When the sound of gunfire from an upstairs classroom first shattered the calm Thursday afternoon at Brunswick High, the schools police officer on campus knew immediately that the problem was his alone to handle.
No cavalry arriving in support, no commander to call for instruction. Just a lone officer, depending on his training.
Panicked students ran past the officer as he made his way upstairs to the source of the shooting. The officer encountered wounded students as he closed in on the threat. Finally, moments later, the officer confronted the shooter and took him down. Threat ended.
In short, Thursday’s active-shooter training session for members of the Glynn County Schools Police Department was about preparing oneself to be a hero. Of course, no officer would put it that way.
“This intent of the drill was a single officer’s response to such a scenario,” said Schools Police Chief Rod Ellis. “They’re not going to wait for backup, they’re going to immediately respond to threats on our campuses. The time frame between knowing there is a threat and responding to that threat is so vital.”
The live drill was part of a day-long training session for 23 of the department’s schools police officers. Sgt. Paula Henderson took part in the drill in the “mini-911 center” at the department’s command center at the Golden Isles Career Academy, Ellis said. The officers spent the first part of the day in classrooms at the BHS campus, then each went through the live drill to reinforce what they learned.
The scenario was made more realistic by the participation of about two dozen drama students from Brunswick High and Glynn Academy. The students played the roles of panicked students, wounded students and even the active shooter. BHS teachers also participated, Ellis said.
Each officer went through the drill, beginning with the noise of gunfire. The officer had to advance through the wave of retreating students and “wounded” students in order to reach the shooter. Department instructors followed each officer as an observer only.
Chief Ellis, Lt. Jody Vicent and officer Mark Hopper all have training in active shooter instruction from the nearby Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Each officer completed the drill in about three minutes, Ellis said.
“There is a simulated shooting in an upstairs classroom,” Ellis said. “The officer has to seek out and find, on their own and without anybody coaching them, the source. The instructors are there only to evaluate their performance.”
It is a scenario Ellis hopes none of his officers ever have to face in real life. But it also is one they cannot possibly prepare for too much.
“When we spring into action we’re going to be looking to neutralize that threat as rapidly as possible if it occurs,” Ellis said. “You’ve got to engage them quickly. The longer you wait, the more people are in danger of being injured or dying.”
The drama students’ participation added to the immediacy of the drill for the officers, he said. The goal is that officers will not have to think about what do in a real life situation — they will know what to do.
“Those students were role playing, putting as much stress as possible on my officers,” Ellis said. “It gave them an idea of what’s going to happen in a real event. Because when that stress level is there, when it’s real, the first thing we want them to do is fall back instinctively on their training. And we want that response to become automatic.”
Ellis was pleased with the performance of his officers Thursday.
“I think they did well,” he said. “Obviously, we want to do it and do it and do it until it becomes second nature. Overall, from what I saw, they did well. Everybody passed successfully.”
When the next action occurs in the lawsuit regarding development on the Sea Island spit is anyone’s guess, as Chief U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall granted a motion by attorneys for the federal government to stay the case until the end of the partial government shutdown.
The shutdown is two weeks old now, and President Donald Trump said at a bipartisan meeting Friday at the White House that he is willing to let the shutdown run months, or even longer than a year, if it means that at the end he can get congressional Democrats to approve billions of dollars in federal funding for a wall of some type along the border with Mexico.
Hall stated in his order Wednesday, “Upon due consideration, the motion to stay is granted. This case is hereby stayed until the (Department of Justice’s) funding is restored, and all pending deadlines in this matter, if any, are extended for the same number of days as the DOJ’s lapse in funding.”
Because of other resources open to the federal courts system, criminal cases have proceeded as usual, though that extra money runs out Jan. 11. Afterward, only the most essential staff will be allowed to work, and regardless, no one will be paid until Congress restores funding for the DOJ.
As part of his order, Hall also officially consolidated the Center for a Sustainable Coast lawsuit involving the spit with the one filed by the Altamaha Riverkeeper and One Hundred Miles, a move earlier requested by the plaintiffs.
In other federal court matters, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notified the court of plea agreements entered into by Edrin Temple and Clifton Foster, who are two defendants in the Glynn County drug shed case. Temple and Foster were both indicted on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine, crack and marijuana. Temple had an additional charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, while Foster had an additional charge of illegal use of a phone.
