The tactical team turned the corner at Culpeper Christian School Aug. 24 and went to work.
Securing doorways along the way, they encountered the active shooter at the end of the hallway and opened fire.
Just seconds later, the threat was neutralized, Virginia State Police troopers and Culpeper Town Police Department officers stood over the suspect, bullet holes riddling the hallway.
Thankfully, it was just a drill held at the school last week, but it’s a necessary training for CPD officers said Captain Tim Chilton.
“This is one of the schools that is in the town limits with seven other public schools,” Chilton said. “We’ve used a couple of other public schools in the past, we ended up coming here this year and the principal (Michael Owings) said he’d love to have us.”
Featuring training from the Virginia State Police tactical team and mapping and labeling provided by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office, the CPD trained its entire department throughout the week on what to do in the case of a school shooting.
“This is a huge thing we need to do across the country, this isn’t just for school shootings but workplace violence as well,” Chilton said.
Culpeper Town Police Chief Chris Jenkins said it’s imperative to train his department as they would often be the first responder in case of a school shooting. There are seven schools within town limits, and while the public schools have CCSO School Resource Officers on hand, the town officers would likely be the first to respond to the call.
“I think for us, with the times, for us not to be training for active shootings or school shootings is absolutely crazy right now,” Jenkins said. “We take the opportunity for folks to get the layout and work with agencies such as the State Police.”
During the training, the officers learned formations, tactical plans, approaches to the school and how to advance to the threat. Emergency plans were put in place at Culpeper Christian School with mapping and placards labeling the hallways so officers will be able to communicate their location quickly.
“It’s getting in, neutralize the threat, save lives, that’s what it’s all about,” Jenkins said.
The State Police Tactical Team, taught movements and what to do once the threat was either neutralized or in custody.
“I think it’s necessary for every law enforcement entity that’s involved with the area,” Chilton said. “In a school shooting, or a workplace violence situation, every law enforcement officer that is around is going to be responding to it.”
The officers used simulation rounds - including blank rounds with paint pellets that marked if an officer was hit. Chilton’s son Walker, a rising freshman at Mary Washington University, portrayed the active shooter. A summer intern for the CPD, Walker Chilton said it was an intimidating experience to be on the other end of the police response.
“It’s not somewhere you want to be,” Walker Chilton said.
“Seeing the use of force coming to him, that’s the key,” Tim Chilton said. “A high percentage of school shooters they take their own life, and a lot of times it’s because of what they hear and what they see coming to them.”
Major Chilton said the training is just another example of community policing in Culpeper.
“The more public sees us and interacts with us, especially in a school or workplace setting - it’s huge,” he said. “The world has turned into a different place. Hopefully it never happens here, but we have to be trained. You’ve seen it in a lot of different places where you never thought something like this would happen.”
Jenkins said working with Culpeper Christian School is a partnership that helps both entities - providing the school with a piece of mind that the officers are trained to deal with the worst case scenario.
“It’s absolutely critical,”Jenkins said. “What we’re asking officers to do now is different than what we were asking them to do 15 years ago. It’s different skill sets - having officers equipped and trained is extremely different.”