No fun at mall: Authorities train for shooting

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily Sentinel—Krysta Parker applies makeup blood to Jake Cherveny in a storage room at Mesa Mall on Sunday afternoon. Cherveny was preparing to be a gunshot victim for the Grand Junction police and fire departments, which, in cooperation with mall management and security personnel, conducted an active-shooter drill after the mall closed. Cherveny was one of nine victims who were made up for the drill.

There was not an active shooter at Mesa Mall Sunday night. But local law enforcement, first responders and mall employees reacted as if there had been one loose in the building during a multi-agency training scenario.

The training exercise began at 7 p.m., an hour after the mall closed to patrons. Only the mall security director and some higher ups in law enforcement and fire had complete knowledge of the training scenario details before the practice started, so Grand Junction Police officers, dispatchers, Colorado State Patrol troopers and firefighters and paramedics from Grand Junction, Central Orchard Mesa and Palisade fire departments were not able to prepare for the scenario beyond knowing there would be an incident in the mall. 

Roads were blocked off and ambulances and other vehicles were called out to the mall entrances between Sears and Herberger’s to search for the mock shooter and help “victims.” About a dozen volunteers made up to look like they had been shot were dispensed into the mall as the exercise played out. Radio traffic between agencies kept everyone involved in touch on the step-by-step response.

Colorado State Patrol spokesman Trooper Dan Chermok said exercises like these help agencies involved work together to prepare for a wide variety of scenarios. Chermok said local agencies like to do similar trainings at least three times a year. Past scenarios have included a plane crash scenario at Grand Junction Regional Airport and terrorist incidents.

Chermok said communication between agencies is key in multi-agency responses and that training regularly is important “because we don’t know when and how (something) will happen.”

The training exercise also served a training purpose for Mesa Mall employees, according to Chelsi Reimer, Mesa Mall marketing director. Reimer said the mall’s parent company, Simon Malls, requires all of its malls to train for various scenarios, from a shooting to evacuation for a weather incident. Reimer said the mall and local agencies have discussed what would happen in a serious incident on paper before, but this was the first large-scale exercise.

“We want to know how we work as a team,” Reimer said before the exercise began. “You can never be ready enough or trained enough.”


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