‘We train for the worst and hope for the best’

Police departments and businesses across the country have stepped up training for school and workplace violence since the school shooting at Columbine nearly 17 years ago.

Seymour police have trained for shootings, and on Thursday officers responded to a murder-suicide at Cummins Seymour Technical Center.

As 911 calls came in about 8:45 a.m., Seymour police officers began responding to the East Fourth Street facility. At the same time, officers with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Brownstown and Crothersville police departments started assisting, setting up a perimeter and taking calls in the area.

As officers headed into the building, many Cummins employees already were leaving the building because fire alarms had gone off, Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott said.

Once the incident was determined to be a murder-suicide and not an active-shooter event, SWAT teams from Seymour and Columbus police departments and Indiana State Police entered the building for a secondary search.

Government law enforcement agencies were assisted by an Emergency Response Team from Cummins. The team played a big role in helping the police make sure both the technical center and engine plant were cleared, Abbott said.

Most areas were searched three or four times, Abbott said.

“(The ERT members) know all the nooks and crannies were someone could hide,” he said.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Carothers said he called 10 units to the scene to assist and even called in some extra personnel.

He has a SWAT team of about seven officers, but it wasn’t activated because Seymour’s SWAT team was on the scene and the state police’s squad was on its way.

“We got the initial call, and we just sent everybody to basically go straight in or to secure the scene,” Carothers said. “We made a perimeter if anybody went in and out.”

Carothers said his officers participate in active-shooter drills four times a year — twice at Medora schools and twice at Brownstown schools. Those are done on weekends when no students or staff are present.

“It’s kind of our policy,” Carothers said of the training drill. “We want to make sure we keep trained up on it and keep guys fresh in what they are doing.”

County officers also do walkthroughs of those schools on a daily basis.

Carothers said everyone in his department is trained to handle shooting situations. Officers who have gone through the SWAT school, which lasts for a week or two, pass their knowledge on to the other officers.

Most of those who have attended the SWAT school also are instructors for the department, Carothers said.

“I always send someone back on an annual basis or every two years to refresh themselves if there’s anything new to learn,” he said.

Carothers said he wishes officers didn’t have to train for things such as school or workplace shootings.

“We train for the worst and hope for the best,” he said. “I hope that all of the training we do is practice and we never have to utilize it in real life.”

If a person finds themselves at work and hears gunshots, Carothers said it’s important to get away from the situation by either going into hiding or locking yourself in a room.

“Get away to where you are not in the line of vision (of the shooter) and hunker down until police come,” he said.

In instances of workplace violence, the aggressor often feels he or she has been wronged, said W. Barry Nixon, executive director of the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence. That injustice usually is only in the mind of the employee who acts out, he said.

“Each case is different because you’re dealing with an individual human being,” Nixon said. “There are some common denominators that cut across, though. One of the core things tends to be a perceived injustice. Again, I put an emphasis on perceived because it’s obviously in the eye of the beholder.”

The most common types of workplace violence involve a threat or physical assault, Nixon said. Instances of homicide or murder-suicide aren’t as common.

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Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.