Local churches participate in active shooter scenario

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CLINTON, Miss. (WJTV) – We have seen more shootings inside churches in the recent years and local police decided that’s the spot where officers needed to train.

“It was a little nervous. It was expected but yet still surreal.”

Chandler Oswalt was inside Morrison Heights during an active shooter drill Tuesday morning.

About 15 different churches were represented at the drill.

As a deacon at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, Oswalt says churches should have a plan.

“I realized that we do need to have certain situations prepared for such as tornadoes, fires, active shooter, whatever the situation may be.  It would never be bad to prepare for any of those,” Chandler Oswalt, a participant in the active shooter drill, said.

The drill involved someone posing as a shooter, going inside the church and firing shots in the foyer and sanctuary.

The Clinton Police Department, the Jackson Police Department and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office all participated in the drill.

Phil Fisher, the mayor of Clinton, says the purpose of this drill is to make sure make sure there are no hiccups in the response plan on paper.

“If you’re in the situation you can just move right into it. First responders know what the guys behind them are going to do, who know what the guys behind them are going to do. It’s important to know when you’re coming in, who’s coming next and about how long it’s going to be before they get there,” Mayor Fisher said.

Over 100 people were inside the church during the active shooter drill.

But, on a normal Sunday morning, this church will welcome between 1, 200 and 1, 500 people.

“You expect to be safe in your place of worship. So this is a soft target. We want them to know what to expect if something were to happen and we need to learn what we can do better if it does happen,” Michael Gill, the Interim Police Chief for the Clinton Police Department, said.

The guns in churches bill moving through the capital, if passed, would allow certain members to be armed during services.

The mayor and deacon support the bill but both say people need to be trained.

“It’s my opinion that the people should be able to protect themselves but I also think that training should be in place for those people,” Oswalt said.

“In the event something were to happen, you need to make sure that they really knew what to do. They can do a lot of harm if they’re not careful. So as long as the bill provides for training and re-training on a regular cycle, I think it would be ok,” Mayor Fisher said.

In the coming weeks, officers in that training will be going around to the churches that were represented and giving them tips on how to set up a plan if they’re in an active shooter situation.

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