Wake deputies train for active shooter at county's largest building

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ByJoel Brown via WTVD logo
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
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This is only a drill.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- July marks six years since the Wake County Justice Center opened for county business. And in those six years there's never been active-shooter training here for the deputies that protect this place -- until this week.

"They're very familiar with this building and an active-shooter incident can happen in this building at any given time," said Capt. Boris Neal of the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

Though the weapons drawn weren't real, the deputies moving in tactical formation down the main hall of the justice center know the real danger could happen any day. Unfortunately, it's not whether they'll have to confront an active shooter -- but when.

"We went from having an active-shooter incident once in a while to sounds like we're having one across the world every week at least," Neal said. "So, with that, the sheriff has stepped up our training."

Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker was in the building Tuesday night overseeing his directive to beef up the training and drills for an active shooter.

The Wake Justice Center is similar to the municipal building in Virginia Beach, Virginia where a disgruntled employee with a gun shot and killed 12 people in May and injured four others. WCSO said that is not why it is training this week. But it does add to the urgency.

"We're always looking at those things that occur and evaluating and trying to make our system better," said Tim Mullally with the Wake General Services Administration.

Experience shows that the sooner officers arrive on scene, the sooner the incident is over.

"When an active shooter takes place, you're moving to the gunfire. You're moving to where the shooter is," explained Lt. Mike Norton, who oversees deputy operations at the justice center.

With 50 deputies working the justice center on any given day, they are the first responders if a gunman gets inside this sprawling high-rise comprising 577,000 square feet. It's the largest building in the county's inventory.

"The building is so big and there's so much foot traffic in and out on a day to day basis," Norton said. "The amount of people in the building can present a problem, but we do the best we can to handle it. And you can never be too prepared. That's why we're running this training."

The training began Monday night. It wraps up Wednesday night with the deputies that work the justice center.

Baker said he's looking to expand the training with school resource officers as well. WCSO says the ultimate goal is more active-shooter training for every deputy in the county.