SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Active shooter training is taking place on a regular basis with local law enforcement agencies and some of the most demanding scenarios put first responders to the test.
It can be a single shooter or multiple shooters that can ambush a community, and training plans are updated frequently.
Santa Barbara Police Lt. Lorenzo Duarte said frontline officers who encounter an active shooter assess the threat and are told to engage the suspect to stop the threat. At the same time, they have to relay information back to other officers and responding commanders.
"Those responding officers have to go ahead and assess quickly what it is that they have and if they have something ongoing, if the active shooter is still an imminent danger to the folks inside--it may be a single officer or a double officer but they are the ones that are empowered to make that decision," said Duarte.
There are many other resources that can be deployed in minutes.
The large military style vehicle that is brought out with the special weapons team is the Bearcat. It can transport multiple officers with protective gear, shields and high-powered guns and, "It is also a rescue vehicle. It is armor that has been designed to take multiple 50-caliber shots and it is an excellent rescue vehicle." said Duarte.
On May 23, 2014, many local agencies were called to Isla Vista with their special weapons vehicles after a college dropout went on a killing spree with a knife and a gun backed by hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Six people died and 14 others were injured. The shooter, Elliot Rodger, was pronounced dead on Del Playa Drive in his car following a crash. Prior to that, the Sheriff's Department said he was shooting out of the car window at the public. Responding deputies returned fire from several locations--an action that likely saved countless more lives.
Heavily armed officers from many regional agencies responded to the large-scale fatal incident.
Members of the public who are caught up in an active shooter scenario are told to run if they can, and, "If you can't escape them, hide, barricade, keep yourself safe and don't come out until you are told to do so," said Duarte. "And lastly if you have to, fight."
Sunday at a police foundation fundraiser, the SWAT and K-9 teams demonstrated how they use their options depending on the suspect, the situation and the threat to the public. One scenario involved a suspect fighting with a K-9 officer who released his dog from the patrol car via a remote-controlled device. The dog was clamped down on the suspect in seconds and reduced the threat.
Another scenario involved the suspect on the other side of the door who refused to cooperate. The special weapons team breached the door and when the suspect did not comply, even when faced with rifles, the dog was released. The suspect was dragged out and to the ground.
Those attending also heard the K-9 unit for the Santa Barbara Police Department is entirely funded by public donations, but it can be a game changer when the police encounter extremely dangerous suspects.