Law enforcement increases training at local facility after Florida shooting

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. --  In the wake of the mass school shooting in South Florida, the demand for active shooter training in Denver is on the rise.

On Thursday, more than 20 law enforcement agencies and school districts around the Denver metro area contacted the Frank DeAngelis Center to sign up for training.

The old elementary school now serves as a realistic training ground to help law enforcement prepare for the worst.

Inside the former Martensen Elementary school halls, shocking and realistic scenarios play out.

Classrooms are filled with cardboard cutouts of students sitting in the desks.

“You go into these rooms and you don’t know who the bad guy is,” said Capt. Scott Happ with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

Law enforcement officers said this training forces them to develop a strategy in a high-stress environment.

A suspect armed with a gun full of rubber bullets can pop out at any moment.

“If the bad guy hits you with a kill shot, you’re out and it’s very sobering that my tactics weren’t good enough to keep me from getting shot,” Happ said.

In another room, a virtual reality simulator keeps law enforcement guessing about which way the bad guy will go.

“You go through this training and you build muscle memory. You build capacity to understand how you function under stress,” said John McDonald, executive director of security and emergency management at Jefferson County Schools.

Since 1999, there have been seven school shootings in Colorado.

That statistic fuels law enforcement to utilize the old elementary school as a way for officers to get first-hand experience with the most chaotic and unpredictable situations.

“I have no doubt the agencies training in this facility, heaven forbid there are future school shootings, will help us address those shootings and save lives,” Happ said.

Last year, more than 4,000 officers trained in the DeAngelis Center. There are no costs to law enforcement to use the building, but Jefferson County Schools has stepped up to help pay for the day-to-day costs to keep it running.