The first few shots rang out at 2 p.m. Friday.
Another boom came from the gun at 2:02, by which point dispatch was warning of an active shooter — but drill — situation at Galileo Magnet High School.
At 2:08, the first police car arrived — an SUV with two officers. They entered the building together, one wielding a handgun and the other an assault rifle. Shortly after their entrance, a series of shots went off inside.
Over the next hour, more police officers continued to arrive and enter the school while other law enforcement officials from multiple departments set up a command post in the middle of South Ridge Street, which runs in front of the school. Led by an armed detective, a team of paramedics repeatedly rushed into the school and emerged carrying a gunshot victim.
Groups of people periodically walked out of the front door with their hands raised above their heads.
But the victims hadn’t actually been shot, and no students even were in the school. The entire process was part of an active shooter drill, proposed and organized by the Danville Public Schools, and included a host of other departments.
In a briefing before the drill began, officials from the Danville police and fire departments, the Danville Life Saving Crew and Danville Public Schools explained some of rationale behind the event.
Danville Police Chief Scott Booth said while they hope an active shooter situation never happens in Danville schools, law enforcement needs to be ready if it does.
“To be successful, we have to prepare,” Booth said.
“We want to make it as real as we can make it for today,” added William Chaney, director of safety and security for Danville Public Schools.
As the different groups have been working together in preparation for this event during the past year, they have changed approach and strategies several times, said Bryan Fox, executive director of the Danville Life Saving Crew. In other mass, active shooting situations, Fox said law enforcement often focused on neutralizing the threat before bringing in paramedics, but during the drill they sent paramedics into the danger zone to extract the injured.
“We’ve gone more to a tactical style of emergency medicine ... this is going to be a task of stopping the killing, stopping the dying, starting the recovery,” he said.
In addition to practicing and improving those strategies, Booth said one of the main goals of the drill was to improve collaboration between the different agencies.
“First and foremost I want to see strong communication among partners,” he said.
“This is one of those things that none of us really want to do, but it’s something we need to do. It gives us an opportunity to test our capabilities as agencies in cooperating through a crisis,” said Stanley Jones, superintendent of Danville Public Schools.
In the time leading up to the drill, Booth said many people were anxious, both because it was something new and because it made them consider the possibility of an active shooter event actually happening.
Students were not at school during the day Friday. Barricades were set up for several hours at several intersections surrounding the school, which only were opened for first responders coming to the scene.
Officials said they will spend some time analyzing their collective response before they implement any changes or new strategies.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.