An active shooter scenario was enacted at Nevada School Friday afternoon.
Jim Cross, director of the Nevada County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), held the drill as part of the OEM’s annual requirement concerning emergency preparedness. The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and Nevada County Ambulance also took part in the exercise.
With students gone for a teacher in-service for the afternoon, the staff was told to gather in the gym for instructions for the drill. They were given a brief rundown on what to expect, but no solid details. For the most part, they were told not to let the shooter in under any circumstances.
Steve Otwell, former sheriff, was the perpetrator, who was a “disgruntled student” who’d brought a handgun to school to exact payback after being told he wouldn’t be graduating with his class. He was initially led to the principal’s office, where he “shot” Michael Odom first. The secretary called 911 to report the shooting and had the keys taken from her at gunpoint. From there, he went from room to room, using the key to enter, and shot those inside. One group tried to hold the door closed from the inside, unsuccessfully. At least two of the “victims” rushed the shooter to try and protect the “students” and were gunned down.
Deputies from the NCSO arrived, with the suspect shooting at the first one on the scene, Chief Deputy Larry Miller. Going back inside, the suspect went to a final room, the building’s storm shelter, where he claimed more victims. He was still there when three deputies entered the building and a gunfight ensued, with the suspect being killed.
Otwell used a revolver and had to reload several times. The deputies used AR-15 rifles with plugs. The gunfire was realistic to those who heard it, and the air smelled of cordite when the exercise was over.
At the end of the drill, the deputies and staff gathered to talk about what happened and what could be done to improve things should this occur. Everyone agreed the exercise was helpful, but realized should something like this ever happen, the time it takes for deputies to arrive could be longer, and the outcome even worse. It was pointed out there is no protection in the halls for officers, other than alcoves where doors are.
In the future, Superintendent Rick McAfee said, similar drills will be held involving the cafeteria workers and janitorial staff, but no students.
Sheriff Danny Martin pointed out the first officer on the scene will block access to the building to prevent area residents from becoming involved in an effort to help, only allowing emergency personnel access to the school.
Once the exercise ended, deputies worked with Diego, the NCSO’s new drug dog, allowing him to “attack” a “suspect” (another deputy).