In the community

Local police hone skills during active shooter training session at Ontario High School

ONTARIO – Clad in black protective vests, eye protection and air pistols, the five local police officers lined up against a wall at Ontario High School last week and prepared to storm into a classroom.

Nearby, instructor Dave Walter of the Ontario Police Department, watched intently as his fellow police officers crouched down, poised for action.

Then Ontario Police Officer Danielle Llamas, bent down, opened the door to the classroom and rushed inside. Four other officers followed.

Within moments the sound of airsoft pellets arcing through air inside the classroom echoed and then the training was over.

The action by the police was at the heart of an in-depth active shooter training session held Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the high school. About 25 police officers from the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office, the Ontario Police Department and the Oregon State Police participated in the two-day event.

The training is crucial for officers to be prepared if a school shooting occurs in Malheur County.

“We hope and pray it never happens but we train to prepared for that. Any place in America is worried about it and that is why we do this,” said Ontario Police Department Lt. James Swank.

Swank, who was the coordinator for the event, said the training creates muscle memory, so if police are called to an emergency they will react fast.

“It’s the repetition of it. You train for the possibility so when it happens you are on autopilot,” said Swank.

While training videos, books and conversations about how to react to an active shooting situation are important, they are ultimately not as effective as the drills, said Swank.

“We can talk about it all day long but it is way more beneficial to actually do the training,” said Swank.

Mike Iwai, Ontario police chief, said the training also allows his officers to familiarize themselves with the high school.

“We definitely want a refresher on the building landscape,” said Iwai.

Iwai said the training sets the foundation for the main goal in any active school shooter situation.

“When you have a situation where kids are dying it is really simple – stop the threat,” said Iwai.

Swank, who has been an Ontario policeman since 2006, agreed.

“The situation is to eliminate the threat,” he said.

Swank said another advantage of the training is to publicize that police are prepared to quickly respond to a school shooter.

Another piece of the training, said Swank, is for officers to “know what they are going into.”
“We know that we could possibly get injured or shot. But we are preparing as a law enforcement community, the county, Oregon State Police, Nyssa and Ontario police,” he said.

Active shooter training is essential, said Brian Wolfe, Malheur County sheriff.

“It is something we have to have on our minds at all times,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said responding to an active shooter situation is “different than anything else.”

“On an active shooter situation, you are going to wherever the threat is and immediately stopping the threat. You are not setting up a perimeter to lock somebody in. You are going in with what you have,” said Wolfe.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at

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