It may have only been a drill, but people were “wounded” and “died” when a “shooter” took over the Bowman Lutheran Church Saturday.
The drill began shortly after noon when Bowman County Sheriff Frank Eberle started the training exercise. Acting as the safety officer for the drill, he called in a report of a nearby resident saying there was the sound of gunfire coming from the church.
Two Bowman County deputies were the first to enter, with one soon injured by an explosive devise.
The remaining deputy apprehended the “shooter” and local EMTs treated the casualties approximately one hour after the exercise started at the church on the corner of Seventh Avenue SW and Second Street SW.
The exercise allowed local law enforcement, fire and medical responders to use their training, according to the organizers who drew up the scenario and how to evaluate the response.
According to Jason Anderson, working the drill as the medical supervisor, it went well. “There always is a little hiccup here and there with various things, but I think everything that happened here went really well,” the director of EMS for Southwest Healthcare said after the exercise and the review concluded in the church Saturday afternoon. “There were hiccups at the hospital, and some procedural changes, but it is the first time we have done this. We’ll have some stuff to discus over there.”
Anderson followed the two responding deputies once they entered the building shortly after noon.
Sheriff Eberle said the drill was moved to the local church because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said that they were not able to hold it at the school because the campus would have to go through a thorough deep cleaning afterward before the students would be able to return.
Chief Deputy Jason Bullis had the role of the “shooter” in the exercise, but it was the sheriff who came up with a surprise in one of the hallways for his deputies. Sheriff Eberle said the “shooter” had set up a tripwire down one of the darkened hallways. That turned one of the responding deputies into a casualty. According to Eberle, it was also set up so that it was also telling the shooter where the people responding were coming from.
“I think it went extremely well,” the sheriff said after the exercise and review ended. “We have some things to learn from. The bad guy had the advantage, being pretty set up,” he said, noting that the “shooter” had set up a funnel forcing the responders to come from a certain direction.
The sheriff said that it was the first shooter drill that the local law enforcement has had in at least about ten years, “I have been here since 2010,” he said.
The possibility of setting up ALICE training for the community is something, which could be set up in the future. “It is very good training,” he added. ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate or run-hide-fight and is designed for schools. The sheriff also praised the local students who took on the roles of the victims during the exercise.
The department has conducted training exercises recently. “We just had TASER training in the last couple of weeks,” the sheriff explained. “I’m trying to bring training here,” he added, noting the area has a number of venues to work with and that his officers would also get the training at no cost if it is held in Bowman. “It would cost us nothing in travel or for a hotel,” he said. Much of the training in the state is over in the Bismarck and Fargo areas, he explained. “There are a lot of resources (locally). We have already used Bowman Lodge for administrative assistant training.”
When it is out of the area, it becomes hard for the deputies to get the training, he explained.