‘Shooting’ at high school a necessary exercise

Published 10:35 pm Friday, July 27, 2018

The active shooter drill at Lawrence County High School continued Friday morning despite most of the participants — including the organizer — leaving when a call came in for a real shooting in Jayess.

In a strange twist of life imitating art, a man shot his girlfriend then took his own life as deputies surrounded him. The scenario planned for the drill included a man shooting other students — at least one in the head — then taking his own life as police approached him with their weapons drawn.

Before he left for the real call, Lawrence County Undersheriff Brian Underwood explained the scenario he expected deputies and Monticello police would encounter.

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They would find two teenage shooters and several victims inside the high school.

“The girlfriend talked her boyfriend into coming here and killing folks because they talked bad about them,” Underwood told reporters.

He chose the female to be the ringleader because it can be difficult for officers to shoot a young girl, he said.

“I know what my guys are going to do. It’s not real life, but I need for them to be shocked when it’s her that comes out,” he said.

The girl remained inside the bathroom around the corner from the cafeteria. She had two play guns that would be aimed at officers when they crashed in.

“That’s her domain. She is to protect that bathroom at all costs,” Underwood said. “She’s supposed to holler and scream and do not let them get her, but they are going to kill her.”

Inside the cafeteria, nearly a dozen students and recent graduates sat waiting for their cue. All of them except for Avousier Kelly — the boyfriend in the scenario — would be victims.

The volunteers emptied two boxes of Monster Pops on the floor one at a time to simulate gunfire. After about 40 were popped, sirens could be heard in the distance. They got closer then faded away again.

Participants learned later that deputies were called away for a real shooting.

After officers regrouped, the scenario began.

When police stormed the doors of the cafeteria, Kelly shouted, “Come get me,” then shot himself in the head with one of the two toy guns he held.

He fell to the ground and an officer kicked the gun away from his “lifeless” hand.

Kelly, 17, a senior at Lawrence County High School, participated at the request of his mother, Tamryn Taylor, a dispatcher at the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

His cousin, Angel Haynes, 20, of Monticello, played a victim, who lay at his feet unconscious and bleeding.

Another “victim,” Jackson Phillips, a sophomore at LCHS, said he’d try to save others in a real-life shooting.

He’s prepared for it.

“I don’t put myself in a what-if scenario because you’re not prepared,” he said. “I put myself in a when-it happens. There’s a big difference.”

Monticello Police Chief David Stanley was out of town and couldn’t attend the drill, but sent several of his officers to participate.

The majority of the law enforcement officers at the mock scene were his.

“I consider it to be a complete success,” he said. “If we went ahead and handled the exercise that the sheriff set up at the school while they were handling the real shooting, at this point the whole thing was a success at the school.”

Stanley said he expects Sheriff Lessie Butler and Underwood to plan another drill soon.

“I think it’s good to practice something like this,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll learn our strengths and weaknesses from it and learn from it.”