Shots rang out—echoing in the empty church hallway.
The second the first shot was fired, doors slammed shut and people cowered behind desks, tables — anything they could find to shield them from the shooter making his way towards them.
They could hear the gunmen's footsteps, smell the scent of spent ammunition — but all they could do was wait.
This was the scenario created by Claremore Police Department as they were called in to teach an active shooter/intruder training to a Claremore church group.
At their request, CPD hosted training at First United Methodist Church of Claremore — giving members of the congregation the most realistic experience they could.
Officers James Sutton and Kendal Bradshaw are both certified through A.L.I.C.E. to teach the course.
"This is teaching Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate," Sutton said. "It teaches that there's not a set of steps that are set in stone, but options. We're not just doing a lockdown, we're not just doing one thing if we have an armed intruder. We teach them the lockdown option, the evacuate option then — if you have to — the confrontation."
He said the group purchased the online training through A.L.I.C.E before calling CPD in for the live scenarios.
"Several years ago they had an incident with someone strange coming into the church and saying some weird things. They've never had an assault or anything like that. They felt the need to be proactive and not just have the proverbial head in the sand that this isn't reality, that this could happen here," Sutton said.
He said the feedback from those in the class was incredibly positive.
"We had some people that said they knew it wasn't real, but it still upset them. We use blank ammunition so they can hear us coming down the hall. We split them up into groups. They know something is happening and it's people they know. And they just had to sit there and wait knowing it's coming," he said, adding that they ran through multiple scenarios giving everyone a chance to implement what they'd learned.
The scenarios were enough to get hearts racing, adrenaline pumping.
"People may have been around firearms all their life, but it's different to hear one go off in a building. It sounds completely different," Sutton said. "Looking back at Columbine — people not being able to identify the guns shots in the building, thinking it was balloons popping or something along those lines. Our rifle discharging in the building was different than the shotgun. We used two different weapons just to give different sounds."
There's a common mindset, he said —"That won't happen here."
"If you went to any one of these places where they've had a school shooting or an incident in a church, they've probably had people say that before those incidents. We're not having these school shootings in Los Angeles, Calif., or these huge cities. They're happening in small town America, in small communities where people know each other," he said. "We had the incident here a while back with the kid bringing a gun to school — it does happen in small town America."
It's an event everyone hopes and prays never happens.
Still, he said, it's better to be prepared.
"Because under stress, if you have no training your fine motor skills deteriorate, your thought process deteriorates. So if you've never been taught what to do, you may do nothing. You may freeze because you have no idea what you should do," he said. "We hope that it never happens here — that's everybody's thoughts and prayers. But it's a reality, unfortunately."
It's a sentiment Chief Stan Brown echoed when addressing those attending the class.
"We all sometimes want to believe the best and that nothing bad is going to happen, but if you watch the news and read the newspaper ,you know bad things happen every day," he said.
Brown said the class is about "making yourself more aware of what could happen, and knowing how to react."
Sutton said CPD offers the training to any school, church or business that is interested.