Calif. Agencies Train for Airport Shooting
Apr. 2—Shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, an armed man walked into the lobby at Stockton Metropolitan Airport and began firing, wounding or killing multiple staff and customers.
He then walked into the airport departure terminal and took hostages while wounding or killing several more people.
San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office deputies responded within minutes, storming through the airport to detain the shooter and tend to his victims.
Paramedics with the Montezuma Fire Department set up a triage outside the airport doors to render medical aid to victims who were escorted outside by deputies.
The incident ended about 9:40 a.m. with the shooter in custody, the hostages unharmed and safe, and several staff and citizens either dead or wounded.
Fortunately, what transpired was a training exercise aimed at preparing first responders and airport personnel for emergencies such as an active shooter.
Stockton Metropolitan Airport is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to exercise its operational emergency readiness every 36 months.
Airport director Russ Stark said the agencies involved in the exercise can create any exercise they wish, and, typically, the scenarios involve accidents such as crashes or hazardous spills.
While participating in an active shooter scenario is timely, Stark said the planning team created the exercise weeks before the school shootings in Florida and Maryland, and executing the training Monday was an unfortunate coincidence.
"Today is all about live and learn," Stark said. "We're going to do the exercise and then talk about what went down and how we can improve afterward, and make sure the response and results are what we expected."
Other agencies participating in Monday's exercise included the Transportation Security Administration, French Camp McKinley Fire District, Ripon Fire Department, American Medical Response, and the county's Office of Emergency Systems.
The objective of Monday's exercise is to test the effectiveness of coordination between the agencies involved, as well as evaluate the decision-making and protocols of each agency.
Lt. Jared Pettitt was one of the Sheriff's Office personnel overseeing how deputies responded to the scenario and collaborated with other first responders, and said the exercise was successful.
"It's very beneficial working with local fire protection districts and medics," he said. "We did very well today. There's always room for improvement, but that's why we train."
Deputy Alicia Cardenas is the Sheriff's Resource Deputy for the Lodi Unified School District and was one of the first officers to rush into the airport during the exercise.
Cardenas and other deputies cautiously entered the airport lobby, securing the scene and tending to the wounded as they waited for paramedics to arrive. She was in constant contact with dispatch, medics and members of the other agencies responding to the incident.
While schools in the county have not experienced an active shooter incident in years, Cardenas said Monday's exercise helped her prepare mentally for a situation that potentially could happen in the county again.
"I know at one point, when the 'suspect' was detained, my next job was to help provide security for the victims and airport staff," she said. "I thought this was an absolute success."