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‘Active Shooter Training’ Staged at Gahr High School

Written by Randy Economy Photos and Video by Pete Parker

Richard Gahr High School in Cerritos was the scene of a simulated “terrorist” training attack exercise staged for and by members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies connected to law enforcement.

It was a drill. The flash grenades, smoke bombs as well as hundreds of rounds of blank gunfire were used to dramatize a possible real attack by a group of well-armed terrorists that were portrayed by well-educated and highly trained professional members of the Sheriff’s department.

Newspaper reporters, and even a local television news channel captured the dramatic staged scenario on film and it looked and felt like a real life drama that was being played out with several Gahr High School students playing “victims” and “hostages” in the drill.

Loud alarm bells rang out around the campus for nearly one hour. The popular ABC Unified School District campus was empty of regular students due to the Easter Week break.

It was the second year in a row that Gahr High School served as a backdrop for the exercise according to Cerritos Sheriff’s Captain Keith Swensson.

Swensson referred to drill as a “real possible scenario that we hope never takes place here in our community. But, we need to be prepared for the worst case situation just in case.”

During the past two months Swensson and other top brass at the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station along with counterparts at the Norwalk, Lakewood and Pico Rivera Sheriff’s Station have been working on details for the complex exercise at Gahr High School.

“When it comes to training, the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station is prepared for any type of dangerous situation that can happen. Cerritos is one of safest communities in America, but we cannot be unprepared just in case a real life threat happens,” Swensson said.

“We are always coming up with different training elements to help our Deputies,” he told reporters.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies engage in terrorist active shooter simulation at Gahr High School in Cerritos on Tuesday.  Photo by Peter Parker

Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputies engage in terrorist active shooter simulation at Gahr High School in Cerritos on Tuesday. Photo by Peter Parker

Heavily armed “terrorists” were roaming the campus firing at will and the student actors began dropping on the ground, many of them covered in bloody make up.
Lt. Richard Harpham of the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station told Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper that there were approximately 35 fire fighters used in the exercise as well as 65 to 70 sheriff personnel, and between 30 and 40 students from Gahr High School played the role of “victims.”

Harpham said residents in the immediate area were informed about the exercise and about the gunfire that would be echoing in the air right next to the 91 Freeway and 605 Freeway interchange.

“We did lots of advance work and planning and warning to the local community,” Harpham said.

On Tuesday, Harpham said that only one phone call was received at the station from a local resident inquiring about the gunfire and operation.

Pastor Bill Hundley, along with several other members of the Sheriff’s Clergy also participated at the scene to help provide “moral and spiritual guidance” to the “student victims” as well as other law enforcement officials who gathered from Lakewood, Artesia, Norwalk and Pico Rivera.

Hundley said, “As a Pastor you always need to be prepared to deal with the masses if a calamity were to ever happen at one of our campuses. Today was a great opportunity for all of us who volunteer as spiritual supporters with law enforcement and to the community as a whole.”

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