In light of recent active shooting incidents in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the NJ ROIC is reinforcing the need for awareness on what to do when an active-shooter incident occurs. For more information, please review the following resources.
EWING — Armed with modified guns loaded with soap bullets, a team of helmeted sheriff’s officers and campus police made their way up a staircase at The College of New Jersey, preparing to encounter a gunman, or at least someone playing one. They secured the stairs to the second floor of Bliss Hall and worked their way down the hallway toward a room where the sound of gunfire blared from a radio. They heard calls for help and pounding on the walls.“He’s shooting us!” a voice yelled from the room.“Hurry up!” another cried out.“Help!”Trailed by a State Police sergeant who was helping run the exercise yesterday morning, the officers approached a room at the end of the hall, checking empty classrooms and moving forward quickly as a team, just as they had been instructed.“We don’t have many advantages, because they know we’re coming,” Sgt. Chris Maskello told the officers.A man ran out from a classroom, screaming. He was unarmed, but in the confusion he was shot several times, red soap splattering on his sweatshirt.
The officers entered the room, finding several people sitting at desks and the killer crouched behind the teacher’s lectern, holding a rifle and clad in body armor. Yellow and red bullets flew across the room, taking down another two unarmed people and the killer.
The “active killer” simulations at TCNJ are being run by the State Police this week to prepare campus and Mercer County sheriff’s officers to respond to shootings in public areas like shopping malls and college campuses, State Police Sgt. Michael Ambrosio said. All officers in New Jersey must undergo such training, he said. It’s the second year the college has hosted the simulations.
New this year were GoPro cameras attached to helmets worn by the lead officer in each simulation and the troopers playing the killers. A college staffer also shot video of the simulations at same time. The footage was reviewed after the morning’s simulations ended.
“Going through this sort of thing prepares you for a circumstance you don’t ever want to deal with, and seeing the video element is great because you can critique the mistakes,” said college spokesman Matthew Golden, who was caught in the crossfire during one simulation as he lay motionless on the ground.
“They shot me when I was already dead,” he said.
Several State Police troopers also played the roles of innocent bystanders and killers armed with guns and body armor. All the participants were required to wear helmets and neck protectors, and encouraged to wear heavy clothing to avoid bruises from the soap bullets.
During the final simulation of the morning, a trooper acting as a bystander started playing a piano in the classroom, complaining loudly of cramped knuckles. As soap bullets flew he ducked out of the way, still playing his tune until the simulation ended.
A few minutes later, the officers watched the camera footage and had their performance reviewed by Maskello.
“We’re not here to bust anybody’s chops. We’re certainly not experts, but any critique is just that,” Maskello said. “You have to be confident in your abilities to get the job done.”
All of TCNJ’s campus police officers will go through the training sessions, Chief John Collins said.
“The idea is that if they have to do it in real life, they can react to it,” Collins said.
Ideally, schools would practice active killer drills with students the same ways they practice fire drills, so that students would know how to protect themselves in such situations, Ambrosio said.
“The guns are already out there. People need to know what to do,” he said.
As each simulation began, officers did not know how many active shooters or bystanders were involved or where in the building the shooting was taking place.
“You have to improvise and overcome because that’s how it is in real life,” Ambrosio said.
Each simulation required the sheriff’s officers and campus police to go from the first floor to the second and down the length of a hallway, verifying the safety of rooms as they went.
“It was very impressive, I think, for two organizations that haven’t worked together before. That’s a great job,” Ambrosio said.
In real-life dangerous situations, the college uses an alert system called Send Word Now to notify the campus community of threats, Golden said. It includes text message alerts, email, voice messages, a hotline and a message on the school’s website, Golden said.
“So we have always try to have a bunch of different systems in case one goes down,” Golden said.
The final day of training will be held at TCNJ today. Collins said he hoped the officers would use the experience as a learning tool.
“At the very least if practice is what you got out of it, you can’t ask for more than that,” Maskello said. “You can’t get enough of it.”
EWING — Dressed in red protective gear, Bill Bastedo looked like a giant Michelin man, or a kung fu warrior.
He was neither. Bastedo, a retired police officer, was playing human punching bag for a group of women at The College of New Jersey. He took plenty of kicks and punches, happily: The students were learning how to protect themselves and take control of dangerous attackers, he said.
“It’s very rewarding for both the students and the instructors,” Bastedo said.
The students at the class last Sunday included college sophomore Jen Sharo, who said the prospect that she could be assaulted some day had driven her to join the the college’s rape aggression defense program.
“I wanted to know that I’ll be able to defend myself if I had to,” she said, after fighting off Bastedo during class. “I feel so much better today. He’s a big guy… It makes me feel like I can actually do it.”
One by one, the students put on protective pads and took turns facing Bastedo in three scenarios. Each time, the students used their newfound skills to escape Bastedo to cheers from their fellow classmates.
