'Seconds mean lives': Salt Lake FBI office hosts active shooter simulation

Wednesday , June 20, 2018 - 5:00 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Several pops can be heard in the hallway. A man walks into a room with a gun. 

Several shots are fired. He says, “everyone dies, everyone dies.”

While unfortunately this is a common occurrence in the United States, thankfully it was only a drill Monday. The weapon, a modified handgun, shot bits of paint instead of real bullets. 

Local FBI agents held an active shooter training drill for members of the media at their field office in Salt Lake City. The training simulation displayed just how quickly shooting situations can transpire. 

Jim Olson, the principle firearms instructor for the Salt Lake City FBI branch, played the role of a shooter. After entering a classroom, it took Olson a matter of seconds to squeeze off roughly 10 rounds. 

Story continues below the video.

Olson explained that many shooters carry out these acts as a sort of grudge, whether it’s real or imaginary. 

The simulation illustrated how vital it is to react in the few available seconds. 

Olson summed up the training by sharing that people should “Run, Hide, Fight” if they find themselves in an active shooter situation.

If possible, run and get away from the shooter, Olson said. If you can’t, hide and prepare to fight. If necessary, people must be ready to literally fight for their lives. 

“If it comes down to a fight, you are fighting for your life,” said Eric Barnhart, the Special Agent in Charge for the FBI Salt Lake City field office. 

“You fight until they are no longer capable,” Olson added. 

RELATED: Ogden Police, pastors host active shooter training for local churches

The simulation comes on the heels of a handful of school shootings so far this year, including a May shooting that killed 10 people in a Santa Fe, Texas, high school and another shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

Before the simulation, Barnhart held a discussion with the media and outlined the difficulties that surround these types of situations. He said although it’s been a while since Utah has seen a mass shooting situation, the state isn’t exempt from having similar threats. 

Barnhart said that law enforcement officials in every state receive calls and tips about people who are believed to be on the verge of committing a mass shooting. The FBI’s Public Access Line receives upwards of 2,100 calls a day, Barnhart said. 

That same tip line came under scrutiny after the Parkland shooting after the FBI acknowledged that it received a tip a month before the shooting from someone who knew the shooter. In a press release, the bureau said the information “should have been assessed as a potential threat to life,” and the tip “should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken.” 

Barnhart acknowledged the information should have been sent to the nearby FBI office and said the bureau is “responsible for that.” 

Barnhart said that law enforcement is constantly re-examining how to handle situations to reduce the number of lives lost in these types of shootings. 

One recent change in policy is teaching law enforcement officers to get on scene quickly and mitigate any threat instead of waiting for backup or putting on bulletproof vests or armor. 

“We know that seconds mean lives,” he said. 

However, Barnhart added that policy means roughly 50 percent of officers who enter these situations are either shot or killed.

After the simulation, Olson said that however difficult that statistic may be to swallow, it’s the duty of police to put themselves at risk if it means saving lives. 

“It’s a noble calling,” he said. 

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at jscholl@standard.net or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.