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Special Enforcement Team Trains for Active Shooter at Dos Pueblos High School

Sheriff's personnel hold a drill on campus to prepare for emergency situations

The sound of several gunshots echoed through Dos Pueblos High School's campus on Wednesday afternoon, and seconds later, several sheriff's teams with automatic weapons and olive green bulletproof vests swept through the school's corridors in search of a suspect.

Peering through their scopes and moving as one unit with eyes in all directions, groups of a half-dozen team members quickly moved from one classroom to the next, spotting a subject with a gun in front of the school's library before the red lights of their laser-based weapons fired on the man.

"Subject down!" one of the team members yelled as the man fell to the ground, signaling the end of the drill for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Special Enforcement Team.

The SET serves as the SWAT team for the county and responds to hostage situations and other rapidly developing situations where public safety is threatened.

Though only blanks fired to simulate an active shooter on the school's campus, the shots reverberated through the mostly deserted campus in an unsettling way, made particularly eerie since the mass shooting in Isla Vista occurred just two months ago and only several miles away from the high school, claiming the lives of seven people, including that of the shooter.

Dos Pueblos High School staff requested that the SET team do a training there while school was out, and Principal Shawn Carey was on hand Wednesday afternoon to watch the drills.

"As a principal, I have to think of it as a matter of when and not if (a shooting occurs)," she said.

Carey has been principal at the school since 2010, but has worked at the school since 1998, and said the school has been on lockdown twice during that time, once when a shooting occurred across the street from the school's campus and another time that turned out to be a false alarm.

As a school administrator, Carey is keenly aware of the increase in school shootings across the country.

"You have to be prepared," she said.

About 2,200 students are enrolled at the high school for this fall, and Carey said it puts her at ease knowing that law enforcement officers will know the layout of the school and be prepared to respond quickly if needed. 

"It's eerie and comforting at the same time," she said, watching the drills unfold.

The SET team, which responded to the Isla Vista shootings, trains twice a month and has 23 members who are on call for a hostage situation, active shooter or other rapidly-developing incident.

Sgt. Mike Perkins, who has been a team member for 20 years, said the situations the team responds to are incredibly chaotic, so keeping the members sharp with frequent training is key.

Wednesday's drill was the first SET team training on a high school campus since the team trained at Santa Barbara High School about seven years ago, and Santa Barbara Unified School District's Barbara Keyani said the district will be talking about whether to have more frequent drills in the future.

"There's a lot of value to this type of training," she said, adding that the district's first priority is student safety.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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