DENVER -- The harsh reality is there have been several deadly mass shooting situations over the years. But at least one thing is unchanged: Officers respond and do their best to save as many lives as possible.
But to respond to an active shooter scene takes constant training. That’s at least the thinking of a local retired SWAT sergeant who knows firsthand what it's like to risk one’s life to stop an active shooter.
“That was one of the toughest things I remember about Columbine, was coming out and running into those victims' families,” Grant Whitus said.
He said he will never forget the look on those parents' faces or forget the tragedy that unfolded inside Columbine High School in 1999 where 12 students and one teacher were killed by two students, who then shot and killed themselves.
Whitus now spends his days training fellow law enforcement officers on how to react to the unthinkable.
“Everybody feels that fear and you just have to push through it and still do your job. I think every time an officer puts his badge on in the morning, that's his promise to the community that he will respond and do everything he can to stop that shooter,” Whitus said.
For 26 years he wore that badge. He had s lived through the evolution of how agencies respond to mass shootings. Sixteen years ago, officers were trained to wait for SWAT as was the case in Columbine.
“Surround the school and wait for SWAT to arrive. Unfortunately, our response was an hour out then,” Whitus said.
That strategy quickly changed. Within months, Whitus and his department adopted a new tactic.
“When we first started training, it was a four-man response but to get four guys on scene, four of your first responders can take minutes.”
Minutes, Whitus said, officers can't afford to waste.
Whitus now trains officers to assume once a shooting starts, on average a person will die every 15 seconds. The goal of even the first officer on scene is to take down the shooter and save as many lives as possible.
On days when he sees yet another tragic shooting take place, he stands by his belief an officer can never train too much. In fact, Whitus believes every person in law enforcement should train for active shooter scenarios at least twice a year.
He travels the country through his company Advanced Tactical Training. He is currently working on a book about his experience through the years since the Columbine shooting. It's expected to be released in September 2016.