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Getting the drop on Glendale police work

Getting the drop on Glendale police work
Amanda Alonso fires semi-auto rifle under close supervision of SWAT officer Chris Weise. For the first time in five years, the Community Academy, a program funded by the Glendale Police Foundation, allows the police agency to residents about what happens behind the scenes on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. (Photo by Mike Mullen)

More than 30 Glendale residents took to the hills above the Glendale Sports Complex on Saturday to watch SWAT demonstrations at the Glendale Police shooting range. And they got a chance to shoot a machine gun at targets themselves.

The event was part of a 12-week class where 35 residents signed up to learn the inner workings of the Glendale Police Department.

PHOTOS: Out on the shooting range

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Glendale Police Rangemaster Mario Marchman presided over the class on Saturday morning and introduced participants to Det. Kelley Cook, who fired an MP-57 machine gun at a target 50 yards away.

After Cook fired her shot, Marchman led the class to the target — a picture of an armed man holding a female hostage. Cook had successfully shot through the man's head, sparing the life of the "hostage."

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Cook explained that she aims to shoot targets through the nose because, in a real-life situation, the bullet would hit the subject's brain stem and kill them instantly.

Later that day, participants had their chance to fire MP-5 machine guns at targets located seven yards away.

Among them was Daniel Hovagimian, who successfully hit his mark several times in the head and chest as a SWAT officer coached him. It was the first time Hovagimian had fired a gun.

"It was a big adrenaline boost," he said.

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Also on Saturday, Glendale Department of Water & Power employee Ani Zargaryan played a hostage in a scenario in which several Glendale SWAT members entered a compound after tossing a noise distraction device inside.

Upon entering, the officers fired live rounds that were absorbed by the compound's rubber walls.

The scenario lasted just 15 seconds and the class observed the action from a catwalk above the compound where they witnessed Zargaryan's prompt removal.

"I imagined it to be scarier," Zargaryan said afterward.

The class was offered this year for the first time in five years with help from the Glendale Police Foundation, which pitched in about $15,000 to sponsor it.

Glendale Police stopped offering the class in 2009 due to budget cuts, said Nancy Michael, the foundation's vice president.

The foundation plans to offer the class annually.

"It's something that the community values," she said. "We have no shortage of applicants."

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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