come and help me."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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