JJC police prepare for worst-case scenario
By BRIAN STANLEY firstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2013 4:28PM
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:27AM
Columbine. Virginia Tech. NIU. Sandy Hook.
It’s easy to see why Joliet Junior College police train each year for an active shooter attack on campus.
But Wednesday’s drills in the newly opened Health Professions building also prepared more than 100 employees for what they should, or could, do in the worst-case scenario.
“We had so much more of a turnout than I expected,” Chief Pete Comanda said at the morning session, which also had observers and participants from Chamberlain College of Nursing, DeVry Institute, Governors State University, Prairie State University, South Suburban College and Hickory Creek Grade School.
“This gives our officers a chance to train, but (anyone attending) takes away something every time. I don’t give a whole lot of instruction because I want to see what you do naturally,” Comanda said.
The drill used “blanks” fired in hallways and classrooms as officers sought a distraught subject who wanted to hurt as many people as possible before being trapped.
Before the scenario began, Officer Chris Luttrell demonstrated the guns that would be seen.
“There may be a point where these weapons could be pointed at you because we don’t know who the shooter is. We’re going to the gunfire,” Luttrell said.
Comanda used an airhorn to start the simulation in the “play area” marked off by orange cones. Some people worked in classrooms while others walked in the hallways.
Jackie Healy seemed “normal” before she went to complain to Professor Duane Stonich about being kicked out of the nursing program. As her frustration grew, her voice echoed louder and louder through the hall and she continued yelling as loud pops began.
“It sounded like a book hitting the floor,” said Courtney Kohn Sanders, Governors State’s Emergency Response Team leader, who was sitting in another classroom. “We knew it was an active shooter drill, but there was still some debate if what we heard meant it had actually started,” she said.
Healy shot two more men in the classroom and walked into the hall where custodian Charlie Sanders tried to grab her arm, but was also shot.
When Healy’s gun jammed from firing blanks, she yelled “Bang. Bang. Bang,” but the laughs stopped as soon as she pulled a second pistol from under her sweatshirt.
“There’s always something unexpected. These scenarios never go exactly according to plan,” Comanda observed.
The improvisations continued when Amanda Anderson heard Healy’s shots and began to act as a second shooter. But the “disgruntled sisters’” plans were thwarted when the other students in her classroom fought back. After shooting one victim, Anderson was tackled and held down inside the locked room.
“Their reaction took out half the (attack) plan and completely disoriented Jackie,” a surprised but pleased Comanda said.
But Healy seemed more than capable holding the gun behind her back as she pounded on the door of each classroom — claiming to be shot and begging to come in.
“There was some debate about letting her in,” Sanders said. “But the dispatcher (on a virtual 911 call) advised against it.”
“And what if she was a real victim who’d been shot? There’s no right answer,” Comanda noted.
Healy had sent a table rolling down the hall and was attempting to detonate a pipe bomb when she was shot by responding police. She spent several minutes handcuffed face down on the floor before the area was evacuated.
“My throat’s a little sore,” Healy, who is actually a campus police officer, said.
As participants attended a debriefing session, Comanda noted officers were already coming when the gunfire started because one school employee had called to report the shouting.
“As it should be. The odds of a shooting are infinitesimal, but someone getting upset enough to punch somebody out is a lot more likely,” he said.