ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – Fox 2 got an inside look at how the FBI trains for active shooter situations.
The weapons were real but loaded with "blanks" and modified with lasers to sync up with a video screen.
It seemed like a game at first shooting watermelons on the video screen for target practice.
It went from “game” to “life and death” in a flash.
People going through the FBI’s Citizens Academy played the role of FBI agent, joining police seeking an active shooter and the scenario played out on a video screen and participants had to decide if and when to shoot and use deadly force.
They felt the rush and the fear.
“That’s part of that physiological response, when you lose your auditory exclusion, you don’t hear as well, you start getting tunnel vision, you lose your fine motor skill, and now they’re telling you to deal with a threat,” said FBI Principal Weapons & Tactics Instructor, William Edge. “We want to see him identify the threat engage a threat … and eliminate that threat.”
As part of the Citizens Academy program about 20 people went through the FBI’s Judgmental Shooting Room simulator; the same place every agent in St. Louis trains.
Those people included a computer scientist from Washington U. and a corporate attorney.
They both experience the emotionally draining rush of deciding when to use deadly force.
“It does get your adrenaline pumping. It’s something. So yeah, it’s like you just got done running a mile or two,” said attorney, Larry Christopher.
“I didn’t see the (suspect’s) gun in that simulator,” said the computer scientist, Abby Stylianou.
She still shot the suspect.
“It’s incredible what goes into that split second decision making, i can’t imagine having to make that choice,” she said.
Especially when even the right choice meant a tragic result, like shooting a teenager while serving a warrant for his father, an armed hi-jacking suspect.
It turned out the teen’s gun was a toy in the video scenario. But the teen ignored repeated commands to drop the gun and put his hands in the air.
“Monday morning quarterback or taking your time to sit back and analyze that is not the objective here…we don’t have to wait for him or her to raise a weapon to confront us. If that individual is perceived simply as a threat, putting you in imminent danger, yourself, or agents and officers and victims around you, the threat is eliminated,” Edge said.
The FBI "deadly force" policy is relatively simple: deadly force is justified if an agent feels an imminent threat of death or serious injury to the agent or anyone else.
The Citizens Academy is open to the public but not open for public "sign-ups".
You have to be nominated by an FBI worker or a past academy graduate.