Large-scale active shooter drill held in Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Exactly one week after calls went out about an active shooter inside a bar in Thousand Oaks, law enforcement agencies in Riverside County went through drills on a simulated shooting.

It used to be that large-scale active-shooting training drills were designed to prepare law enforcement for a once-in-a-lifetime type of scenario where a gunman might storm a building and try to kill as many people as possible. But it's not a once-in-a-lifetime possibility anymore.

"The reason that this muscle has to be exercised regularly is that big acts like this are, unfortunately, not that unusual," explained Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz.

Wednesday's active shooter drill in Riverside pitted four armed gunmen, played by actors, against nearly a dozen law enforcement personnel. Police shut down the parking lot at Bourns, Inc. at 1200 Columbia Avenue for the drill. Signs were posted to alert passing drivers and pedestrians that what they were seeing was just a simulation.

As the drill unfolded, police encountered the actors playing gunmen in the parking lot, who fired on the approaching officers. As the suspects retreated into the building, police and paramedics had to figure out how to deal with several victims while trying to mitigate the threat.

Some of the suspects were shot and killed; others surrendered inside the building. A total of 35 shooting victims were counted during the simulation. The drill lasted for about two hours. Afterward, Lt. Christian Dinco spoke about what went right...and what went wrong.

"One of the things that worked was the joint operation between law enforcement moving up into dangerous zones," said Dinco. "Ten years ago, law enforcement and fire didn't work as effectively that way."

Dinco said it's going to take a while to review what law enforcement and firefighters might improve upon. One example, though, was the fact that two victims were left behind in the parking lot, even though they were still alive and waving for help.

"Hopefully we're going to learn a lot," said Diaz. "We made mistakes here today."

Officials said much has changed in how law enforcement responds to active shooter-type scenarios over the past 20 years. First off, they're more heavily armed and are trained to enter a hostile situation if there's an active shooter, even before the SWAT team arrives.

But perhaps one of the most striking changes affects firefighters, who are often called into shooting scenes before they're completely safe. Many firefighters and paramedics are now equipped with body armor.

"It's hard to believe it's come to that, to where we have to wear body armor and go in and get patients," said Riverside Fire Capt. Tim Beeler. "But everybody is completely on board and we see the need for it. I mean, you see it on the news all the time."

Specifically just one week ago, when a gunman stormed into the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, killing 12 innocent people, including Ventura Couny Sheriff's Sgt. Ron Helis. It's something that was certainly on the minds of those participating in the drill.

"They're heroes," said Dinco. "And putting yourself at risk in that way is amazing."
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