This mall shooting is only a drill

Shots rang out in the Glendale Galleria late Friday night, sending shoppers running toward the exits, and police began searching for a gunman and assisting victims.

But it wasn’t real.

About 100 volunteers participated in a simulated shooting that included multiple gunmen who appeared heavily armed “firing” inside the mall. The gunfire was actually blanks, and the exercise was conducted after the mall had closed.

The responding police officers didn’t know what the scenarios were going to be and had to deal with surprises, including one victim who was diabetic and others who challenged the officers initially — all situations that could arise in a real emergency.

The first shooting re-enactment involved almost all the volunteers.

“The idea is that when the officers come in, they’ll have to deal with large groups of people,” said Sgt. Traci Fox of the Glendale Police Department during the volunteer orientation. “Because if an incident goes down at the Galleria — or any mall — odds are there are going to be hundreds of people shopping in that mall. [Officers] have to get used to people running at them, running away from them and deal with it.”

In a subsequent scenario, law enforcement officers were tipped off by someone who had fled the scene that one of the gunmen was hiding among a group of people inside the mail.

Later, someone called in to say they saw five men exiting a white van ,and they had become suspicious. Eventually, police spotted the vehicle in a mall parking structure and found “explosives” inside.

At Glendale police headquarters, a group of senior citizens volunteered to be trained by clergy to field calls from “relatives” who were calling to see if their family members were involved in the incident.

The re-enactment, which took 10 months to plan and coordinate, was created by eight police agencies including the Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and Alhambra departments, said Capt. Elliott Kase with the Alhambra Police Department.

“The idea of this drill is not to look at what we’re doing well. The drill is really designed to weed out what we need to improve on as partners in a large event,” Kase said, adding that other emergencies where mutual aid would be needed include earthquakes and wildfires.

Throughout the orientation, police officers and SWAT members stressed safety was paramount.

All participating police officers went through two checkpoints to make sure all ammunition was out of their guns and all Tasers and other weapons were turned over.

“We’re not going to have any live ammunition on any of the officers working the scenario,” Fox told the volunteers.


Follow Mark on Twitter @LAMarkKellam.

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