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Arvada Officer Trains Nation’s Police How To Approach Mass Shootings

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CBS4's Jennifer Brice talks with Sgt. AJ DeAndrea (credit: CBS)

CBS4′s Jennifer Brice talks with Sgt. AJ DeAndrea (credit: CBS)

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ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – The school shooting in Connecticut brings back painful memories of the tragedy at Columbine High School.

After Columbine police changed the way they react to mass shootings like the Aurora theater massacre and the mall shooting in Portland. CBS4′s Jennifer Brice talked to a police sergeant who actually trained the police in Connecticut.

Not many police officers have responded to a school shooting in their career, but Sgt. A.J. DeAndrea with Arvada police has responded to two school shootings and a mass church shooting. He’s also one of the police officers who travels across the country training other police agencies on a tactical approach learned from the Columbine shooting and used Friday in Connecticut.

When the police first arrived at the Sandy Hook school their standing orders were without hesitation to go straight inside and confront the gunman.

“Newtown police immediately entered school and began a complete active shooter search of the building,” Lt. Paul Vance with the Connecticut State Police said.

The phrase “active shooter” is a tactic now employed by almost every police agency in America, and it means don’t wait. DeAndrea helped create it and trains officers nationwide how to do it.

“The officers go directly inside the building to stop the threat, no hesitation,” DeAndrea said.

The active “shooter tactic” is a reaction to the Columbine massacre 13 years ago when dozens of officers waited 46 minutes outside as the shooting continued and at least one victim bled to death.

DeAndrea was one of the first officers inside columbine.

“Great tactical minds across the country got together and decided, ‘Hey, we need to look at how we do this and handle these situations differently,’ ” DeAndrea said. “And so much more aggressive tactics.”

DeAndrea also helped rescue the hostages from the Platte Canyon High School shooting in 2006 where Emily Keyes was killed. He still wears a memorial band.

In 2007 the sergeant then responded to the Youth with a Mission shootings in Arvada that injured four people and killing two.

He also lead a team in the bulldozer incident in Granby.

The 18-year police veteran says over the years tactical response in active shooter situations has changed because the world we live in has changed.

“If you would have told me back in 1993 when I got hired that these are the things we would be experiencing I would have thought you were crazy,” he said. “Unfortunately they so common that smaller ones are happening across the country and we don’t even hear about them.”

After Columbine police operations were transformed. By 2007 Virginia Tech police were trained to go straight toward the gunfire. Just recently police used the same no wait procedure at the mall shooting in Oregon. DeAndrea trained both Oregon and Connecticut officers.

“The patrolmen are trained to go right inside. They don’t hesitate, they don’t wait. They go inside the building, move to the threat.”

Under the rules, when the shooter has been stopped, then the rescue begins.

Some of Sandy Hook’s surviving children were led away in an organized line — each one grasping the shoulders of the child in front — their faces revealing both relief and fear.

Active shooter tactics are now so ingrained they’re standard police training, but most police train to expect the situation in a mall or maybe a high school. They do not expect to respond to a grade school.

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