If it happened here: Officials consider Newtown scenario in Janesville

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

JANESVILLE—Police Chief Dave Moore expects a slaughter here, something like the shootings at Newtown, Conn., or the Sikh temple in Oak Creek.

The Janesville chief doesn't expect it because Janesville is more likely to experience an attack than any other town, but because it's his job to expect it, he said.

Police have drilled extensively in how to handle what they call “an active shooter,” and Moore expects the new radios in all the public school buildings would cut 60 seconds from police response time.

But Tuesday was the first time local authorities trained to handle the aftermath of an unthinkable tragedy, Moore said. 

The training was a tabletop exercise at Rotary Gardens, presented by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to officials from law enforcement, schools and city of Janesville departments such as fire, transit and public works.

Participants also included the Rock County district attorney, coroner's office and sheriff's office; the town of Beloit police; both Janesville hospitals; the state Department of Natural Resources and Department of Criminal Investigations; and the national Department of Homeland Security.

G.B. Jones, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Milwaukee office, said the event has been happening across the country since August, as part of a White House initiative.

“Newtown was the last straw” nationally, but Wisconsin was ahead of the game because of previous shootings here, such as the Brookfield spa and Oak Creek temple shootings earlier in 2012, Jones said.

“This issue faces small and midsized communities all over the nation, and the problem is we don't know where it's going to happen next,” Jones said in an interview after the exercise.

The exercise scenario was a shooting at a fictional elementary school. The idea was to consider how to organize to investigate the incident while taking care of a grieving community.

The shooter's target could have been a house of worship, a government or community building or a business, Jones said.

Every workplace should have a plan for what to do if it happens there, Jones added.

Memorial services would be planned in the days after. Dignitaries and news media that Janesville had not seen before would visit.

“And then we have the healing of a whole lot of people,” Moore said.

For instance, school counselors might need counseling because they, too, are victims, Jones said.

The outpouring of sympathy from across the country could be difficult to handle as well. Truckloads of toys arrived in Newtown in the aftermath of that tragedy in December 2012.

Police, meanwhile, would have to set up perimeters around multiple crime scenes: the school, the shooter's car, and the shooter's home, Moore said.

Tuesday's training will encourage the interdependent agencies to train with each other in the future and to know what to expect, Moore said.

As a result, Moore expects a more effective response—if a shooting happens here.

“We expect one,” Moore said. “And I'll be very happy if we don't have one.”


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