At 10 a.m. Friday, the principal of Ligon GT Magnet Middle School called 911 to report that two suspicious men had entered the building.
The men were armed. Shots were fired. The school’s resource officer was struck by gunfire. Within minutes, Raleigh police and Wake sheriff’s deputies blocked entrances leading onto the school campus.
A team of Raleigh police officers making ready to enter the school held aloft their weapons – navy blue plastic guns. Sheriff’s deputies also were armed, with red-brown plastic guns.
The seemingly volatile scenario turned out to be an ”active shooter” training exercise at the middle school, which doesn’t begin fall classes until Monday.
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A sign in front of the building, on East Lenoir Street just east of downtown, read, “Law Enforcement Training In Progress. Do Not Enter.”
The Wake sheriff’s office led the drill, but sheriff’s deputies were assisted by Wake County Public Schools, Raleigh police and other emergency agencies during the staged crisis. Altogether, 165 people took part.
This is what happened: Gunmen stormed the building to shoot students and staff, before they were brought down in a hail of gunfire.
“Ten so far,” Jeff Hammerstein, a spokesman with the county’s emergency medical services replied when asked how many people had been wounded or injured. “I suspect we are going to find some more.”
The casualty list did not include students, who according to the scenario were still inside their classrooms. School officials ordered the campus on lockdown during the exercise.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said it’s vital for law enforcement to practice scenarios like this one so residents can feel that their children will be safe in their classrooms.
“We’ve just been blessed that it’s never happened in Wake County,” Harrison said.
With classes still a weekend away, Ligon faculty and staff acted as volunteers for the training exercise.
Just before 11 a.m., a team of police officers, sheriff’s deputies and medical workers entered the building to retrieve the injured, mostly volunteers. Save for the spitfire static from their radios, the team worked soundlessly as they moved the injured to waiting ambulances.
Afterward, Harrison asked observers to imagine a real scenario with students and teachers screaming amid the sounds of gunfire, news helicopters flying overhead and frantic parents arriving on campus.
The sheriff said that the various agencies that came to assist his deputies blended in seamlessly to block out the ensuing chaos.
“It’s good for us, to try and work together as a team,” Harrison said.