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Complex active shooter drill performed in St. Clairsville schools

Luke Porter, from left, Andrew Vera and Grant Swiger, juniors at St. Clairsville High School, speak to teachers and first responders following an active shooter drill Wednesday.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — St. Clairsville high and middle schools were the site of an intensive safety drill Wednesday, when people playing the role of active shooters launched an “attack” on the buildings.

At the sound of the first shots around 9 a.m., some students evacuated while others were barricaded in their classrooms by teachers.

One shooter was on the roof of a building, and law enforcement could be seen pursuing this individual on the rooftop while other police officers hunted for other threats inside the buildings themselves.

“There was a shooter outside as well as inside. … We had two shooters. One shooter was on the roof and one shooter was in the building. They barricaded themselves in a classroom,” Superintendent Walt Skaggs said.

He said deputies from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, St. Clairsville and Richland Township police were on scene quickly.

“First they eliminated the threats, and they’re now clearing the building,” Skaggs said around 9:30 a.m. “EMS is on site to treat any victims.”

Skaggs said about a dozen people in the school were designated wounded or killed in the staged attack.

He said the shooters were neutralized in about 15 minutes.

“We tried to come up with the best scenarios so that our response team and local law enforcement are able to get a good training as well, and hopefully this will benefit them. Hopefully they’ll never have to use it,” Skaggs said. “It’s something we feel we have to do to be prepared if something should happen.”

Skaggs said the school district holds active shooter drills once a month and one yearly drill involving the county agencies.

“Our students and staff go through these drills every month. I feel that we’re pretty well prepared. Obviously every situation is different,” he said.

“One of the intruders took me hostage in my classroom,” Lauren Florence, middle school science teacher, said. “The SWAT team had to come in and clear the room. The intruder used me as a shield, but the SWAT team came in, cleared the room and ‘shot’ the intruder. … He was hiding and he popped up. They cleared me out and went after him.

“I thought it was very realistic. The kids, our students, did an excellent job,” she said. “Some were dead on arrival. Some were walking wounded and some had to yell for EMS. The kids listened to the teacher really well. … The child actors did a fantastic job.

“From the time I heard shots to the time the actual intruder came into my room was probably less than a minute,” she said, adding that designated participants were given scenarios and roles the day before.

“As a teacher, you always wonder: do you flee or do you barricade? I always worry I’m going to make the wrong decision, however it’s a split-second decision and you just have to go with it,” Florence said.

“We were all sitting in the halls screaming, then we heard the gunshots,” Grant Swiger, a junior, said. “My teacher pulled me (and two other students) into the classroom. We were there for about 25 minutes and the sheriff’s department told us we were safe. They put us in a stretcher and took us down here. … We saw the shooter. He was going through the halls shooting his gun. … I would say everyone reacted very well.”

Chief Deputy James Zusack with the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office said the Special Operations Battalion participated, but the St. Clairsville police had overall jurisdiction. Police Chief Matt Arbenz was not available to answer questions the rest of the day.

This follows an active shooter drill in the Union Local School District last week.

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