MOULTRIE, Ga. — When gunshots sounded on Tuesday at a Colquitt County school campus during a police training drill some of the neighbors did what officials hope would happen if it had been the real thing -- they called 911.
About 17 Moultrie Police Department and Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office officers participated in the morning drills that involved an officer firing blanks from a rifle outside the school. The gunfire at C.A. Gray Middle School was to guide officers from the front of the school building to the location where the “bad guy” with a gun was located on another part of the campus.
“We just got two calls,” said Theresa Warburg, Colquitt County E-911 director. “One was a (report of) a white male with a machine gun. Another one was shots fired in the area.”
The Moultrie Observer reported the upcoming shooting drill over the weekend, so many people in the large apartment complex across from the school campus in Northwest Moultrie likely had heard of the upcoming police training at the campus while students are on spring break.
Police have held similar training at the fairly isolated Colquitt County High School campus, but this was the first time one has been held at C.A. Gray. The training will continue on Wednesday.
“They (police) called us to let us know what was going on,” Warburg said.
Asked whether neighbors calling to report unusual activity on the school campus, as some people did, was the proper response, she said: “Exactly.”
The active-shooter drills this week are being given as part of ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training), a nationally recognized law enforcement training for responding to active shooters.
It also allows officers to familiarize themselves with the layout of the campus in the event they have to respond to a real threat.
“It gives officers an opportunity to walk around the school,” Moultrie Police Chief Sean Ladson said. “I would invite all educators to come out next time we have ALERRT training.”
The ALERRT course has three levels, and Ladson said all or nearly all deputies and Moultrie officers have had the first level.
“This was just a refresher course,” he said.
Because it is a standardized course that nearly all law enforcement agencies receive — including Georgia State Patrol and parole and probation officers — the first three or four officers to show up will be on the same page.
While the procedure years ago was to wait until a specialized unit trained for shooting scenarios arrived, now law enforcement’s goal is to get in as quickly as possible to neutralize the threat, Ladson said.
“I think that this trains our patrol officers” who likely would be the first on a shooting scene, Ladson said. “It gives them training they can depend on if there is an active-shooter situation.”