They’re both scheduled to plead guilty the afternoon on Jan. 15.
Three men accused of stealing small arms ammunition and explosives from Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay — Caleb James Anderson, Sean Patrick Reardon and Kyle Preston Clasby — are scheduled to plead guilty in hearings Feb. 5.
While most of the defendants waived arraignment who were named in the superseding indictment against an alleged Glynn County narcotics conspiracy run by a Jacksonville, Fla., man, three men still appeared Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro.
Cheesbro ruled that detention was a moot circumstance in the matters of Alex Dion Manor and Jose Alberto Salguero, so they won’t have a detention hearing on these allegations unless their situation changes. Timothy John Sallins was ordered held pending the disposition of his case.
All three are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine, crack, marijuana, MDMA and methamphetamine.
Salguero also is charged with possession with intent to distribute crack. Manor faces three additional counts of possession with intent to distribute crack, and one count each of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possess of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. Sallins has one additional charge of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.
It’s a big fish story — a lot of them, in fact.
A new project is underway that seeks to get beyond traditional seafood testing and advisories, and go much further — promoting different types of seafood and different ways of preparing it, while engaging local residents and deriving a better understanding of people’s relationship with seafood and its effects on our health.
“We have been working with the community for them to contribute recipes for, what are the traditional local ways they like to prepare fish?” Kimberly Andrews, director of the Applied Wildlife Conservation Lab at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, said at a lunch meeting Friday of the Glynn Environmental Coalition. “One of our products for how we’re going to communicate these advisories is, beyond the regulatory need of telling people what they shouldn’t be eating, really, in a celebratory way, directing them to, ‘Here’s what we recommend that you do eat, and at these frequencies,’ or, ‘Here’s how you might prepare it to reduce some of that risk.’
“And then the cookbook will also have some information about the ecology, the fish, the advisories — we’ll be able to highlight various partners that provide resources to the community.”
Andrews said the effort comes out of a growing field called translational ecology, which takes ecological and scientific information and gets that information into the hands of the people it’s affecting.
“Part of this field is not just an outreach initiative, but it’s an action-driven initiative,” Andrews said. “So, how do we implement knowledge in a way that people can act so they can make those decisions when they’re fishing, when they’re sitting down at the table, and how can we understand what their needs are? Part of the project we’re working on now is working with the community to understand what their consumption behaviors are. We have the new DNR advisories that should be coming out any time now — I don’t think they’ve officially been posted — and again GEC puts a lot of effort into getting that information out.
“But, what about how the community is eating? So, the way that the fish are currently tested is all sampling fillets. We’re trying to understand which species are people eating where, and at what frequency, and how are they preparing that? The advisories are prepared based on a conservative approach of what the risk levels are to pregnant women and children. It’s great to take that conservative approach and target those higher-risk demographics, but ideally we want to be able to assess what the true exposure is so that we’re testing the fish based on, again, these consumption behaviors.”
She said the emphasis here is for the analysis to come from a point of pride and not from a point of fear.
Andrews used the example of driving a car — it comes with all kind of risks, but those risks are significantly mitigated if you know what you’re doing.
She said so far, she’s been working closely with Glynn County Commissioner Allen Booker, Rebuilding Together and others, with a particular focus on the Arco community.
Andrews said that Honeywell “has been a very engaged partner with this” — Honeywell bought LCP Chemicals in 1998, when LCP was in bankruptcy, and is one of the responsible parties for the LCP Chemicals Superfund site.
Byran Fluech, associate director at the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, also spoke at the meeting and discussed an oral history project in the works that’s focused on commercial fishermen.
“I’ve been working with a project with Georgia Southern on doing oral histories with our commercial fishing industry over the past year,” Fluech said. “It’s been interesting. We did over 30 interviews with local fishermen about their perspectives — not only about their involvement in the industry, now, but their perspectives on the future. I mentioned earlier about the graying of the fleet — where they see it going, what things they think are important — and we’re going to be presenting the results of those oral histories in a number of workshops.”
The Brunswick workshop is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Feb. 2, at the Brunswick Station at 715 Bay St. Other workshops will be in Statesboro on Jan. 31, at 6 p.m. at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Darien on Feb. 1, at 4 p.m. at the Ida Hilton Public Library.
All are free and open to the public.