BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — First the gunman fired shots at the police. Then they fired back. The gunman stormed up the stairs and the police followed behind leaving a trail of shell casings that once contained blanks.
“We have an active shooter exercise going on,” said Brian Pegouske, public affairs officer with the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. “So in the event, there will be an active shooter going through our building and we’ll see the police response and the follow up response for the emergency responders and paramedics.”
The staff worked alongside the VA’s police department and first responders to create a simulated active-shooter situation. During the exercise, the gunman walked in the building firing at three people before making his way up to the second floor. He then fired twice more before exchanging rapid gunfire with police, both parties using fake ammunition.
“As officers going in to something like this they want to make sure that they’re using proper tactics when they’re approaching a vehicle or a building in this case. So it kind of keeps them on edge,” said Robert Foster, chief of police with the Battle Creek VA. “Their attention needs to be to try and identify where the shooter is and to neutralize that shooter.”
First responders tagged along with the police and immediately tended to the dead and bleeding victims, played by teenagers attending Boot Camp on a nearby military base. Some were pronounced dead on the scene while others were carried out on stretchers. Ambulances were standing by outside.
“Unfortunately in this day and age these things have been occurring,” said Mike McKenzie, emergency manager for the City of Battle Creek. “We want to make sure that the first people on scene, the professional first responders, are there and they know what to do in these types of situations ‘cause time is critical.”
The drill lasted three hours but it looks months of planning, police said. Their goal was to make it as real as possible.
“It’s just not a matter of if it’s going to happen but when,” said Foster. “We just want to make sure here at the VA we’re prepared.”