Wakefield Police officers train for “active shooter” situation
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The scenario is this: Wakefield Police receive a call reporting a disturbance at Acme Corp., a company of 50 employees located at the end of a cul-de-sac in Wakefield. The company is headquartered in Israel and has been threatened in the past by radical Islamic groups. The threats have come via emails to the company president, but have never been acted on. On a few recent occasions, protesters have shown up at the company carrying signs denouncing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Wakefield Police have responded to the company numerous times, mostly for accidental alarms, so they are familiar with the building.
Police dispatch initially sends two marked units to check on the disturbance.
That was the fictional scenario described by Sgt. Sean Beede of the Wakefield Police Department as he briefed 15 members of the Department in the parking lot of the Northeast Metro Tech High School shortly before they went through training for dealing with an active shooter situation at a business. The officers were split into three groups that went through the training separately. A portion of the Northeast Metro Tech High School on Hemlock Road served as the Acme Corp. building.
I had the opportunity to ride along in the cruiser with Patrolman Cliff Perry, a 28-year veteran of the Wakefield PD, as he responded to the scenario in the first training group. I was given a Wakefield Police Department vest and a protective mask to wear.
Sitting in the cruiser on Hemlock Road, we hear Lt. Steven Skory’s voice come over the radio dispatching another unit to respond to a disturbance at Acme Corp. A moment later, he tells our unit to back up the first unit.
Officer Perry pulls up to the scene as smoke billows from the front of the building. We exit the vehicle to the sound of an apparent explosion. A male employee of the company is out front yelling that there are two armed men on the second floor holding another employee hostage.
The two officers approach the front entrance of the building but see an improvised explosive device sitting in front of the door. They sprint around the corner of the building to a side entrance and enter the building with guns drawn. As they ascend the stairs to the second floor two more officers arrive on the scene as backup. Officer Perry asks them to cover as he and another officer advance down a hallway, checking doors along the way. They radio dispatch as to their status continuously.
They eventually locate a female employee who desperately informs them that two suspects have fled the building with one of her male coworkers as a hostage. She believes the men may be in a black car in front of the building.
The officers rush back out the side door of the building and move around to the front as the sound of another explosion fills the air. They see a black car occupied by two men. Another man is standing outside the car and is ordered to get on the ground face down. He complies but protests that he is the hostage and has a bomb strapped to his chest. He’s afraid the bomb will go off and begs the police to help him. They order him to remain on the ground.
Gunfire breaks out between police and the two suspects in the car. The suspects are killed in the gunfight. Officers radio dispatch and request a State Police bomb team to handle the explosives strapped to the hostage. They are advised that the bomb team should be there within 15 minutes.
Once Sgt. Beede declares the scenario over, the officers gathered with the trainers to review what took place. In addition to Beede, the trainers were Sgt. Jon Burnham, Lt. Steven Skory, Detective Kenneth Silva and Patrolman David Rando. The trainers offered praise as well as constructive criticism in equal measure.
In turn, the second and third groups of officers (who were kept further down Hemlock Road so they could not see events unfold) were put through a similar training scenario and post-event debriefing.
Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio rode along with another police unit and also had the opportunity to witness the entire training event. Police Chief Rick Smith also took part in the training.
Smith and Maio expressed their gratitude to Northeast Metro Tech for allowing Wakefield Police to use the building and grounds for training this week.
But Maio reserved his highest praise for the Police Department.
“I’m very grateful that you guys go through this training,” Maio told the officers, “and that we have a Police Department and a Chief that makes sure there’s training, training, training.”
[This story originally appeared in the April 22, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]
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Tags: active shooter, Detective Kenneth Silva, guns, hostage, Lt. Steve Skory, Mark Sardella, Northeast Metro Tech High School, Officer Clifford Perry, Officer David Rando, police, Sgt. Jonathan Burnham, Sgt. Sean Beede, Steve Maio, terrorism, training, Wakefield Daily Item, Wakefield MA, Wakefield Police Department