AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 students and two teachers dead, MyHighPlains.com reached out to Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas to understand how law enforcement prepares for these kinds of situations.
“How do you prepare for that? I don’t think you ever do,” said Sheriff Thomas. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years. I spent seven years as a school resource officer, and every time something comes up I mind play those; what would we do? How would we do it? Those kinds of things, because you just never know until you’re stuck in the middle of it.”
That is where Sheriff Thomas said training comes in.
“We do some scenario training. And we’ve actually done that with our schools, where we’ll go in and set up like a full-blown exercise. And it’s usually right before school starts or trying to do it during the summertime, where we can go and get teachers because we want the teachers to know, what we’re doing,” said Sheriff Thomas. “
“We try to do them quite often. Now, our SWAT team trains once a month. I mean, they’re doing a training day, every month. Regardless of what it is, whether it’s injuries or whatever, they’ll start throwing back in the school thing, we still already do that,” said the sheriff.
Sheriff Thomas said they do not just plan for what to do once they’re inside, but how to handle what’s happening outside as well.
“I remember going to the one that Palo Duro High School, and I remember parents were already there. I was with a third car there. But I remember parents already there,” said Sheriff Thomas. “So now I’ve got to hold that crowd back, plus still try to get somebody into to stop the threat. So those are things that play through my mind.”
Sheriff Thomas is referring to a shooting at Palo Duro High School on September 11, 1992. A student opened fire on campus around lunchtime when students were going to a pep rally. Six people were injured in that shooting. No one was killed.
He said no amount of training prepares them for what happens in the moment and the aftermath.
“I can still to this day, remember walking into and standing there in the hallway going. This ain’t real. This can’t be real, this, this can’t happen. I remember kids running by me that kind of jarred me back into ‘let’s go,’ you know. The guy was already in custody by then but we’re trying to clear out the school, but I can still remember that,” said Sheriff Thomas. “This is school, this doesn’t happen in school. This isn’t a place that this happens. Well, now, here we are 20, 25 years later. [It] seems like it’s happening, well, it is happening way too often.”
Sheriff Thomas said they also have to make sure their officers are in good mental health following the incident.
“We do debriefs on that stuff, no matter what it is. If it’s a tragic event, we’re going to do a debrief the next day. We’re bringing in everybody that was involved in that. Sit down, let’s talk about it,” said Sheriff Thomas.