A SWAT team enters the high school building after getting a location on where they think the shooter is, during one scenario of an active shooter drill that took place at Tunkhannock Area High School last Friday. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Brandishing a semi-automatic rifle, a man entered the hallway at Tunkhannock Area High School Friday afternoon and took out a teacher.
And then three students.
And then unloaded about a dozen rounds of ammunition before meeting his demise.
Fortunately, the crisis was just part of an active shooter drill for faculty and staff from the Tunkhannock Area School District.
And although teacher Kevin Hilsey was one of the first teachers to go down, he actually got back up.
Hilsey said later, “I realized how very different you act when you’re just watching out for yourself and then for others.”
Wyoming County Chief Detective David Ide played one of the shooters in each of five scenarios, sometimes with an AR15 rifle and at others with a 9 mm pistol.
Used to going after bad guys, Ide said, “The perspective was actually scary because I could see at point blank range the mayhem someone like me could create at a moment’s notice and then in a matter of minutes it’s over.”
During it all, there were no literal students in the building as it was an in-service day for teachers, but the situations were real enough, teacher Jan Cechak said.
In the second scenario, the shooter entering the building pulled a fire alarm, allegedly hoping to take out students en mass, but principal Greg Ellsworth came on the intercom warning everyone to stay in their rooms as there was no fire, but a shooter was somewhere in the building.
Ellsworth debriefed his teachers after the training exercises and thought the afternoon was a great experience, even if a bit intense.
He and assistant principal Todd Bosscher noted a number of adjustments and possibly some standard operating procedures that might need to be addressed.
“It brought out a lot of concerns, and got the conversation going about what if,” Ellsworth said.
“Let’s hope it never happens.”
Detective Ide said about 50 law enforcement personnel from four counties participated including the Lackawanna County SWAT team.