Courthouse active shooter drill gives deputies vital training experience

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A team of three prepare to move forward while another team member tends to an individual on the floor during Saturday's active shooter drill.

DOVER - Donned in protective vests, helmets and toting handguns, Strafford County Sheriff's deputies swept through the corridors of the county's courthouse and administrative building on Saturday in search of gunmen who had taken several hostages in the court's basement cafeteria.

Part of an active shooter drill, groups of three methodically snaked their way along concrete-walled corridors where they encountered several wounded or dead individuals as they headed toward the eatery.

A team of three moves down a courthouse corridor toward the simulated hostage scene while a fourth team member watches their back.

As one group of three advanced down a hallway near the lunchroom a Homeland Security agent often reminded them to make sure all the areas from where an intruder might attack were covered.

As some tended to the wounded and dead, more deputies moved toward the eatery door where inside they spied one man standing with a gun behind a dozen or so hostages seated at lunch tables.

Moments after the hostages were ordered to raise their hands, the simulated confrontation and shooting was all over with the hostage taker on the ground, wounded, and being cuffed.

Members of a tactical team, outside door, moments before neutralizing a hostage taker, foreground, during active shooter drill exercises at Straffrod County Courthouse on Saturday.

"Don't cuff him by yourself, grab someone to cover you," barked one of a pair of instructors from the state's Department of Homeland Security, who were leading the active shooter drill.

Saturday's exercises in active shooter deployment were the first ever held at the William A. Grimes Justice and Administration Building, home of the Strafford County Superior Courthouse, the Sheriff's Office and other county departments.

Director of Court Security Dominick Bellio said the SCSO, charged with courthouse security, and Homeland Security had been working on having this drill for more than a year and that it was an important part of training and keeping courthouse personnel and the public safe from an attack.

Bellio said they first executed a tabletop exercise simulating an attack about a year ago, and then after addressing some issues regarding their response capability, fine-tuned their strategies in advance of Saturday's drill.

The drill used "Simunitions," nonlethal training ammunition designed for close-quarter confrontations, to replicate most closely an actual active shooting environment.

Bellio said protecting innocent civilians is always the number one priority in any active shooter scenario.

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