PINETOPS , N.C. -- The bullets will be flying in Dodge City this week.

The community near Pinetops was destroyed by flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and is now the site of a training center for the Edgecombe County sheriff's department, which is holding it's first sniper school there this week.

Six participants from the sheriff's department, Rocky Mount police and other law-enforcement agencies are enrolled in the four-day course. The instructor is a veteran Marine Corps sniper and Edgecombe Sheriff's Sgt. Bernie Taylor. The participants will be learning to hit targets from as far away as 200 yards, Taylor said.

"These men can really shoot," Sheriff James Knight said.

The deserted streets of Dodge City are devoted to police training.

"Most of what we do here doesn't involve firearms at all," said Knight.

The former Mount Zion Baptist Church is the only building that survived the flood, but the paved streets are still intact and the stops signs are still standing. The department uses the roads to train their officers in stopping vehicles.

The department also conducts detention officer training, defensive tactics classes, seminars on proper handcuffing, pepper-spray exercises, and drug awareness classes in the former community. A K-9 training center is under construction, Knight said.

"We can really enhance the overall skills of our officers with this facility," he said, "and we have allowed many other law enforcement and emergency service agencies to train here as well."

Dodge City's firing range is not only being used for sniper training. Law officers can also qualify with their service pistols with exercises that include shooting through a makeshift door or two windows at pop-up targets. The firing range also has lights which simulate the headlights and flashing lights of police patrol cars, which allows the officers to practice shooting in nighttime conditions.

The training facility was bought and constructed primarily through donations.

"It didn't cost the taxpayers of Edgecombe County anything," Knight said.


Information from: The Daily Southerner,