Training

Maneuvering through a maze of desks and tables in the hallway at West Iredell Middle School, the 4-person team came upon 2 frightened girls.

"Get down on the ground," the leader of the team, Deputy Matt Burleyson ordered. The girls went to the ground, lying on their stomachs on the tile floor. "Check them for weapons," Sgt. Marsha Sigmon said.

This scene played out at the school Thursday as part of a training session for school resource officers and school safety personnel. The session was designed to allow the SRO’s and school personnel to learn how to handle volatile situations, from a person with a gun in the school to being put in the middle of a domestic violence situation.

WIMS data manager Trudy Wooten said this training, while unfortunate is a necessity.

"You used to say it couldn't happen here, but that's not so anymore," she said. "That's why this is needed."

Wooten and Lynn Findley, school secretary, took part in some of the training. A woman came into the office, telling them her husband was on his way to harm her and the children. Within seconds, a man ran into the school, headed to the eighth-grade hall.

"There he goes," the woman told the office personnel.

Findley immediately launched into putting the school into a lockdown procedure and notifying the SRO.

"Could that happen here?" asked Iredell County Sheriff's Office Captain Rick Eades.

"Yes," Findley and Wooten replied.

Eades said both women performed their roles well. "You were quick on the phone and quick on the lockdown," he said.

Iredell-Statesville Schools Safe Schools Coordinator Steve Hampton said it is important to include office personnel in such training. "You may be in here by yourself," he said.

After the office staff got a quick course in crisis management, the scenarios moved on to involve SRO’s from the Sheriff's Office and Statesville and Troutman police department officers.

In the first scenario, I-SS Safety Compliance Officer Mike James was put to work as a teacher who had been assaulted by a student, played by Travis Burnette.

TPD Officer Kerry Baker was told what the situation was, and he came into the classroom to see Burnette "assaulting" James.

Baker moved quickly, tackling Burnette, and removing the threat.

Iredell County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant. Alan Cranford, who served as one of the instructors, said Baker handled the situation well. "You had to respond. You had to react," he said. "You attacked the threat and removed the threat."

The next scenarios involved the girls in the hallway.

Kristi Johnson and Ashley Hanna were to run toward the officers, yelling about a gunman in the eighth-grade hall.

The duty of the first team of officers and Deputies is to move toward the threat, Lt. Cranford told them.

Their role is to make sure the girls were not armed or injured, to secure them and keep moving toward the threat, he said.

Another student, Emily Church, crouched in the hall, pretending to be wounded by the gunman.

Inside a classroom, Wooten waited with "injured" student Courtney Hanna. Both directed them down the hall toward the shooter.

During the scenario, Eades and Cranford stopped the team of Bryan Whitlow, Sigmon, Burleyson and Dallas Hicks, to let them know what they were doing right or wrong.

"This is why we practice these things," Eades said.

The 4-person team cornered the shooter, Burnette, in the girls' bathroom.

Later, another group of officers, SPD's Chris Bowen, Burleyson, along with ICSO Deputies, ran through a similar scenario.

This time they cornered the suspect in a hallway.

Hampton said while these scenarios might seem far-fetched, that's not so anymore, and all school staff needs to know what to do.

"That's where this helps out," he said.
Sheriff Darren Campbell said, “ We hope this sort of thing never happens in our schools, but we must be prepared when it does.” Iredell/Statesville Schools superintendent Brady Johnson said, “It is critical that schools and Law Enforcement work together as partners to be prepared for such incidents.”