When mass shootings occur, and that’s far too often, it's a reminder to law enforcement everywhere that their training can always be put to the test.
In the first few seconds of an active shooter situation, like the tragedy Monday, in Boulder, Colorado, officers have to make fast and tough decisions. Former SWAT commander and San Diego Police Department Lieutenant Ray Shay said patrol officers are trained to enter the building to stop the threat.
"People are likely being shot and likely being killed every minute it takes you to get there,” Shay explained.
On Monday, gunshots rang out as police arrived at a King Sooper’s grocery store in Boulder.
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“You might have to step over people that have been shot. And your heart wants to give first aid but your mind says if I don't stop him, he’s gonna shoot more people," Shay said.
The SWAT team arrives with special tools like whisper mics for enhanced communication and ballistic shields for extra protection. An armored vehicle can be used to get into the building while blocking gunfire.
“[SWAT teams] work with a certain high caliber of fellow officers that keep their cool when things are going bad," Shay said.
Once inside during the shooting, protocol is that officers try to take back as much of the building as they can, and corner the suspect and look for victims.
“Let’s try and get him focused to the sporting goods area, maybe we pin him in that corner and then obviously at the same time you’re yelling for people to run out,” Shay said.
As more agencies arrive, they communicate on different channels from inside, on the ground, from the sky, or on the roof, hopefully, closing in on the threat.
“You don't know if there is one, two or three shooters. You don't know if there are any explosive devices involved. You’re getting partial information. So these are heroes trying to stop a killer," he added.
Shay said it’s up to the first officers on the scene to decide on going inside with or without backup.
Most SWAT situations end with the suspect in custody, according to Shay. That was the case Monday in Boulder, but unfortunately, it also ended with 10 people killed, including a Boulder Police Department officer.
That officer was Eric Talley, 51. He'd been with BPD since 2010.
“He was by all accounts one of the outstanding officers of the Boulder Police Department, and his life was cut too short,” Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said.