On August 28th the SCV Sheriff’s Foundation Board met for a training event organized by Captain Rob Lewis, Deputy Kevin Duxbury, Master Training Officer Deputy Michael Sellers and Lieutenant Diez. The training, which turned out to be an amazing experience, was held at the Pitchess Detention Center’s Weapons Training Range.
It was designed around providing the SCV Sheriff’s Foundation Board the opportunity to better understand the type of training our Deputies go through, and also to have a better sense of the responsibility and split second, life threatening decision making that our Deputies must face in their service to our communities.
The SCV Sheriff’s Foundation was formed in 1984 by citizens whose desire was to support local law enforcement in a tangible way. Over the years they have purchased equipment and crime prevention materials to assist the Civilian Volunteer, Law Enforcement Explorer and Reserve Deputy Programs at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
The Board members met in the visitor parking lot at the detention center, following Deputies Kevin and Fanny Lapkin into the jail where the range and training facility is located. They were met by the Range Deputy, Deputy Gregory Flores and Sergeant Waterman.
The members introduced themselves and give a brief history of their gun handling experience. Among the members were some with military experience, two retired LAPD Reserves, citizen gun owners, and a few that were admittedly new to handling guns.
The members were instructed on how to hold their weapon, gun safety, and then, for the first two hours, they fired live ammunition. They were shooting two types of handguns, and few rounds with an AR 47? (AR-15) They also used a non-lethal weapon that is in the clearance process for active use. Then it was time for the simulation drill.
At 8:00 PM, one-by-one, they entered a building called the Shoot House, in which officers in training search for ‘bad guys’, armed with simulation bullets. They had to walk into each room, where a person was waiting in ambush, and quickly decide whether or not to fire their weapon. One woman was holding a can – no weapon, don’t shoot; another person was holding a machine gun – weapon, so shoot! Split-second decisions!
They then entered a classroom with various sheriff memorabilia, quotes on the wall, proud Sheriff Insignias and other inspirational materials lining the walls. Dinner was served, and everyone dug in. Social time with our Deputies, fellow Board members, and training officers occupied the first half hour before getting down to business.
Board Member Ken Wiseman has written an exciting narrative, taking us with him as he enters the Shoot House:
The call was for a domestic dispute with at least one male armed. I was the first “Deputy” on scene and I could hear a burst of gunfire coming from the house. As I cautiously approached the house, I could see through the main door, down the hall, and in the shadow on the right, a man standing with a rifle against his chest. He appeared in and out of view as darkness, dim lighting, and shadows took turns with him. Then he disappeared.
The real Deputy that was putting me through this simulation was at my side, holding one of my belt loops, and speaking calmly and quietly to me. “Are you going to approach the house straight towards the door like this?” I shifted quickly to the left side of the door and closed in against the house. The Deputy, like my shadow behind me, urged me to enter the house. My MSP revolver was loaded with simuniton. The bullets looked real except the lead of the bullet was a brightly colored; actually a material akin to hardened detergent. The bullets shatter on impact, and later wash away.
The armed assailant I saw lurking in the hall was actually a Deputy armed with a fake gun and dressed in a suit that would protect him in the scenario if he were shot. The real Deputies go through these simulations, sometimes openly receiving return fire from the mock assailants. Some of the Deputies will show you the healed welts they received in their years of practice.
I entered the hall and cleared a room to the left, keeping a wary eye on the end of the hall and the door to the right where the assailant was last seen. First room was clear, and I moved to the second room. Light appeared, only where I pointed my gun, as the fixed light focused my attention on a widening circle of light, the center of which had the potential of being someone aiming back at me. As I peered into he room, there was a silhouette of a man pointing a gun at me. I shot 2-3 times at his chest.
Outside of the continued calm and mentoring voice of the training Deputy, I could hear my heart beats pounding in my chest. “Okay keep going, what do you do next?” Everyday responsibilities of being a CEO just don’t include situations anything like this. I turned and moved down the hall to turn into the room the armed man had disappeared into. “Finger off the trigger.” I was reminded. “There is no immediate threat.” I turned the corner. I didn’t shoot. The lady standing there looked like she was handing me a beer. I think in her fear she was holding it out like a shield. The finger off the trigger allowed me to evaluate the threat and not react.
“Now what are you going to do,” said my mentoring voice. “Continue clearing the house?” I said, half with authority and half with a question mark. “Have her get on the floor and put her hands on her head. She is still a threat.” The steel eyes of the female cut out stood in silence, only my imagination seeing her follow my instructions and get on the floor.
I continued past her and cautiously began to clear another room on the left. Another armed figure lurked in the corner. Bam, Bam, Bam – my finger dropped from the revolved chassis and hit the trigger. Silence then broke as a moving figure appeared in the adjacent room coming at me. I turned and 3 more shots rang out. The armed assailant slumped against and slid down the wall to a sitting position, gun laying across his lap. My mentor voice said, “He could still be alive, let’s move back now and keep an eye on him as we wait for back-up.” I slowly backed down the hall with my gun fixed on the last assailant.
Walking back to the staging area, Mike Delorenzo, fellow Foundation Board Member and President of SCV Studios, commented to me, “This was the most awesome part of our evening – I can’t imagine doing this for a living.” Focusing his comment to the two Deputies waiting with us, “I have so much more respect for what you guys go through in your job.”