“You panic for a second,” TCNJ senior Danielle Cassidy said. “But then you remember all your training and that just because he’s bigger then me doesn’t mean he’s bigger than my spirit. That’s what I kept telling myself.”
The course has been offered at The College of New Jersey since 2009 but has been generating a buzz lately thanks to changes such as a new instructor, a new class time and some word-of-mouth marketing. TCNJ campus police officer Jim Lopez, who started teaching the 12-hour course in October, said he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the program when the position became available.
“One of the things I like to do is I like to help, I like to teach,” he said. “I see that this is something I can do on my part to help students evolve and become better people.”
The program, a basic self-defense course for women, takes place over four 3-hour Sunday classes. It is open to anyone but students get priority, Lopez said.
The class begins with Lopez showing students basic skills and then helps them improve, aiming to teach them something they never learned before, he said.
Lopez was minimally involved in the program for years, he said. When he became the teacher, he jumped in by telling everyone he saw about the course, he said.
“Part of my job as campus police officer is I constantly walk the halls like a school resource officer,” he said. “So I always bring up the course.”
Lopez has been averaging 10 students per class, he said, and was recently asked by a sorority to run a one-day class for its members.
“By word of mouth, students are starting to learn about this program more,” he said “Now they’re more interested.”
Lopez, who on Sunday was teaching the last session of the most recent class, said he sees his students gain “a lot of self-confidence” during the course.
“The students themselves tell me, when they first start this class, that they’re a little bit nervous,” he said. “They’re a little bit nervous about today’s last and final exercise. But come the final exercise, they realize that they have it in themselves to do it.”
The final class is designed to be as close to the real experience of an assault as possible, Lopez said. Students suited up with pads on Sunday and went through a series of real-life scenarios to test their new skills.
To make the experience all the more realistic, Lopez brought in Bastedo, who the students had never seen before, to play the role of assailant.
Bastedo, a recently retired West Windsor police officer, said he earned his rape aggression defense or RAD certification through his current employer, Princeton HealthCare System, which runs some programs at Princeton University.
“The hospital has me go over to the university to run simulations or teach,” he said.
“They’re trying to team up with The College of New Jersey and help out with RAD also.”
Bastedo said he puts on the “red man suit” and plays the aggressor occasionally to help students use their skills and prepare for a potential future attack.
TCNJ’s campus is relatively safe, but students may encounter a situation elsewhere where they need their new skills, at home home or while traveling in unfamiliar places, Lopez said. “It’s good to be safe wherever you are,” he said.
He said he hopes to expand the program beyond the entry-level course offered at the college, bringing in other officers and starting courses for children and senior citizens.
Lopez’s students praised his dedication to the course and the confidence he helped them develop in handling tough situations. Sophomore Vicki Yang said past experiences have shown her the importance of knowing how to defend yourself.
“I got mugged before,” she said. “Now I feel much more protected. Now I’m ready to go.”
A 19-year old female student reports that she called the Wasabi Wok restaurant requesting a job interview and was sexually assaulted shortly before 6 pm at an off-campus location after being picked up by an unidentified Asian male who she believed would be driving her to the interview. The man was driving a small white vehicle. Campus Police are aware of a white Nissan that has distributed Wasabi Wok advertising on campus in the past. If you see this vehicle, please contact the Office of Campus Police Services at 771-2345.
A notice was issued this morning informing the campus community of a reported sexual assault. This message contains additional information that has since become available.
REPORTED OFFENSE: A sexual assault was reported to have occurred on the TCNJ campus near Forcina Hall at approximately 12:50 am, on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.
SUSPECT: The suspect was described as a black male, approximately 5’6” in height, with a husky or muscular build. He was described as wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and dark clothing and having a deep voice and a stutter.
The complainant reported that she was walking, unaccompanied, when the suspect approached her with a knife. Following the assault he fled in the direction of the lake.
This matter remains under investigation by TCNJ Campus Police in conjunction with the Mercer County Prosecutors Office, Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit.
If any anyone has any information that would be helpful to this investigation, they should report it to TCNJ Campus Police by calling 609-771-2345. Please report any suspicious behavior to TCNJ Campus Police or in the case of an emergency, 911.
We ask that all members of the campus community be vigilant and we remind students when traveling at night to travel in groups and stay in well-lit areas. Campus Police provides escorts for members of the campus community who have concerns for their personal safety.
The person pictured below was arrested in connection with an attempted abduction in Lawrence Township earlier this week. He is currently free on bail. According to Lawrence Police, he has been known to frequent college campuses. He was observed at The College of New Jersey on April 1, 2011 and was ejected and barred from campus by TCNJ Campus Police Services.
He is described as: White male, 68 years old
Height: 5’ – 11”
Weight: 160 pounds If you see this individual on campus, do not confront him.
Please call Campus Police Services at: 911 or 609-771-2345