SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Two hostages stand haplessly at the classroom entrance and another lies seriously wounded beside a wall outside. "Don't come down here, I'm telling you — I'll kill 'em," a man inside the classroom shouts to officers snaking down the corridor with guns drawn. Negotiations fizzle, the officers yell to the hostages to get down, and the gunman is taken out in a swift gunfight.
The drill is part of a training program the FBI is helping run for local law enforcement agents nationwide. Acting on a White House directive after last December's Connecticut school massacre, and partnering with a Texas-based training center, the FBI has been teaching best practices for responding to mass shootings.
The goal is to promote a standardized strategy as local police departments — invariably the first officers to arrive — respond to such shootings. Besides the tactical drills, conferences run by FBI field offices are intended to prepare local agencies for the challenges of an active shooter emergency and to let them know federal help, including extra manpower to interview witnesses and collect evidence, is available to them.
"It's not capability — it's capacity," said Katherine Schweit, an FBI official involved in organizing the training program. "Every police department, sheriff's department has the ability to do interviews and to do evidence collection ... But we can bring capacity. We can bring 100 agents to a scene in a day and do hundreds of interviews, and have done that time and time again."
Localized training programs have proliferated in recent years amid high-profile mass shootings in places such as Tucson, Ariz., where then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was wounded by a lone gunman in 2011 while meeting with constituents, and in Aurora, Colo., where a man killed 12 in a movie theater.