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Police agencies converge on Norwood-Norfolk for active shooter exercise


NORFOLK - Shots rang out from Norwood-Norfolk Elementary School Wednesday morning.

First, a couple of single shots.

“We’re coming in through the elementary cafeteria,” crackled over police radios as law enforcement officers carefully entered the building and alerted those already inside that they were on the scene.

As they rounded the corner, they came across a school secretary, who told them intruders had entered the building and pointed out the direction they had headed.

“Don’t leave me,” she said as officers continued their way in the school.

Then came a round of shots.

Shouts of “shots fired in the vicinity of the cafeteria” were heard through the wing of the building as officers with their weapons at the ready cautiously made their way down the hallway toward the cafeteria and rounded up the intruder.

It was all part of a realistic active shooter training session coordinated by the New York State Police and involving law enforcement officers from several local, state and federal agencies including police departments from Norwood, Norfolk, Potsdam and Massena; Riverview, Ogdensburg and Gouverneur correctional facilities; state police; U.S. Border Patrol; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“All of them are officers in the immediate area,” said Sgt. Michael Pena, Troop B senior firearms instructor from Ray Brook, who coordinated the two-day series of training sessions that continue today.

Marcy Tyler, a school counselor from Harrisville and wife of one of the officers in training, also took part, taking on the role of the school secretary, and officers also used a robot that rolled down the hallway with an attached camera able to capture every angle of the building.

Sgt. Pena said 17 officers went through the training, which involved several scenarios, on Wednesday, and another 16 officers will take part in it today.

“The superintendent (Elizabeth A. Kirnie) was gracious enough to allow us to use the school location,” he said.

The various scenarios law enforcement officers might encounter in a school were planned in advance prior to being carried out at the school.

“It’s a time-consuming process. Unfortunately we have to train in the school,” Sgt. Pena said, noting they had received requests from several schools to conduct similar exercises.

One advantage to conducting the drills in the school, he said, is it gives them a familiarity with the building.

In Norwood-Norfolk’s case, they used one-third of the building encompassing the elementary and middle school wings.

The exercise came about as a result of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns had invited representatives from the New York State Police and St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department to talk with superintendents about their emergency plans and how to keep schools safer.

Locally, Norwood-Norfolk had gone into lockdown on Jan. 25 after a Norfolk man was charged with bringing a BB pistol into the building.

State police had charged Steven R. Wells, 60, with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree harassment and fourth-degree stalking following the early morning incident at the school.

He was wearing a shoulder holster with a black Desert Eagle BB pistol, which is considered an imitation pistol, beneath his jacket, troopers said.

It’s incidents like that which make the training exercises more important, Sgt. Pena said.

“Unfortunately we have to train for this,” he said.

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