August 14, 2012

Local Border Patrol agents train to confront a gunman whose goal is "mass murder"

By Rick Pfeiffer,
Niagara GazetteThe Niagara Gazette
Tue Aug 14, 2012, 03:00 AM EDT

Niagara Gazette — The crack of a gunshot and an angry shout bring an almost immediate response.

Busting through a closed door at the old Falls Public Safety Building, a team of four U.S. Border Patrol agents confront a heavily armed gunman preparing to execute five hostages. The encounter lasts just seconds.

In a flurry of movement and quick burst of gunfire, the agents take down the gunman and secure him. None of the hostages are harmed.
A team of supervisory training agents from the Border Patrol’s National Academy in New Mexico pull off their protective headgear and smile. The drill went perfectly.

“We’ve been asked to provide an active shooter training class for this (Buffalo) sector,” said a supervisory agent who asked not to be identified for security reasons. “It’s a 40-hour program designed to create (new locally based) instructors who can set up (similar) program here.”

In 2005, Border Patrol officials realized that they had no formal training program to teach agents to deal with what are known as “activer shooter” incidents.

“What we are talking about here are not barricade or hostage situations,” the supervisory agent said. “The goal of an active shooter is to produce mass murder and create as many casualties as possible.”

While the Border Patrol’s primary mission involves homeland security, the agency has also begun to play a much larger role in assisting local law enforcement in the communities were it has a significant presence. With Buffalo Sector’s headquarters located in the Falls, Cataract City cops have been working much more closely with the agency.

“I can’t say enough about the Border Patrol and what they’ve done for us,” Falls Police Superintendent John Chella said. “They are an active participant in Operation Impact, they have accompanied us on drug raids and they have backed up our officers when they’ve needed help. They have really stepped up their involvement in our community.”

With local police agencies increasingly confronting incidents like the recent movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek, Wis., support from specially trained federal agents could be invaluable.

“I believe there will be a lot more (active shooter incidents) in the future,” the supervisory agent said. “That’s why we’re training for it.”
While the agents trained, top commanders from the Falls Police Emergency Response Team watched closely.

“The training is very similar to what we do,” ERT Lt. Dave Kok said. “It’s nice to see what other agencies do and see if we can incorporate some of that into our training.”

Kok and ERT Capt. Dave LeGault spent some time, out of the sight of reporters, with the Border Patrol trainers going over variations of some of the tactics they use to enter and search a building where an active shooter may be operating. The trainers said some of their tactics are best known only to them.

“We don’t want the bad guys to know our approach,” one trainer said with a smile.

However, sharing tactics with the Falls police can benefit both agencies.

“It’s great to be able to get together with them,” Kok said. “That way, if we do (end up at an incident together), we know what each other is doing.”

The Border Patrol training agents noted that there have been dramatic changes in how law enforcement deals with “active shooters.” Before the attack in Columbine, Col., officers who responded to a call of a guman shooting people in a building would try to keep the suspect trapped and wait for SWAT teams to arrive.
Now, those officers are taught to immediately enter the building and confront the gunman.

“We teach (agents) to enter and move at a (deliberate) speed and respond to the stimuli of screams or gunfire,” the supervisory agent said. “We want them to respond now, we don’t want them to wait (for SWAT teams). There’s a direct correlation to moving in and saving lives.”

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