Employees of Ohio courthouse practice for active shooter


MARIETTA, Ohio (AP) — Bang.

Bang, bang, bang, bang.

Bailiff Don Wilson runs toward the courtroom doors.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

The judge runs into his chambers, meeting his administrative secretary and locking the doors.

“Where’s Don?” Chris Painter asks.

“He ran out, we have to lock down,” Judge Mark Kerenyi answers.

Bang, bang.

The shots seem farther away.

“Are we sure the doors are locked?” Kerenyi asks.

The door handle to the office jiggles.

“That’s my door,” whispered Painter.

Bang, bang, bang.

“All clear,” Wilson says, after more tense moments where those hiding tried to find makeshift weapons to use and hearts raced.

Those whispered conversations and sprints to safety took place throughout the building as the employees of the Washington County Courthouse participated in an active shooter training drill earlier this month following the close of business.

“This is a typical day, you are moving through your offices going about daily business,” Chief Deputy Mark Warden, of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, explained to the group of 65 gathered before the drill.

“Remember A.L.I.C.E. is a buffet, you don’t have to follow any order.”

A.L.I.C.E., or Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, is a training mechanism used in businesses, schools and government buildings to prepare for the worst case scenario-an attack.

“This training is not set to scare you, it’s set to move you in a stressful situation,” Warden said. “This tests you, this tests the facility for our own readiness, but this training is not only for here, it follows you wherever you may go. the movies, the mall, anywhere.”

Employees of the Clerk of Courts office said they could have sworn the first shots were outside their third-floor office, but the first shots were actually fired on the ground floor.

“We had to go, we had to run,” said Jessica White, describing how she waddled/ran, pregnant, to the fourth floor.

The percussion of the blanks shot from the first floor reverberated so hard, two lights on the third floor were knocked out.

“Sound is not your friend in this building,” said Warden. “But now you know what a shot sounds like in here.”

One employee was in the bathroom when the shots rang out and she immediately turned off the lights and used the trash can to barricade the door. Meanwhile, County Treasurer Dorothy Peppel grabbed a cake knife from the office kitchen to defend herself.

“Don’t mess with Peppel,” she said, as she laughed after the debriefing.

Randy Williams, a custodian in the building, said he was cleaning on the third floor when he heard the first shots. He ran into Magistrate Shoshanna Brooker’s office.

“I heard the shots downstairs, so ran in and we blocked the door,” he said.

Others, like Chris Wilson and the rest of the Southeastern Ohio Building Department, used their first-floor windows to escape.

“But the ladies realized that window was hard to lift,” said Wilson.

Ultimately, the training was not only a chance for staff members who work in offices of the courthouse to practice visualization, it also was a chance for the officers to practice communication in that scenario.

Deputy Hannah Tornes and Bailiff Renee Marshall each were able to apprehend the shooter, played by Belpre Police Officer Ted Offenberger.

Warden explained that, while a courthouse is not a “soft target,” given the nature of business and cases that pass through its walls, visualization and having a plan is the best form of preparation for all.

“What would happen if you have regular citizens around you?” he asked the group. “How do you become leaders and get them to safety? Typically in a courthouse setting the attack is target-specific. Just remember that just because it’s target-specific doesn’t mean it won’t spill out.”

The group also was reminded that a change of tactics can occur if a shooter moves to another part of the building.

“Assess the situation as it progresses and use your best judgment,” said Warden. “Stay on your feet and ready to react.”