ELKHART — Indiana State Police have credited Elkhart police officers’ quick action and good training with saving lives when responding to an active shooter situation Wednesday night at Martin’s Super Market on East Bristol Street.
State police Sgt. Trent Smith said the officers’ training played “a huge role” in limiting the number of casualties when Shawn Bair opened fire in the grocery store around 10 p.m. Wednesday evening.
“There is no doubt in my mind, through watching the (store surveillance) video, that Elkhart City (Police Department has been well-trained,” he said.
“Those officers are professionals,” Smith said in a press conference on Thursday morning, Jan. 16. “They went in a professional pattern, they strategically cleared that store in a matter of seconds, they found the suspect and they ended the attack. They then went out and cleared the rest of the store and looked at the victims and tried to locate everybody.”
The entire process, “from the time they entered the store to the time the shooter was subdued (took) probably a minute or less,” he said.
Smith said the identities of the officers involved will be released Friday at the earliest.
Since the late 1990s, more and more police departments around the county have been training their patrol officers to handle active shooter scenarios, Elkhart Police Sgt. Brian Moore said during a lecture on police firearms and training during the Elkhart Police Citizen Academy on Aug. 13, 2013.
“An active shooter is now a patrol (officer) response, not a S.W.A.T. response,” Moore said.
Prior to highly-publicized active shooter incidents in the 1990s like the Columbine High School shooting, patrol officers responding to the scene would form a perimeter and wait for S.W.A.T. officers to arrive, Moore said.
“We don’t wait and take the time to wait for other people and backup,” Smith said. “Our goal is to get in there and stop whatever that aggressive act or whatever that person is doing absolutely as fast as possible.”
Departments have also had a renewed focus on training and preparedness with more recent mass shootings.
“There has been a real push for active shooter training since (the) Sandy Hook (Elementary shooting),” Moore said.
In addition to training, officers carry weapons designed for these situations.
All patrol officers carry a .40-caliber Sig Saur handgun, which is “more of a defensive weapon,” Moore said.
They are ideal for short-range, close-combat situations, but “if you’re on a gun call, you don’t want it,” Moore said.
For situations like Wednesday’s shooting, all Elkhart Police officers are now equipped with an AR-15 rifles in their patrol cars.
“(The rifle) gives officers the ability to engage an active shooter,” Moore said.
These weapons are more accurate than the shotguns police departments had used since the 1950s and 1960s and can hold 20 to 30 rounds of ammunition, he said.
According to the Indiana State Police, Bair was armed with a handgun and long hunting knife.