AUSTIN, Texas - It’s not uncommon to hear gunshots ringing from this complex just east of the San Marcos airport.
The training exercise Thursday at the advanced law enforcement rapid response training center involved target practice by corrections officers. Those taking part in the exercise learn there's nothing routine about what they do, according to ALERRT Assistant Director John Curnutt.
"Be prepared for anything, anytime and anywhere."
To keep what's taught in the ALERRT classrooms up to date, after action reports from actual events are reviewed. The video form the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando is an example of how a nightmare situation can become a learning tool. It was being assessed well before it was made public this week.
The police body cam video is from officers with 3 different Orlando law enforcement agencies. None of the officers have ever attended the ALERRT training in San Marcos, but a week after the June 12th attack Curnutt said he met with some of the officers who responded to the scene.
"What strikes me is the bravery, the commitment to duty."
He saw the video a few months ago and spotted no miss-steps. Two things did stand out. How movement from areas brightly lit to darkness slowed progress. How officers were forced to reassess the situation after the gunman held hostages in a restroom with one door and no windows.
"Effectively he is neutralized, cornered, isolated contained, but they saw there is a bunch of people bleeding on the floor, so they quickly shifted into doing something for them. This is what we really can’t do anything about right now, this is something we can do something about, so they worked two different problems at the same time,” from Curnutt.
There was concern that some of those first on the scene only had handguns and were not armed with tactical rifles.
"Those shots would have been more surgical, and they probably could have put him down at the distances they started engaging him in, but there is a big difference in employing a pistol in an active scene and a rifle, but there is this public mistrust of riles in the hands of cops, so if they don’t get the training, if they don’t get the equipment, and they don’t have the policy and backing of the public, what can you possibly expect they are going to be able to do very quickly and efficiently,” said Curnutt.
ALERRT trainers stress, adapting and critical thinking will remain the main focus of preparing for active shooters.
It was also noted by Curnutt there were hundreds of people inside the club that night, but no successful organized effort to overpower the lone gunman. As difficult as it may sound Curnutt said you can’t let fear grip you into inaction and if you can’t run away you have to be prepared to fight back.