Sgt. Jesus M. Villahermosa, Jr interviewed by Eric Holdeman
Sgt. Jesus M. Villahermosa Jr. has been a deputy sheriff with the Pierce County, Wash., Sheriff’s Department since 1981. Villahermosa served 15 months as the director of campus safety at Pacific Lutheran University in a contract partnership where he worked on all security aspects related to staff and student safety. He has been on the Pierce County Sheriff’s SWAT Team since 1983, and he currently serves as the point man on the entry team. In 1986, Villahermosa began his own consulting business, Crisis Reality Training. He has primarily focused on the issues of school and workplace violence. In a recent interview with Eric Holdeman, he gave tips on how schools can be better prepared for an active shooter emergency. Reproduced with Permission
I truly believe that there is more school violence today than ever in the history of our country, especially in the area of school shootings. I believe that school violence is more publicized, but that is because it is so much more extreme than what we have ever seen. The first message that I try to get most schools to understand is that violence can happen at any school in the country. The next and most important message is that we have to have solid relationships with our students. In the 25-year study conducted by the Secret Service, 81 percent of school shooters told a friend that they were going to do the shooting, but no one came forward to warn the school staff or students. When the foundation of a school is built on trust and respect, I believe that students will come forward to report these incidents before they occur. One statistic that you won’t find anywhere else, as I discovered while writing my book, is that whenever a school shooting plot gets foiled, it is because it was brought to the attention of the school or law enforcement, no potential shooter has ever come back to commit a school shooting. That is a 100 percent intervention rate.
I teach the acronym LEAST (Lockdown, Evacuation and Survival Tactics). The two most used tactics that have demonstrated the best results are lockdown and evacuation. People need to remember that when a shooter has started a shooting spree, only those near the shooter are at immediate risk. That means in most cases, more than 90 percent of staff and students, depending on the school’s size, are not at immediate risk and lockdown is a great option. Again, this is depending on the location of the shooter and how many staff and students are present when the shooting begins. For those in lockdown, the first consideration is to make sure the door locks. If not, barricading or running, a.k.a. evacuating, are great options. Additional options include hiding, crawling, the power of your voice and, last but not least, fighting. All of these tactics have helped students and staff across this great country to survive these tragic shooting events, but they are not going to use them if we don’t talk to them about it realistically.
Teachers armed? Absolutely not and there are many reasons for this. To think you are going to put a gun in the hands of teachers, whether they practice at the range or not, and to believe that simply by doing that that will transform them and make them run toward a shooter when everyone else is running away from him is naïve at best. If I respond to an active killer event and I turn the corner while I am aggressively looking for the shooter and run into a teacher with a gun, I am very likely to shoot them immediately as I have no idea if they are friend or foe. If I don’t shoot them and they are a teacher, the fact that I have to take time to challenge them because they are armed and disarm them while I am trying to pursue an active killer will allow the killer to take more lives. If they are the bad guy but tell me they are the good guy, it might provide the suspect a chance to shoot officers before they can react, even if it’s a suicide by cop situation. As far as armed security, I would say yes. We need more, and the public should have the trained professionals in the schools whose only job is to protect their kids.
Teachers should teach, and cops should protect.